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Bespectacled men and women in white and gray overcoats, colored test tubes, whirring computer-controlled test facilities, optical instruments and microscopes – stepping into the PrimeServLab in the Quality Assurance department on the production site in Augsburg on the one hand, and the Materials Technology Lab in Oberhausen on the other, the contrast to the noisy workshops outside couldn’t be greater.
This pristine environment, mirrored in both laboratories, is where MAN Diesel & Turbo’s chemists and material engineers monitor the health of engines and turbomachinery from development throughout the entire life cycle – not unlike doctors. After all, similar to humans, engines stay healthy when they are treated and fed well. Swirling a tube with green liquid between his fingers, Dr. Christoph Rohbogner, Head of Chemical Laboratory in Augsburg, explains:
“A large part of our work is approvals of operating fluids such as oils, fuels and cooling liquids.” The quality of these fluids is essential for reliable operation in all machinery. That is why they are submitted to rigorous tests. “Before the launch of our new MAN 175D marine engine, we had it run with different operating liquids to test behavior under stress”, says Rohbogner. Only if the fluids pass, are they recommended for use.
While in use, regular fluid analyses may be purchased via MAN PrimeServ and give customers an insight into the health of their machinery over time. Evaluating and interpreting oil parameters, PrimeServLab provides targeted recommendations for maintenance and oil care. “Especially in machinery that requires large amounts of operating oils, regular analysis facilitates proactive maintenance,” says Rohbogner, “which means we recommend oil changes when they are actually needed.” The benefit is clear: economical optimization of fluid usage. After all, preventing one lube oil drain often is enough to pay for a lab service over several years that can avoid damage for decades.
Other laboratories may offer similar tests and analyses; however, MAN Diesel & Turbo’s materials engineers and chemists have a significant advantage: “We know all the components, their exact functions and operating principles,” says Berthold Ellermann, Head of Failure Analysis/Metallography & Residual Life Assessment of MAN Diesel & Turbo in Oberhausen. Considerable experience that also recommends the laboratories for troubleshooting and damage analysis.
Whereas many of the tests performed on a daily basis are standard, damage analysis can be compared to forensic procedures best known from crime scene investigation programs on TV. “We reconstruct the internal as well as environmental factors that may have caused damage,” explains Ellermann. First on site are usually MAN service engineers.
Their assessment determines whether a laboratory engineer needs to examine the damage site in person. “If a likely cause cannot be determined by the service personnel, we fly out to do more comprehensive tests and secure samples – anywhere in the world,” says Rohbogner. Samples are either analyzed immediately with mobile testing kits or taken back to the laboratories in Germany. Highly modern equipment, such as scanning electron microscope or plasma spectroscopy, enables the examination of metal microstructures in fractures and the chemical composition of components and fluids. “In the end we detail the results in a presentation to the customer explaining the root cause and provide suggestions on how to avoid repeat occurrences,” says Ellermann. Just as a doctor would to a patient.
Dr. Christoph Rohbogner, Head of Chemical Laboratory
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