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Borescope Gearbox Inspections

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

As a part of this summer's lift upgrades, every chairlift has undergone extensive inspections, from routine annual inspections to micro-inspections of critical working components. 

Earlier this spring, the Lift Maintenance Team enlisted the services of Cone Drive, a gearing technology and solutions company out of Michigan, to conduct borescope inspections of every lift gearbox.

A borescope is an optical tool (essentially a small camera) used to view areas that would otherwise be inaccessible or not visible by human means.  This form of inspection is used to visually examine internal mechanical components for surface defects, general condition, degradation, blockages, and foreign material to promote early detection and prevention of potential mechanical malfunctions.

The use of borescopes is not explicitly recommended by manufacturers or required by regulators, and, as a result, is not currently widely used in the ski industry. This type of application is more frequently seen in machinery like nuclear reactor heads, aviation turbines, and oil pipelines.

Our lift maintenance team elected to utilize this technology for the first time this summer, as it allows us to learn more about what is going on inside the gear box of a lift than any other diagnostic technique, including harmonic vibration testing or oil analysis, and to catch any amount of wear and tear far earlier than we could have otherwise.

This round of inspections revealed some wear on components in the Whiffletree gear box that would have otherwise been undetectable, allowing us to address it long before it reaches a level where it could become problematic. The Whiffletree gear box was removed following the inspection, and is currently in Michigan where it is being rebuilt, and will be reinstalled before winter. 

Our lift maintenance team plans to make borescope inspections a key part of their inspections in the future.