What to Expect for Maintenance of Pneumatic Vibrators

Craig Macklin

As my incredibly knowledgeable associate Mike Stratis just provided a posting about accessories to consider for your installation of a pneumatic vibrator, I thought I would provide a follow-up piece to discuss what to expect AFTER the install. As with any equipment, pneumatic vibrators and their supporting accessories do require some love, attention, lubrication and cleaning from time to time. Here is what to expect if you want to get the longest and most consistent life out of your pneumatic vibrator, whether a piston, turbine or ball.

Air Piston Vibrators 

Cleveland Vibrator Pneumatic Piston Vibrator Group ShotLubrication – First and foremost, check your lubricator with some frequency.  If you operate continuously, you might check and/or refill every 1-3 weeks.  If your use is intermittent or infrequent, you might schedule on a 1-4 months.  The use of internal coating in the vibrator can reduce or remove the need for lubrication.  But, coatings without the use of lubrication will typically wear out faster than a coated or uncoated piston vibrator that is properly lubricated.  Depending on size and duty cycle of your vibrator, you might use a pint of lubricant (we recommend our MXR-12 VibraLube, which is 10W-NR) every 2 weeks to 2 years.

Filter maintenance – Your filter is there to protect your incoming air.  That said, they usually do a good job of collecting potential contaminants.  So, you do want to check the filter with some regularity to ensure the collected contaminants aren’t preventing proper operation of the filter or proper air flow.  Inspection schedule should be set on the same schedule as the Lubricator.

  • Spring – Most of our piston vibrators do not require a spring to operate.  However, for our models that do (and models from other manufacturers that require them) you will wear out and break the internal spring from time to time.  It is a good idea to keep spare springs on hand in that event.  While Cleveland Vibrator prides itself on maintaining stock, even a 1 day shipping lead time will cause some downtime for your vibrator if you do not have a spare spring on hand.
  • Cleveland Vibrator - Air Piston Vibrator Assembly
  • Air Piston Vibrator Assembly Photo - 5Gaskets – Our VMS (impact piston vibrators, square base), VMSAC (air-cushioned piston vibrators, square base), VMR (impact piston vibrator, rectangular base), VMRAC (air-cushioned piston vibrator, rectangular base), VMRR (rail car piston vibrators) and SI (single impact piston vibrators) models all use gaskets to create a seal.  It is a good idea to inspect these on same schedule as lubrication for any signs of leaking or cracking, especially if in a hot environment.  Gaskets typically fail slowly over time, with vibrator performance reduced rather than immediately stopped.  So, spares are not as critical, but recommended if the vibrator is required for continuous operations.
  • Seal rings – Our SI units utilize sealing rings on the piston.  Lubrication helps keep their life extended.  But, like gaskets, they will eventually wear or break.  A broken seal ring will stop the SI.  So, spares are recommended.  Because the seal rings are internal, a frequent inspection schedule is not viable.
  • Piston/bore – Eventually, the friction of the piston and bore will wear the unit to need replacement.  Any contamination that does enter the unit, will hasten that as well.  In addition to the proper lubrication and filtering practices (and protection of exhaust port), you might consider cleaning the piston and bore.  This can be done on and infrequent maintenance schedule (such as annually) or as a troubleshooting step should you encounter abnormal performance.  If you unit is an SI unit, this could also be a good time to inspect or replace the seal rings.

Turbine Vibrators 

Lubrication – Turbine vibrator require no lubrication, as they use permanently lubricated sealed bearings.  So, no maintenance is needed here.

Turbine Group 2Filter – It is recommend to filter your air, as contamination can lead to fast wear and an early demise. Similar to a piston vibrator, if you operate continuously, you might check and/or refill every 1-3 weeks.  If your use is intermittent or infrequent, you might schedule on a 1-4 month.

Bearing – The bearing inside the turbine vibrator is the only designed wear part.  There is no need to inspect it.  It will have consistent performance right up until it fails.

Ball Vibrators

  • Lubrication – Ball vibrator do not require lubrication. So, again, no need for maintenance here.
  • Filter – Ball vibrators are the most resilient to contamination of all pneumatic vibrator styles.  But, a filter will enhance life, as contamination will eventually impact performance.  Similar to a piston vibrator, if you operate continuously, you might check and/or refill every 1-3 weeks.  If your use is intermittent or infrequent, you might schedule on a 1-4 month.DSCN3471 copy
  • Ball/Races/Caps – Eventually, the ball and what it rides on (either the 303SS caps on our Vibraballs or hardened races in other models) will wear to a point of no longer being effective.  The wear is continuous and gradual with performance slowly decreasing over life.  Thus, they are tricky as they might SOUND like they are working, but aren’t as effective as when first installed.  It is recommended to inspect every 6-12 months to check if they are running with higher pressure and/or higher CFM, but not really imparting the force that should accompany the noise.
  • By preparing and performing a proper maintenance schedule for your industrial pneumatic vibrator, you lower the risk of inefficient operation and downtime during your product processing. Protecting your vibrator investment by performing the suggested maintenance is by far and large the main key to a successful, long life expectancy out in the field.

Have questions or looking to repair a unit? We are happy to assist you. Contact the Cleveland Vibrator Team today!

2 Responses to What to Expect for Maintenance of Pneumatic Vibrators
  1. Katy Sabo Reply

    Luke, thanks for the positive feedback! Maintaining a clean filter is certainly a critical part to an efficient vibrator. The goal is to provide the end user with as much information possible when installing, operating and maintaining our equipment in their process. Our air pistons follow the same maintenance checks for the most part, but you’re right in saying there may be variations to proper care depending on the type of air vibrator you are operating such as turbine or even ball vibrators.

  2. Ridley Fitzgerald Reply

    There is a lot of maintenance needed for these vibrators. I’ve seen workers using these machines on concrete and things, and I’ve always thought they were cool. I never would have even guessed that there was a filter, let alone that it needed to be cleaned up.

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