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Application Note

Wear debris sensing in the aerospace industry

Magnetic oil debris sensing in aerospace component manufacture


April 2020 – Gill Sensors & Controls are proud to be part of the Condition Based Monitoring Program for one of the USA’s original and most successful manufacturers of aerospace components. This company can boast all the major aerospace and defence contractors on their list of satisfied customers, including NASA for whom they manufactured components for a space program.

In order to maximise the economic efficiency of the equipment the company operates, it is essential for the plant to be running 24 hour per day. As in many industrial settings, if a machine is down and time is being lost then the financial penalties are often very heavy. The team at Gill recently learned of an extreme case in the Pharmaceutical world whereby a gearbox breakdown of more than 30 seconds would cause lost revenues in excess of €5million due to the need to scrap a batch of cancer treatment drugs.

Periodically the planetary gearboxes will require a rebuild, so in order to keep the machines running a third gearbox is held in rotation. Following a recent refurbishment, the gearbox currently on rotation was being instrumented and tested ready for approval for use on the main grinding machine. The gearbox was fitted with vibration sensors and a Gill Oil Debris Sensor. This approach of combining traditional vibration monitoring with the new generation of miniaturised oil sensors is becoming common place within industry. With this installation the operator decided to install the Gill Oil Debris Sensor in the oil filter line. The operator created their own adaptors to place the debris sensor probe into the oil flow. Gill now offers a specially designed ‘In-flow’ adaptor to optimise debris capture and make this type of installation quicker and easier.

During testing, the operators noted that the ‘Fine’ channel on the Gill device was registering the collection of some debris. For maximum accuracy, Gill recommends performing a custom calibration. In this case, however, the operators used the out-of-the-box settings which suited their application.

The 4-20mA signals from the sensor are read and displayed in the plant room however, the operator chose the premium version of the sensor with the local coloured LED display for a quick reference at the site of the gearbox.