Manufacturing News

The good oil on industrial bearings

Correct maintenance of equipment still remains the long-term answer to reducing production downtime. Carole Goldsmith reports for Manufacturers’ Monthly.

MAINTAINING high performance machinery relies on using the right gears, bearings and lubricants for the job.

John Bradley, who has been in the bearing business for over forty years and is the MD of Action Bearings, urges manufacturers to ensure the gears and bearings they use conform to catalogued ISO or other recognised global standards.

“This will guarantee rated life performance under the working parameters specified, rather than accepting verbal assurances from non-reliable sources. Machinery suppliers also recommend the most suitable products to use.”

He says by using the correct bearings and gears in the design and production of machines or even in retrofitting, there can be massive savings for manufacturers.

“Production downtime is money lost and sometimes that can be on a grand scale. Ensure that manufacturing machines are built to perform to a designated set of operational parameters, specified by the machine buyer.

“This is critical to overcoming production losses. Insist that machine components are of an acceptable international standard and this will provide the appropriate safety net to protect against downtime and any repair delays.

“Anyone can buy a cheaper machine but sensible capital outlay rather than lowest cost buying will go a long way to guarantee application performance.

“One of our recent retro-designs for one of Australia’s leading automotive manufacturers provided savings in excess of one million dollars in the first year of installation which is indicative of the type money that can be lost when production machines do not work,” Bradley told Manufacturers Monthly.

Keeping bearings in top form

Bradley recommends that manufacturers inspect bearings and their housings periodically for maintenance of operating conditions and schedule bearing replacement.

He advises to keep bearings and surrounding areas free from dust and avoid strong impact that can cause bearing damage breaking or cracking.

“Use the correct bearing tools and wear gloves when handling bearings to prevent corrosion caused by perspiration and other contaminants.

“As well, the correct amount and type of lubrication is vital to successful machinery operation.”

The majority of premature application failures Bradley sees, when the correct bearings are used, trace back to fitment or lubrication problems.

Bradley says over lubrication can often be as dangerous as under lubrication.

“If there is any doubt about the suitability of lubricant types or amounts, consult with your product supplier.

“All bearings need a lubrication film between working surfaces to protect against steel-on-steel contact and many have additional lubrication needs specific to the application,” Bradley said.

The right lubricants

Ross Walker, Technology Manager, Castrol Industrial Lubricants & Services, says the job of the lubricant is to ensure that there is no metal-to-metal contact in the moving parts of the machine. It also helps to reduce friction, noise and energy consumption.”

“Using the correct lubricants will increase the Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) of your machinery. We recommend analysing your process, then selecting high performance lubricants for critical equipment.

“The cost of unscheduled downtime is too high to risk poor lubrication in critical equipment. In areas of high load, high speed or potential for lubricant contamination from water or particulates, a premium lubricant is more cost effective,” says Walker, an industrial chemist and certified lubrication specialist.

He advises that to prevent production downtime, keep the lubricants free of particles that are similar in size to the clearance tolerances in the machinery.

He says these particles have the greatest potential to damage components such as bearings and servo valves. His advice is to install a filter breather and have a reputable laboratory routinely conduct particle size analysis on the lubricant.

“Also monitor your oil condition at a rate that would predict failure well before the failure occurs.”

“And remember, too much lubricant in bearings will increase power consumption,” says Walker.

“Alternatively, insufficient lubricant will result in metal-to-metal contact, increasing friction and will probably result in bearing or equipment failure,” Walker told Manufacturers Monthly.

His advice is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the correct amount to use and with the required additives included.

When it comes to using environmentally friendly, biodegradable lubricants, Walker says if it is an environmentally sensitive industry, like logging or sub-sea exploration, then biodegradable lubricants should definitely be used.

“But for general manufacturing in non-sensitive areas, these lubricants are more expensive for minimal improvement and are no cheaper to dispose of.

“Manufacturers should choose a reputable lubricant company and consider their selection of lubricants carefully to suit the particular application and environmental requirement,” advises Walker.

Action Bearings 1800 673 382.

Castrol Australia 1300 554 890.

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