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Becht Engineering Blog

In this section of the site contributing authors submit interesting articles relating to the various services, industries and research & development efforts of Becht Engineering.

Brent St. Blanc has over 33 years of experience in the petrochemical industry as a technology focused mechanical engineer with The Dow Chemical Company. Work experience over his Dow career includes Maintenance/Reliability Engineer, Construction Engineer, Operations Engineer, Senior Mechanical Engineer and Plastics Technology Center Associate Global Technology Director.

His experience includes significant expertise in new, innovative technology development covering a large variety of both rotating and stationary equipment.  Key strengths include applying mechanical engineering fundamentals in critical failure investigations, complex problem solving and analysis, and leading new technology development – all within multidiscipline teams.

Over his career, Mr. St. Blanc was responsible for delivering technology advancements, particularly in Solution Polyethylene, LDPE and Slurry Polyethylene businesses.  He was recipient of 11 Dow Technology Center Awards for delivering innovative technology with significant return on investment.

Mr. St. Blanc has a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Louisiana State University and is a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt through Dow Chemical. He serves as board member on the LSU Mechanical Engineering Department Industry Advisory Board, and is a member on the Southeastern Louisiana University Industrial Technology Advisory Board.

Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) – A Key Element to Improved Reliability

Becht_Engineering-RCFA
Many companies and organizations have been on the reliability journey for a number of years, while others are just beginning.  There are many elements of a solid reliability program – establishing a reliability centered culture, tracking key metrics, bad actor elimination programs and establishing equipment reliability plans – to name a few.  But, one key element to a solid reliability program, and one that is very important to improving unit reliability metrics, is root cause failure analysis (RCFA). Historically, various methods have been used over time to assist in RCFA – Why Tree Analysis, 5-Whys, and Fishbone Diagrams.  However, one common tool to facilitate and document the RCFA is a Cause Map, or Cause and Effect Diagram.  Cause Mapping is a very flexible platform, which allows utilization for any type of failure investigation, regardless of equipment type, industry, or complexity.  Cause Mapping starts with a primary effect – where the...
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Shaft Fatigue Failures – Part I

Shaft Fatigue Failures – Part I
Many years ago when I first started my career in a rotating equipment maintenance organization, I was spending the day with a senior metallurgist, which was part of my orientation process as a new technical employee.  He was well known to not have the best “bedside manner” and it was clear he was not thrilled to have a young mechanical engineer by his side for the day.  As I walked into the materials lab, looking for something to start a conversation, I picked up a small broken ANSI pump shaft and asked if he knew why this shaft had failed?  His response I vividly remember to this day – he said, “Son, I have not analyzed that failure yet, but if it is a shaft out of a piece of rotating equipment and is broken into two pieces, there is about a 90% chance that it is a fatigue failure”....
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Shaft Fatigue Failures – Part II

Shaft Fatigue Failures – Part II
Note:  This blog is a continuation from the previous article from Becht Engineering, “Shaft Fatigue Failures – Part I”.  It is suggested that the reader review “Shaft Fatigue Failures - Part I” before proceeding with this article.   Click Here to view Part I. Before getting into the calculation methods, first a quick refresher on high cycle fatigue.  High cycle fatigue failures are typically acknowledged to be fatigue failures resulting from alternating loading cycles in excess of 10 6 cycles.    While that may sound like a large number, in high speed rotating machinery, one million cycles will occur in hours.  For high cycle fatigue, the fatigue test data is often reported in the form of alternating stress vs number of cycles (S-N, or Stress-Life method).  Fortunately, many of the common shaft and rotor alloys exhibit a fatigue strength “endurance limit” at about 10 6 – 10 7 cycles, beyond which...
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