Why Do Baler Maintenance?
Most people do not hesitate to have the oil changed in their cars or to bring it into the shop to have a yearly inspection. But there are some people who will purchase an expensive piece of equipment like a baler that is used for recycling paper, cans and plastic and think that it can run forever without much care. The following is an overview of maintenance procedures and an explanation of why they should be performed on a regular basis.
1. OIL: Although you don’t have to change the oil every year, it should be given a visual inspection to see if it looks dirty or milky in color. Most hydraulic oils are amber in color. If your oil is dirty or milky, it is contaminated and a hydraulic failure is going to occur. Another problem that should be looked for is small air bubbles. Air bubbles are usually caused by a leak in the suction side of the system and it will cause your hydraulic pump to run loud due to cavitation. These are just a few of the things that can be seen. To get a more accurate assessment of your oils condition, you should have an oil analysis performed. An oil analysis requires a small oil sample to establish a baseline, followed by a second sample a year later. An oil analysis can tell you what parts in the system are showing wear because of the metals in the oil. It also can tell you water content or any other corrosives that may be present. An oil analysis is not expensive and should be considered.
2. ELECTRICAL CIRCUITS: The relays, switches and other electrical components are all connected to the system with copper wire. Due to vibration and also expansion and contraction from temperature changes, the wires can become loose in the wire terminals. When this happens, the wires can start to arc and it can create a failure in the system due to irregular voltage. It can also cause anything with a coil (relays, transformers and contactors) to build up excess heat and fail. During a routine preventative maintenance service, all wire terminals should be checked for tightness. On larger systems that are a critical part of a business’s operation, some companies will have their system scanned with a thermal imaging camera. This is a specialized camera that can find heat related problems.
3. STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY: This is nothing more than having a trained service tech look at the metal for fatigue or wear. They also look for cracks in the framework and at the welds. They also check to make sure the platen is aligned and that the cylinder is not binding. They should also check the door hinges, door latches and safety gate for alignment and proper lubrication.
4. HYDRAULIC SYSTEM: This is the heart of the baler. The hydraulic components are the pump, directional valve, cylinder, relief valve, oil filter and hoses. At a minimum, they should all be checked for leaks. In addition, the pump can be checked for flow rate and excess noise. The directional valve and cylinder should be checked to make sure there are no internal leaks or if these components are bypassing. Check the relief valve for proper pressure setting. If your baler has an oil filter, replace it on a yearly basis at a minimum.
5. CLEANING: Check to make sure that there is no paper wedged in the platen which would cause metal to metal wear. You also should wipe all of the hydraulic components with a good degreaser. This serves two purposes: the first is to prevent an oil film from forming. This will collect and hold dust which will elevate the oil temperatures. The second is, if you have a hydraulic leak, you cannot tell where the leak is coming from if the unit is covered in oil.
Please keep in mind that most of the procedures above should be performed with the power turned off and the baler is tagged and locked out. If you are not trained in proper lock out/tag out procedures, please do not attempt to perform any of this work. Over the last 40 years, balers have progressively been built safer; but, do not use that as a reason to get careless. Balers can cause major physical problems, pain and even death if the proper procedures are not followed.