Smaller, Hotter and Overloaded Machines make proper Lubrication Selection more Critical

As per IndustryARC analysts, 28% of US industrial companies said they experienced a lubricant-related gearbox failure within the last year. These failures were most likely related to extreme operating temperatures that created breakpoint stress on such industrial gearbox parts as seals, bearings and gear teeth. These higher operating temperatures are precipitated by the demand for more power in a smaller footprint and decreased oil volume. Today’s equipment also needs to handle increased loads and deal with a host of contaminants, including water. Dealing with these demanding conditions requires gear oil that is formulated to reduce stress in a number of ways. The difference between automotive and industrial gear oils is that industrial gear oils must perform in conditions and applications that vary significantly.

Examples are the highly contaminated conditions that exist in mines and the highly aqueous conditions in steel mills. It’s not surprising then that gear base oil and additive manufacturers need a thorough grasp of the performance requirements of advanced machinery and the end-user’s needs. Additives protect seals and improve thermal, oxidative and viscosity stability. They also provide micropitting resistance, bearing corrosion protection, foam resistance and enhanced demulsibility and load-carrying capacity. There are many gear oil standards such as North America’s AGMA 9005- E02 EP, Europe’s DIN 51517-3 and Germany’s SEBI 181 226. The newest is the Siemens (Flender) MD specification. In addition, OEMs often use standard tests together with their own requirements. There are also specifications for specific industries such as food processing.

The increasing strictures of these specifications and the unique challenges posed by technologically advanced gearboxes require advanced gear oils to fully protect components. While using the wrong lubricant for the job and incorporating certain additives that promote micropitting can cause gearbox failure attributed to the lubricant, the two most common culprits are excessive heat and water contamination. As a result of increased demand on the lubricant, some lubricant companies, including Chevron, are developing higher quality lubricants with improved EP, micropitting resistance, oxidative properties, lower sludge forming tendency and better foam performance. Some lubricants are moving to synthetics using Group III, IV and V components.

There are two major considerations in the formulation of new industrial gear oils:

  • Increased emphasis on cost reduction (longer lubricant life)
  • Design changes to improve gearbox efficiency (smaller gearboxes with less oil capacity).

The good news is that newer oils are formulated with high levels of extreme-pressure properties across a spectrum of viscosities. This gives smaller gearboxes carrying high loads extra protection. But additives to improve extreme-pressure properties can decrease thermal stability, resulting in the formation of sludge. Industrial gear oil additives do exist, however, that provide the balance of thermal stability and extreme-pressure protection. The combination of these two factors adds value by prolonging the life of gearboxes and maximizing efficiency.

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IndustryARC is a global market research and business consulting firm based out of India. We have research centers across Asia and Europe with consultants experienced in the following verticals – Agriculture, Automotive, Chemicals and Materials, Energy and Power, Food and Beverages, ICT, Electronics, Life sciences and Healthcare, Automation and Instrumentation.

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