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Title:
AUTOMATED CONDITION-BASED LUBRICATION SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2010/077282
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A lubrication system for lubricating at least one bearing includes a sensor configured to sense a condition of the at least one bearing, such as vibration or temperature, and a dispenser configured to deliver lubricant to the bearing. A control is coupled with the sensor and configured to operate the dispenser such that lubricant is delivered to the bearing when the condition has a value of either at least a predetermined value or lesser than a predetermined value. Preferably, the control is further configured to operate the dispenser to periodically deliver a predetermined quantity of the lubricant to the bearing. Further, the control is preferably further configured to provide an alarm when the value of the condition is either at least the predetermined value for a predetermined period of time or lesser than the predetermined value for a predetermined period of time.

Inventors:
SMITH, Erik (6775 Wild Rose Lane, Bainbridge Island, WA, 98110, US)
CARPENTER, Christian (110 Mill Point Drive, Hampton, VA, 23669, US)
RICHARDS, Brian, G. (207 Villa Way, Yorktown, VA, 23693, US)
Application Number:
US2009/006430
Publication Date:
July 08, 2010
Filing Date:
December 08, 2009
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
SKF USA INC. (890 Forty Foot Road, PO Box 332Kulpsville, PA, 19443, US)
SMITH, Erik (6775 Wild Rose Lane, Bainbridge Island, WA, 98110, US)
CARPENTER, Christian (110 Mill Point Drive, Hampton, VA, 23669, US)
RICHARDS, Brian, G. (207 Villa Way, Yorktown, VA, 23693, US)
International Classes:
F16C1/00; F01M9/00; F16C1/24; F16C3/14; F16C5/00; F16C33/10; F16C33/16
Foreign References:
US20040040789A1
US6357922B1
US20030061008A1
US5042616A
US4520902A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
USSAI, Mark (SKF USA Inc, 890 Forty Foot RoadPO Box 33, Kulpsville PA, 19443, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
We claim:

1. A lubrication system for lubricating at least one bearing, the lubrication system comprising: a sensor configured to sense a condition of the at least one bearing; a dispenser configured to deliver lubricant to the bearing; and a control coupled with the sensor and configured to operate the dispenser such that lubricant is delivered to the bearing when the condition has a value of one of at least a predetermined value and lesser than a predetermined value. •

2. The lubrication system as recited in claim 1 wherein the control is further configured to operate the dispenser to periodically deliver a predetermined quantity of the lubricant to the bearing.

3. The lubrication system as recited in claim 1 wherein the control is further configured to provide an alarm when the value of the condition is one of at least the predetermined value for a predetermined period of time and lesser than the predetermined value for a predetermined period of time.

4. The lubrication system as recited in claim 1 wherein: the sensor is configured to generate a signal having a value, the value corresponding to the condition; and the control has a memory, the predetermined value being stored in the memory, and the control is configured to receive the sensor signal, to compare the value of the sensor signal to the predetermined value, and to operate the dispenser when the signal value is one of at least the predetermined value and lesser than the predetermined value.

5. The lubrication system as recited in claim 4 wherein the bearing condition is vibration, the sensor is configured to generate a signal corresponding to sensed vibration of the least one bearing, and the control is configured to operate the dispenser when the sensed bearing vibration value is at least the predetermined value.

6. The lubrication system as recited in claim 5 wherein the control is configured to least one of operate the dispenser to periodically deliver a quantity of the lubricant to the bearing and provide an alarm when the value of the sensed bearing vibration is at least the predetermined value for a predetermined period of time.

7. The lubrication system as recited in claim 1 wherein the bearing condition is vibration and the sensor is configured to sense at least one of displacement of the bearing, velocity of the bearing, and acceleration of the bearing.

8. The lubrication system as recited in claim 7 wherein the sensor is an accelerometer.

9. The lubrication system as recited in claim 8 wherein the accelerometer is configured to sense vibration of a plurality of machine components, the plurality of components including the at least one bearing, and the control includes a filter configured to separate bearing vibration from vibration of the other machine components and to operate the dispenser to deliver lubricant to the bearing when the sensed vibration has a value of at least the predetermined value.

10. The lubrication system as recited in claim 7 wherein the control is configured to operate the dispenser to deliver lubricant to the bearing when the value of sensed bearing vibration is at least the predetermined value.

11. The lubrication system as recited in claim 10 wherein the control is further configured to operate the dispenser to periodically deliver a quantity of the lubricant to the bearing.

12. The lubrication system as recited in claim 10 wherein the control is further configured to provide an alarm when sensed vibration has a value of at least the predetermined value for a predetermined period of time.

13. The lubrication system as recited in claim 1 wherein the dispenser includes: a housing defining a chamber; a quantity of lubricant contained within the chamber; a delivery line fluidly coupled with the chamber and configured to direct lubricant to the bearing; and a pump configured to initiate flow of lubricant from the chamber, through the delivery line, and to the bearing.

14. The lubrication system as recited in claim 13 wherein the pump includes a piston at least partially disposed in the housing chamber and an actuator for displacing the piston within the chamber so as to discharge lubricant from the chamber and into the delivery line.

15. The lubrication system as recited in claim 13 wherein the delivery line includes a discharge port disposed proximal to the bearing and configured to discharge lubricant into the bearing.

16. The lubrication system as recited in claim 13 wherein the dispenser further includes a manifold and the delivery line includes a first section extending between and fluidly coupling the chamber with the manifold and a plurality of second sections each fluidly coupling the manifold with a separate one of a plurality of bearings such that the manifold distributes lubricant to all of the plurality of bearings.

17. The lubrication system as recited in claim 1 wherein: the sensor includes a plurality of sensors each configured to sense the condition of a separate one of a plurality of bearings; the control is coupled with each of the sensors; and the dispenser is configured to direct lubricant to each one of the plurality of bearings.

18. The lubrication system as recited in claim 17 wherein the dispenser includes one of: a housing defining a chamber, lubricant contained within the chamber, a manifold, a first delivery line section fluidly coupling the housing chamber to the manifold, a plurality of second delivery line sections each coupled with the manifold and configured to direct fluid to a separate one of the bearings, and a pump configured to initiate flow of lubricant from the chamber, through the first delivery line section, the manifold, and each second delivery line section to the plurality of bearings; and a plurality of housings each defining a separate chamber, each chamber containing a quantity of lubricant, a plurality of delivery lines each fluidly coupled with a separate one of the housing chambers and configured to direct lubricant to a separate one of the bearings, and a plurality of pumps each configured to initiate flow from a separate one of the housing chambers, through the delivery line connected with the one chamber and to a separate one of the bearings.

19. An automatically lubricated bearing system comprising: a bearing; a sensor configured to sense a condition of the bearing; a dispenser configured to deliver lubricant to the bearing; and a control coupled with the sensor and configured to operate the dispenser such that lubricant is delivered to the bearing when the condition has a value of one of at least a predetermined value and lesser than a predetermined value.

20. A machine comprising: a shaft; a working component mounted on the shaft; at least one bearing configured to support the shaft; and an automated lubrication system including a sensor configured to sense a condition of the at least one bearing, a dispenser configured to deliver lubricant to the bearing, and a control coupled with the sensor and configured to operate the dispenser such that lubricant is delivered to the bearing when the condition has a value of one of at least a predetermined value and lesser than a predetermined value.

21. A lubrication system for lubricating at least one machine component, the lubrication system comprising: a sensor configured to sense a condition of the at least one machine component; a dispenser configured to deliver lubricant to the machine component; and a control coupled with the sensor and configured to operate the dispenser such that lubricant is delivered to the machine component when the condition has a value of one of at least a predetermined value and lesser than a predetermined value.

Description:
TITLE OF THE INVENTION Automated Condition-Based Lubrication System

The present invention relates to lubrication systems, particularly lubrication systems for bearings.

As is known in the art of bearings, the performance of bearings may be adversely affected by improper lubrication. Particularly when a bearing is insufficiently lubricated, the bearing may eventually fail and become damaged, which can at least require stoppage of the device supported by the bearing (e.g., a rotor shaft) for replacement of the bearing, and may even damage the supported component of a machine. Other problems, such as damaged product, injuries to workers, environmental damage, etc., may result from over-lubricated bearings.

To ensure a proper amount of lubrication, automated systems have been developed to provide a discrete amount of lubrication to one or more bearings at specific, predetermined time intervals. However, such automated systems do not account for wear or deterioration of bearing components that may develop over time, which can lead to an increase in the amount of lubrication required by the bearing to maintain proper operation. Rather, these prior art systems repeatedly supply the same fixed quantity of lubricant at constant time intervals, regardless of actual lubrication requirements.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, the present invention is a lubrication system for lubricating at least one bearing. The lubrication system comprises a sensor configured to sense a condition of the at least one bearing and a dispenser configured to deliver lubricant to the bearing. A control is coupled with the sensor and is configured to operate the dispenser such that lubricant is delivered to the bearing when the condition has a value of either at least a predetermined value or lesser than a predetermined value.

In another aspect, the present invention is an automatically lubricated bearing system comprising a bearing, a sensor configured to sense a condition of the bearing, and a dispenser configured to deliver lubricant to the bearing. A control is coupled with the sensor and is configured to operate the dispenser such that lubricant is delivered to the bearing when the condition has a value of either at least a predetermined value or lesser than a predetermined value.

In a further aspect, the present invention is a machine comprising a shaft, a working component mounted on the shaft, at least one bearing configured to support the shaft, and an automated lubrication system. The lubrication system includes a sensor configured to sense a condition of the at least one bearing, a dispenser configured to deliver lubricant to the bearing, and a control coupled with the sensor. The control is configured to operate the dispenser such that lubricant is delivered to the bearing when the condition has a value of either at least a predetermined value or lesser than a predetermined value. In yet another aspect, the present invention is a lubrication system for lubricating at least one machine component. The lubrication system comprises a sensor configured to sense a condition of the at least one machine component and a dispenser configured to deliver lubricant to the machine component. A control is coupled with the sensor and is configured to operate the dispenser such that lubricant is delivered to the machine component when the condition has a value of one of at least a predetermined value and lesser than a predetermined value.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing summary, as well as the detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the present invention, will be better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the drawings, which are diagrammatic, embodiments that are presently preferred. It should be understood, however, that the present invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown. In the drawings:

Fig. 1 is a more diagrammatic view of an automated lubrication system in accordance with the present invention, depicted being incorporated into a wind turbine;

Fig. 2 is an enlarged, cross-sectional view of an exemplary bearing, showing a sensor and a dispenser discharge port of the lubrication system;

Fig. 3 is a logic flow diagram of the automated lubrication system; Fig. 4 is a front plan view of a preferred housing and pump unit and control, showing a preferred first and second controls;

Fig. 5 is a schematic view of a control board of a control of the lubrication system; and Fig. 6 is an elevational view of a housing and pump unit of the automated lubrication system, shown with primary and secondary manifolds for use with multiple bearings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION Certain terminology is used in the following description for convenience only and is not limiting. The word "connected" is intended to include direct connections between two members without any other members interposed therebetween and indirect connections between members in which one or more other members are interposed therebetween. The terminology includes the words specifically mentioned above, derivatives thereof, and words of similar import. Referring now to the drawings in detail, wherein like numbers are used to indicate like elements throughout, there is shown in Figs. 1-6 an automated condition-based lubrication system 10 for lubricating at least one machine component M, preferably at least one and most preferably a plurality of bearings 1 incorporated in a machine 2, such as a wind turbine 3 as depicted in Fig. 1. The lubrication system 10 basically comprises one or more sensors 12, preferably one sensor 12 per each bearing 1, a dispenser 14 configured to deliver lubricant L

(e.g., grease, oil, etc.) to the bearing(s) 1, and a control 16. Each sensor 12 is configured to sense a condition of at least one bearing 1, preferably vibration of the bearing 1 (as discussed below), but may alternatively sense any other condition indicative of bearing performance, operation or state (e.g., temperature, pressure, strain, torque, noise level, etc.). Further, the control 16 is coupled with the one or more sensors 12 and is configured to operate the dispenser 14 such that lubricant L is delivered to the one or more bearings 1 when the sensed condition has a value Vs that is either at least a predetermined value Vpi in certain cases (i.e., equal to or greater than the predetermined value V P! , such as maximum vibration) or, in other constructions/arrangements, is lesser than or equal to another predetermined value V P2 (e.g., a minimum pressure), depending on the particular condition being sensed or monitored.

In other words, in a lubrication system 10 in which bearing vibration is monitored or sensed, the sensed vibration value Vs is compared with a predetermined value V P that correlates with a maximum acceptable vibration (or a minimum unacceptable vibration) of the bearing(s) 1. When the control 16 determines that the sensed vibration value V 5 is at least the predetermined value Vp (i.e., Vs ≥ Vp), the control 16 operates the dispenser 14 to deliver lubricant L in an effort to reduce the level of vibration, such that the sensed vibration Vs becomes lesser than the predetermined value Vp, as discussed in greater detail below. As a further example, in a system 10 where lubricant pressure is the condition being monitored (e.g., in an oil lubricated bearing), the sensor(s) 12 are configured to sense the lubricant pressure and the control 16 is configured to operate the dispenser 14 to deliver lubricant to the bearing(s) 1 when the sensed pressure is lesser than a minimum acceptable pressure, as also described further below.

Preferably, the control 16 is also configured to operate the dispenser 14 to periodically deliver a predetermined quantity of the lubricant L to the bearing 1, i.e., an "application" A L of the lubricant L, at specified or preset time intervals. For example, the control 16 may be constructed or programmed to operate the dispenser 14 so as to deliver an application A L of ten cubic centimeters (10 cc) of lubricant L for every seventy- two operating hours (72 hours) of the bearing 1, irrespective of the value V 5 of the bearing condition being sensed. Furthermore, the control 16 is also preferably configured to provide an alarm when the value of the condition is either at least the predetermined value Vpi, or in other arrangements lesser than a predetermined value Vp 2 , for a predefined period of time or after a preselected number of lubrication applications NAp. That is, the control 16 attempts to correct any operating condition issues that may be the result of insufficient lubrication by operating the dispenser 14 to deliver one or more "applications" A of a quantity of the lubricant L while continuing to monitor the condition (e.g., vibration, pressure, etc.). If the sensed value Vs of the particular bearing condition remains greater or lesser than a desired value for a predefined period of time (e.g., 30 minutes) or after a preselected number NAp of lubricant applications A (e.g., three applications), the control 16 provides an alarm by means of one or more alarm devices 7, such as a communication device (e.g., autodialer, modem, etc.) for sending a voice or text message to an machine operator, one or more lights providing a visual warning, a siren providing an audible alert, etc. Most preferably, the control 16 sends an alarm signal S A to a SCADA (i.e., "supervisory control and data acquisition") system (not depicted), which in turn operates the one or more alarm devices 7. Thereby, the operator(s) or maintenance personnel responsible for the machine 2 incorporating the bearings 1 (e.g., a wind turbine 3) are timely notified of the adverse condition of the bearing(s) 1 in order to prevent a potentially catastrophic failure of the bearing(s) 1 and/or other components of the machine 2. Referring particularly to Fig. 3, each of the one or more sensors 12 is preferably configured to generate a signal S having a value Vs that corresponds to the bearing condition being sensed/monitored, as discussed above and in further detail below, and the control 16 preferably has a memory 17 (Fig. 5), the predetermined value Vp being stored in the memory 17. In such an arrangement, the control 16 is configured to receive the sensor signal S and to compare the value Vs of the sensor signal S to the predetermined value Vp. The control 16 then operates the dispenser 14 either when the signal value Vs is at least the predetermined value V P for certain monitored bearing conditions (e.g., vibration) or lesser than the predetermined value Vp for other monitored conditions (e.g., lubricant pressure), and otherwise the control 16 does not operate the dispenser 14 until next providing a periodic application of lubricant L as described above. Referring to Figs. 1-3, in the presently preferred construction as discussed above, the one or more sensors 12 are configured to sense bearing vibration and to generate a signal S corresponding to sensed vibration of the least one bearing 1. In such an arrangement, the control 16 is configured to operate the dispenser 14 when the sensed bearing vibration value Vs is at least the predetermined value Vpi. In other words, the predetermined value Vp 1 is indicative of a maximum acceptable vibration or a lower limit of an undesired vibration level, and when the control 16 determines that such a vibration level is reached or exceeded, the control 16 operates the dispenser 14 to provide lubricant to the one or more bearing(s) 1 so as to reduce the vibration level of the bearings 1. Also, the control 16 is configured to provide an alarm (i.e., to a human operator) when the value Vs of the sensed bearing vibration is at or above the predetermined value Vp for either a predetermined period of time Tp or after a predetermined number of lubricant applications A L (as indicated in Fig. 3), each such application A L consisting of a discrete quantity of the lubricant L.

For example, the control 16 may be constructed or programmed so as to provide three applications A L of lubricant L to the one or more bearings 1, and to then provide the alarm if the sense vibration value Vs remains above the predetermined maximum acceptable value Vp after the last lubrication application A L . Alternatively, the control 16 may be configured to deliver one or more lubricant applications A L and then provide the alarm if the sensed vibration value Vs remains at or above the maximum vibration level V P j for a period of thirty minutes. Further, when the lubrication system 10 is designed to lubricate multiple bearings 1, the control 16 is preferably configured to operate the dispenser 14 such that all the bearings 1 receive a quantity of lubricant L whenever any one of the bearings 1 has a sensed vibration Vs above the predetermined value V P , as discussed in further detail below. Alternatively, the control 16 may be programmed or constructed to operate the dispenser 14 so as to provide lubrication only to the one or more bearings 1 that is/are experiencing excessive vibration.

Referring particularly to Fig. 2, each sensor 12 may be configured to sense vibration by directly sensing or measuring displacement, acceleration, acoustics (i.e., noise) or/and any other appropriate performance characteristic indicative of vibration of the one or more associated bearings 1, and from these measured parameters the control 16 calculates vibration. Preferably, the one or more vibration sensors 12 are each an accelerometer 13 and are each configured to sense vibration of a plurality of machine components (shafts, housings, etc.) that include the bearing(s) 1. Each sensor 12 may be mounted within the housing 4 of each bearing 1, for example as generally disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 6,64,516, the contents of which are incorporated by reference herein, but may alternatively be mounted in any other appropriate location (e.g., in a rolling element, inner raceway, etc.). Further, each sensor 12 is preferably wirelessly coupled with the control 16 by means of a separate transmitter 15 electrically connected with the sensor 12 and mounted to the associated bearing 1, but may alternatively be directly connected or "hard-wired" to the control 16 by electric lines or coupled by any other appropriate means. Furthermore, with accelerometer vibration sensors 13, the control 16 preferably includes a signal filter (not depicted) configured to separate a bearing vibration signal S from the vibration signals of the other machine components. With such an arrangement, the control 16 operates the dispenser 14 to deliver lubricant L to the one or more bearings 1 whenever the filtered bearing vibration signal S has a value Vs of at least the predetermined maximum value Vpi (i.e., Vs => Vp), as discussed in detail above.

Referring to Figs. 4 and 5, the control 16 preferably includes a first subcontrol 18A coupled with the one or more sensors 12 and including the memory 17 and a second subcontrol 18B operatively coupled with the dispenser 14. The first subcontrol 18 A is configured to compare the sensed condition value Vs with the predetermined value V P and sends a command signal to the second subcontrol 18B when the first subcontrol 18A determines that it is necessary to apply lubricant to the bearing(s) 1. The second subcontrol 18B receives the command signal and operates the dispenser 14 to apply lubricant L to the one or more bearings 1, and preferably also operates the dispenser 14 independently of the first subcontrol 18A to periodically lubricate the bearing(s) 1 as described above. As depicted in Fig. 5, the first subcontrol 18 A preferably includes a specially manufactured control board 19 including at least one and preferably two microprocessors 21 each containing internal or integral memory providing the memory 17 (as described above) and various communication and supporting processing components (none indicated). Also, the second subcontrol 18B is preferably a standard component of a commercially available lubrication unit 30, as described below, and includes a microprocessor 21 with integral/internal memory 17 and other communication and processing components (none indicated), and is operatively coupled with a pump actuator 28 of a preferred dispenser construction, as described below.

Although the control 16 preferably includes the first and second subcontrols 18 A, 18B as described above, the control 16 may be constructed in any other appropriate manner that enables the control 16 to receive information from the sensors 12 and to operate the dispenser 14 as generally described herein. For example, the control 16 may include only a single processor that is coupled with the sensors(s) 12 and operatively connected with the dispenser 14, as generally depicted in Fig. 1. Further for example, the control 16 may be provided by any type of processing device, such as a personal computer, a programmable logic controller (PLC), etc., and may either be specially manufactured or provided by a commercially available product.

Referring now to Figs. 1, 2, 4 and 6, the dispenser 14 preferably includes one or more storage containers or housings 20 each defining a chamber C L and a quantity of lubricant contained within each chamber C L - One or more delivery lines 22 are fluidly coupled with each lubricant chamber C L and are each configured to direct lubricant L to at least one bearing 1. Preferably, each delivery line 22 includes at least one discharge port 23 (Fig. 2) disposed proximal to one of the bearings 1 and configured to discharge lubricant L into the proximal bearing 1, which may include a nozzle (as shown) or be provided by a simple aperture. Each bearing 1 may have either a single delivery line 22 or a plurality of delivery lines 22 for applying lubricant to the bearing 1. Further, the dispenser 14 preferably includes at least one pump 24 configured to initiate flow of lubricant L from the chamber(s) C L , through the delivery line(s) 22, and to the bearing(s) 1. Preferably, each pump 24 includes a piston 26 at least partially disposed in the housing chamber C L and an actuator 28 for displacing the piston 26 within the chamber C L , to thereby discharge lubricant L from the chamber C L and into the delivery line(s) 22, which thereafter flows to the bearing(s) 1. The control 16, preferably the second subcontrol 18B, is operatively connected with each actuator 28 such that the actuator 28 controllably displaces the piston 26 upon receipt of command signals from the subcontrol 18B.

Most preferably, the dispenser 14 includes one or more "housing-and-pump" lubrication units 30 which each includes a housing 20 and a pump 24 combined as a single or integral unit. Such a lubrication unit 30 may be provided by a commercially available product, such as for example, an SKF KFGS3 reservoir pump unit or an SKF "Multilube" pumping unit, both from SKF Lubrication Solutions of Berlin, Germany, or may be specially manufactured. In one type of preferred lubrication unit 30, the pump actuator 28 includes a motor and a cam mechanism (neither depicted) coupled with the motor and engaged with the piston 26. The motor drives the cam mechanism to linearly advance the piston 26 within the chamber C L , thereby displacing or "pushing" lubricant to flow out of the chamber C L and into the delivery line 22. However, the lubrication unit(s) 30 may instead include any another type of electric actuator, a pneumatic actuator, a hydraulic actuator, or any other appropriate type of actuator capable of "pumping" lubricant L from the chamber C L . Although preferably including integral housing-pump units 30, the dispenser 14 may alternatively be constructed with one or more separate pumps 24 of any appropriate construction that are each fluidly coupled with a lubricant containing housing 20 or any other source of lubricant (e.g., an oil reservoir, etc.). As a further alternative, the dispenser 14 may be constructed without any pumps or similar devices and may include one or more housings 20 having a lower opening that is controlled by means of a valve (not depicted), such that gravity (and not a pump) initiates lubricant flow from the housing 20. Thus, it is apparent that the dispenser 14 may be formed in any in any other appropriate manner that is capable of being operated by the control 16 to controllably deliver or dispense the lubricant L.

With a lubrication system 10 used for multiple bearings 1 and/or multiple lubrication points Ia on each bearing 1, the dispenser 14 preferably further includes one or more distributors or manifolds 40 and one or more delivery lines 22 that each include a first or "inlet" line section 42 extending between and fluidly coupling the lubricant chamber C L with the manifold 40 and a plurality of second line sections 44. Each second or "outlet" line section 44 fluidly couples the manifold 40 with a separate one of the plurality of bearings 1 , and/or separate lubrication point Ia on each bearing 1, such that the manifold 40 distributes lubricant to all of the bearings 1. Depending on the number and location of the bearings 1, the dispenser 14 may include two or more distributors/manifolds 40, each coupled with a first, inlet line section 42 connected with the lubricant storage housing 20, and a plurality of second, outlet line sections 44. As shown in Fig, 6, the delivery line 22 may include one or more primary manifolds 41 fluidly connected with one dispenser housing 20 by a first line section 42 and two or more secondary manifolds 43 each coupled with one primary manifold 41 by a separate second line section 44 and coupled with each of one or more bearings 1 by a third line section 46. However, the delivery line 22 may be constructed or arranged in any appropriate manner, with or without manifolds, and include any number and appropriate arrangement of line sections.

In any case, a dispenser construction as described above enables a single storage housing 20 and pump 22 to deliver lubricant L to a plurality of bearings 1 at different locations in a device or machine 2, such as at opposing ends of a single shaft 5 or on multiple different shafts 5. Further, with such a dispenser construction, the control 16 operates the dispenser 14 to deliver lubricant L to all of the bearings 1 coupled with a particular housing 22 (i.e., through the connected manifold(s) 40) whenever at least one bearing 1 has a sensed condition value Vs above a predetermined maximum value Vp 1 , or below a predetermined minimum value Vp 2 .

In an alternative arrangement for multiple bearings 1, the dispenser 14 may be constructed to include a plurality of lubricant storage housings 20, delivery lines 22, and pumps 24. Specifically, each of the plurality of housings 20 defines a separate chamber C L , with each chamber C L containing a quantity of lubricant L, and the plurality of delivery lines 22 are each fluidly coupled with a separate one of the housing chambers C L and are configured to direct lubricant L to a separate one, or separate group, of the bearings 1. Also, the plurality of pumps 24 are each configured to initiate flow from a separate one of the housing chambers C L , through the delivery line or lines 22 coupled with the one chamber C L and to the connected bearing(s) 1. Thus, such an alternative dispenser construction enables the control 16 to separately dispense lubricant L to only one or select number of bearings 1 fluidly coupled to a particular housing 20, and preferably a particular lubrication unit 30, by only operating the particular pump 24/lubrication unit 30 associated with the bearing(s) 1 having a sensed condition value Vs above a predetermined maximum value V P (or below a predetermined minimum value).

Referring particularly to Fig. 1, one presently utilized application of the lubrication system 10 is a wind turbine 3 having a rotatable shaft 5 and a rotor 6 with a plurality of blades mounted on the shaft 5, such that the bearing(s) 1 support loading on the rotating shaft 5. However, the lubrication system 10 of the present invention may be incorporated into any other machine 2 having at least one shaft 5 with one or more working components 6, such as for example, a compressor, a power-steering system of a vehicle, etc., and may provide condition based lubrication to bearings 1 that support a linearly displacing shaft 5 or a shaft 5 that both rotates and linearly displaces. Further, although preferably used to lubricate bearings 1, the lubrication system 10 of the present invention may be used to lubricate any other type of machine components M, such as for example, gear boxes, etc.

It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that changes could be made to the embodiments described above without departing from the broad inventive concept thereof. It is understood, therefore, that this invention is not limited to the particular embodiments disclosed, but it is intended to cover modifications within the spirit and scope of the present invention as generally disclosed in the appended claims.