You are on page 1of 12

Caterpillar® Product Information

Product Bulletin

Reporting Particle
Count by ISO Code

Introduction The buildup of wear particles in oil is a key indicator of potential


machine problems. Observing the rise in small particles of a
specific element can identify what is wearing. Also, tracking the
amount and buildup rate of large and small particles over time
indicates the severity of system wear. This is why our S•O•SSM
program interpreters use two tests: traditional Spectrographic
Analysis that trends the small elemental particles, to tell what
might be wearing, and now Particle Count that quantifies the
buildup of all sized particles whatever their composition, to tell
the severity of wear. Spectrographic Analysis test results are mea-
sured in “parts per million,” while Particle Count results are mea-
sured in “particle counts per unit volume.” But Particle Count
results are converted to another useful and efficient way to
express findings—the ISO Code.

S•O•SSM ®
Introduction

Table of Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1


What ISO Means . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
Glossary of Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
The Two Methods for Reading Particles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Measuring Contamination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Applying ISO Codes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
How ISO Codes Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Sample Report 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Sample Report 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
Look for More Diagnostic Data on ISO Codes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
Quiz: Check Your Understanding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

What ISO Means

The International Organization for Standardization (whose


“Americanized” acronym ISO comes from the Greek isos
meaning “equal”) is an international standards organization
based in Geneva, Switzerland. It is comprised of members
from national standards bodies in 100 countries.
A major ISO goal is to develop uniform technical standards
that facilitate international exchange of goods and services.
In preparing its standards, ISO combines the interests of
producers, users, governments, and the scientific community.
ISO work is carried out by some 2,754 technical bodies
involving over 30,000 experts worldwide. To date, their work
has resulted in 9,178 published ISO technical standards.

2
Introduction

Glossary of Terms
Alloy
Asubstance of two or more metals, or a metal and a nonmetal.
Elemental Constituents
The specific metal or alloy that make up particles.
Micron
A unit of measurement equal to a “micrometer” or
1/1,000,000 of a meter. One micron is 1/25,000 of an inch.
Spectrographic Analysis
The S•O•S test that identifies the specific elemental
composition of particles in fluids. This test can quantify and
identify elemental particles up to 10 to 15 microns in size.
Test results are measured in “parts per million.”
Particle Count
The S•O•S test that counts all particles, but cannot
distinguish their composition. This test quantifies particles
from one to over 200 microns in size. Test results are
measured in “particle counts per unit volume.”
Channels
Size ranges used to record particle counts.
Two Factor Code
Code used to express fluid cleanliness. Expressed in terms
X/Y, where X represents the number of particles larger than
5 microns and Y stands for the number of particles larger
than 15 microns.
Silting
Fine particles that accumulate and clog the flow of fluids.
This causes close-tolerance valves to stick.

3
Description

The Two Methods for Reading The ISO Code rating system is a standard way of measuring oil
Particles cleanliness and is used to express the Particle Count test results
now offered in the S•O•S program. Knowing what the Particle
Count test does is important to understanding ISO Codes.

Spectrographic Analysis
First, Spectrographic Analysis is the S•O•S test that identifies
the elemental constituents present in the oil. That is, it identifies
the specific metal or alloy that make up particles. So, over the
course of several samples, it can spot particles of various metals
that may be increasing in volume; this often signals potential
problems. And by identifying the kinds and combinations of
metals, it can generally point to the specific wearing component.

But Spectrographic Analysis can only handle particles in the oil


up to about 10 to 15 microns in size. So it’s blind to larger parti-
cles that can often signal an impending failure.

Particle Count
Particle Count now comes into play; it can quantify particles
from one micron to greater than 200 microns in size (see
Particle Count Values (000) adjacent graph). So it can detect additional signs of abnormal
Wear Metal Fe Values (PPM) wear and dirty oil that Spectrographic Analysis may not catch.
80 200 But it counts all particles, both metal and nonmetal, and can’t
70
Particle Count 180 distinguish between the two. This is where the two methods
Iron complement each other: Spectrographic Analysis by quantifying
160
60 and identifying specific metal wear particles below 15 microns;
140
50
120
Particle Count by quantifying particles larger than can be
detected by Spectrographic Analysis.
40 100

80
30 Particle Count has been used for many years by the fluid power
60
20 industry to monitor debris levels in close-tolerance hydraulic
40 systems. Its ability to warn of severe wear across a wide range
10
20 of materials and micron sizes makes it a very useful tool in
0 0 trending wear debris levels in most construction equipment
2500 3000 3500 4000 4500 5000 5500 6000
compartments: transmissions, final drives, pump drives,
Service Meter Readings hydraulics, etc.

4
Description

An Efficient Partnership
Together, Spectographic Analysis and Particle Count form an
efficient partnership in identifying abnormal wear. Here’s how.
The small metal particles that Spectrographic Analysis sees may
rise sharply and then level off. But at the same time, large
particles may show a sharply rising trend, signaling a failure in
progress—one that only Particle Count can spot because of the
size of the particles. So Particle Count sounds the alarm on
abnormal wear and impending failure. Then, Spectrographic
Analysis, by identifying the wear metals that rose and then
levelled off, can point to the specific component in trouble.

Diameter of a
human hair
80 microns

Talcum powder
15 microns

1 micron
A micron is a metric measure equal to
one millionth of a meter, or 1/25,000th
of an inch. The smallest particle visible
to the naked eye is 40 microns across.
A human hair is 80 microns in diame-
ter, and a single grain of talcum powder
is 15 microns. Typical clearances in
hydraulic systems are 10-30 microns.

5
Description

Measuring Contamination: Any valid measuring system must give consistent results—
Comparing Apples to Apples calibrated the same way—time after time. This is crucial to
measuring contamination because it enables interpreters to
identify wear trends in consecutive samples from a single
machine. It also enables component cleanliness “targets” to be
set and accurately monitored. Both are important considerations
in making repair-before-failure decisions.

Understanding Particle Count


Particle Count is reported in the number and size (in microns)
of particles in a volume of fluid, using a valid particle counting
system. Particle Counts are divided into size ranges or
“channels,” each based on a specific size particle. Figure 1
shows a typical array of such channels and sample particles per
milliliter results. These channels can be varied to report on any
particle size relevant to the fluid or machine system involved.

Figure 1
Channels >2m >5m >10m >15m >25m >50m >100m >150m
Particle Count 5230 102 74 32 6 3 1.1 .3

Particle Count data is reported as the number of particles greater


than a certain size. Thus, the graph shows the sample contains
5230 particles larger than 2 microns, 102 particles larger than 5

6
Description

microns, 32 particles larger than 15 microns, etc. Bear in


mind that the particle count for each channel includes all the
particles in all the larger channels as well. Note: This data
shows only particle size, not the specific particle composition
(metal or nonmetal).

By trending this information over a series of samples, changes


in the concentration of particles by size can be used to spot
abnormal wear and forestall problems before they turn into
failures. Then, Spectrographic Analysis on the same samples can
often identify the metal makeup of the particles involved and
point to probable components that might be heading for failure.

ISO Codes are a simple way to quantify particulate matter by Applying ISO Codes to Particle
size. These codes were established by the International Count Data
Standards Organization (ISO), a worldwide federation of
national standards bodies (see page 2), and are the most widely
used method for identifying fluid cleanliness. In our business,
they apply to all non-engine lubricating fluids—with one of the
greatest benefits accruing to close-tolerance hydraulic systems.
Here’s how ISO Codes work.

Under the ISO Code system (see Figure 2), 28 code


numbers are set up, each representing a given range of particles
per milliliter, ranging from 0.01 to 2,500,000 particles.

The smaller the code number, the fewer number of particles.


You’ll note that the size of each code range is double the num-
ber of the range that precedes it.

Figure 2
ISO 4406 Code Levels
Particle Count Range (per ml)

ISO Minimum Maximum ISO Minimum Maximum ISO Minimum Maximum


Code (excluded) (included) Code (excluded) (included) Code (excluded) (included)

1 0.01 0.02 11 10 20 21 10000 20000


2 0.02 0.04 12 20 40 22 20000 40000
3 0.04 0.08 13 40 80 23 40000 80000
4 0.08 0.16 14 80 160 24 80000 160000
5 0.16 0.32 15 160 320 25 160000 320000
6 0.32 0.64 16 320 640 26 320000 640000
7 0.64 1.3 17 640 1300 27 640000 1300000
8 1.3 2.5 18 1300 2500 28 1300000 2500000
9 2.5 5.0 19 2500 5000
10 5.0 10 20 5000 10000

7
Description

For example, ISO Code 10 has a range of 5 particles, ISO Code


11 has a range of 10 particles, ISO Code 12 has a range of 20,
etc. This means that each one-step increase in ISO Code (i.e.
going from 11 to 12) indicates the fluid is twice as dirty (in
those sizes) as the preceding code (see Figure 3).

Using the ISO Codes


The governing ISO standard (ISO 4406) establishes a two-factor
code (X/Y) to express fluid cleanliness. The first factor (X)
represents the number of particles larger than 5 microns and the
second (Y) stands for the number of particles larger than 15 microns.

X = number of particles larger than (>) 5 microns


Y = number of particles larger than (>) 15 microns

For example, if in a given sample the particles/volume of >5


micron particles is 1350, and the particles/volume of >15 micron
particles is 105, the ISO Cleanliness Code would be 18/14.

The >5 and >15 micron sizes were picked because the smaller
size indicates wear particles that can cause “silting” in the fluid
(and whose specific metal makeup can be read by Wear Metal
Analysis), while the >15 micron size particles can indicate the
presence of rapid wear and potential early failure.

This format—the >5 micron range first, the >15 micron range
second, separated by a slash—is the universal signature for
expressing a fluid’s ISO Cleanliness Code.*
* An ISO committee is considering extending this to include a Code range
for >2 micron particles, to identify the volume of particles most likely to
cause severe silting. If this becomes effective, it will come first in the
Cleanliness Code signature, which will then appear >2/>5/>15.

Figure 3:
ISO 4406 Code Levels ISO Minimum Maximum
Particle Count Range (per ml) Code (included) (excluded)
11 10 20
Every step increase in ISO
12 20 40
Code indicates the fluid
13 40 80
is twice as dirty as the
14 80 160
preceding code.
15 160 320
16 320 640
17 640 1300

8
Applying ISO Codes

An ISO Code is a kind of cleanliness “shorthand” that’s easy to How ISO Codes Work With Present
work with—an instant identifier that sums up oil contamination Measuring Systems
in only two numbers.

As those numbers change between tests of samples from the


same compartment, they can be the first indication of trouble.
And such changes would be the signal to get a complete channel
breakdown and compare it to Wear Metal Analysis data to
identify a problem. Here are some sample reports:

Sample Report 1
Notice the increase in particle
count trend at 8,764 hours
in samples taken from this
D8N transmission. The oil and
filter were changed at this time
and after the next sample at
9,800 hours. But notice the (A)
sample at 10,045 hours, with
just 245 hours on the oil, showed
a very large increase in particle
count and aluminum (B). Also,
iron (C) had quickly risen to 53
PPM. These trends indicated an
imminent torque converter
problem, and tear-down revealed
a failed torque converter seal.

The reverse can also be true. That


is, an adverse trend in Spectrographic
Analysis data can call for a closer
analysis of ISO Cleanliness Codes,
using additional channels relevant to
the compartment being sampled.

9
Applying ISO Codes

Sample Report 2
This “one time only” sample with no oil hours reported reveals wear
metal readings high enough to definitely indicate dirt entry. Particle
Count then further quantified the dirt entry as very severe (A),
clearly calling for immediate remedial action to avoid serious
system damage (B).

So ISO Codes define and summarize Particle Count results


by quickly and visibly red-flagging adverse trends
in particle concentrations. This
invites analyzing more
detailed Particle Count infor-
mation, in different particle
size ranges, to find the magni-
tude of the problem. And in
many instances,
Spectrographic Analysis is
used to identify
the specific metal in particles
below 10 to 15 microns.

In short, Spectrographic
Analysis and Particle Count
work together to alert you of
potential problems before A
they cause costly damage.

10
Summary

ISO Codes are the international language of fluid cleanliness. Look for More Diagnostic Data
We will use them increasingly in the data we supply you on on ISO Codes
fluid analysis, wear trends, and problem identification. They will
not only provide easier-to-read signals of changing contamina-
tion levels; they will enhance the value of both Spectrographic
Analysis and Particle Count.

This standard language provides a unique cleanliness code for


particle concentrations of any size particle relevant to the fluid
being tested. ISO Codes meet the requirements of all types of
fluid cleanliness specs and criteria that will be used in the future.
Thus, their value will eventually extend to nearly all fluids
important to machine and equipment diagnostics.

11
Check Your Understanding

Quiz: Check Your Understanding

To make sure you know how to convert Particle Count data


into ISO Codes, run through these quick examples.
(Answers below.)

1. What is the ISO Cleanliness Code for a sample, if the >5


micron and >15 micron particle counts are:
a. 540 and 9
b. 2110 and 74
c. 285 and .50

2. If the ISO Cleanliness Code is 19/11, what are the >5


micron and >15 micron particle count ranges?
1a. 16/10 1b. 18/13 1c. 15/6 2. >5 micron range: 2500-5000 >15 micron range: 10-20
ANSWERS

® © 2000 Caterpillar
PEJT5025-02 Printed in U.S.A.