To ensure uptime and prevent escalation of minor damage, inspection of wind turbine gearboxes must be carried out regularly. Due to the complex interior machinery of the gearbox, videoscope inspection - also known as remote visual inspection (RVI) - has become the method of choice for this.
Although RVI technology is widely used - for example, in the automotive and aerospace industry - the interior conditions of a gearbox place highly specific demands on videoscope requirements.
When inspecting the inside of a gearbox, large, dark compartments require powerful illumination to show enough detail to detect damage. However, a high light output can easily lead to glare from reflective surfaces. To address this variability in the amount of light required, intelligent illumination technology, such as the PulsarPic image processor on the IPLEX RX, can save time by automatically adjusting the light output so the operator can concentrate on the inspection.
Manoeuvrability is another key aspect that determines the speed and efficiency of gearbox inspections. Often, the tip of the videoscope has to pass through openings that are under 1mm larger than the tip itself. This means that small navigation errors can delay inspection - or even cause damage to the tip of the videoscope.
With the use of sensitive manual control, the operator can navigate more easily to inaccessible areas of the gearbox, such as the planetary and intermediate stage gear. Olympus's TrueFeel power-assisted manual articulation provides the responsive articulation that aids the experience of a natural feel during navigation.
Oil is present inside the gearbox to act as a lubricant; during inspection, the tip of the videoscope can come into contact with the oil, leading to blurred images. Due to the large size of the gearbox, interrupting the inspection to clean the tip and then repositioning the scope to inspect a gear or bearing can take a considerable amount of time.
Oil-clearing tip adapters are specially designed for use in oily spaces. Special grooves on the side of the tip ensure that the lens remains free of oil, removing the need to retract the scope for cleaning. This simple change in the tip's design avoids unnecessary delays to the inspection - as well as blurry images.
Gearbox inspection is an essential element of the routine maintenance of a wind turbine; it helps reduce downtime and provide a high return on investment. RVI technology, such as Olympus's IPLEX RX videoscope, offers a fast, costeffective way to reach the more inaccessible parts of a gearbox, such as bearings and gear teeth.
Of all the components inspected with videoscope technology, wind turbine gearboxes form a highly specific challenge, meaning that instrument requirements are different from those in other industries. These specifications - such as adaptive illumination, responsive articulation and oil-clearing tip adapters - help improve the efficiency of the inspection process by enabling faster inspections with a high probability of detection.