Not All Lube Plans are Created Equal

Not All Lube Plans are Created Equal

Consider the case of the lubrication mysteries at TRF Corp.

Ted, Red and Fred all work in the maintenance group and each is assigned a different, but identical, assembly line to look after.

For some reason, the bearings on Ted’s line seem to fail more often than the bearings on Red’s line. And both Ted’s and Red’s bearings fail quite a bit more frequently than those on Fred’s line.

Each assembly line is the same age and has the same bearings. Ted, Red and Fred each lube the bearings on their individual lines every Monday. Each gives every bearing one full action on their identical lever grease guns. In addition, they all use cartridges of the same grease.

“What was the problem?” their boss wanted to know. Why did they get vastly different failure rates? The secret, he suspected, might be in the guns. Perhaps the “identical” grease guns were somewhat less identical than they appeared to be.

So, they analyzed the situation and looked closely at the grease guns they were using. They found out that one full action of Ted’s grease gun would deliver one ounce of lube every nine strokes. Red and Fred have identical guns but Red’s gun is set on high pressure and delivers one ounce every 18 strokes. Fred’s gun is set at low pressure, delivering one ounce only every 33 strokes.

While this is not exactly a real situation it does illustrate how easily bearings can be lubed with the wrong amount of lubricant. Normally, bearing failure was caused by too much lubrication, not enough lubrication, or, sometimes, using the totally wrong lubricant.

One solution to this situation would be to set up each line with an automatic lubrication system or place single point lubricators at each bearing. While the automated system is much more precise in the amount and frequency that the lubricant is dispensed, it is also a more expensive way to go.

Another solution to an over-lubrication problem is to install single point lubricators. Single point lubricators can eliminate the over lubrication situation and many of the other common problems such as hard to reach lube points or lube points that required a specialized lube.

Single point lubricators are available in three means of operation: simple compressed spring; battery operated auger; or powered by gases created from a chemical reaction.

You can generally choose either a plastic or metal housing, with metal being the preferred material in harsh or vibration prone conditions. Plastic is used in most other conditions, especially wet environments.

The capacity of the units will vary from one maker to another. Some makers have a selection of capacities. The main factor would be what size of bearing the unit will be feeding.

The majority of single point lubricators are filled with lube at the factory. Many suppliers have a list of the lubes that are available at no extra charge. Some suppliers have an extra charge for filling units with the lube of your choice. Some manufacturers only offer their brand of lube.

When it comes to re-filling the unit, the spring-loaded units are generally refillable. An exception would be a refillable unit that can be detachable from the power unit.

Many single point lubricators are available with an optional mounting manifold where several lube points can be lubed from a single lube station. This will obviously decrease the time between refills of the lube unit. Many of these same units can be mounted at a distance from the bearing or lube point. Generally 15 feet is the maximum distance that single point lube devices can be mounted away from the lube point – but this distance will vary from system to system. The drive units do not develop the force required to drive lube any further.

All battery and gas powered single point lube devices come with some means to set the length of time that the lube will be dispensed. Most settings are for from 1 to 12 months. The length of time the lube will last depends on the size of the bearing and the operating conditions.

An on/off switch may be called for if the equipment is to be idle for a length of time. A single point luber can also be controlled by the action of the machine or from a PLC. Just a few of the devices have this feature available.

IBT offers single point lubricators from a selected group of manufacturers, including: Alemite, Farval, LubeSite, Perma, SKF and Timken. These devices are available indifferent housings, different capacities, and a wide range of features and characteristics. (See Single Point Lubers in attachments below.)

When it comes to the selection of a single point lubricator, one of the first questions is what setting to select. Alemite suggests that the manufacturer of the bearing be consulted for exact lubrication information.

The installation of single point lubricators or a complete automated lubrication system will offer the benefits for more precise lubrication resulting in longer bearing and machine life, reduced maintenance costs and improved production from fewer downtime stoppages. Ted, Red, and Fred now have at least part of Monday’s schedule for a little preventative maintenance as well.

You can find out more about single point lubrication systems – and explore other lubrication alternatives – by contacting IBT.


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