In general, lubricants are primarily used to decrease friction between two surfaces; however, it is essential to note that each lubricant has unique properties.
Although lubrication may seem straightforward, it is still crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the different types of lubricants and their applications. This ensures that the appropriate lubricant is always used for the intended application, which can reduce machine downtime and failures.
To begin with, lubricants can be categorised into four main types: oil, grease, penetrating lubricants, and dry lubricants. While oil and grease are the most commonly used lubricants in daily operations, facilities also use dry and penetrating lubricants. Therefore, understanding the appropriate applications for each type of lubricant is essential.
Below we have mentioned some common types of lubricants and their applications:
Thin, liquid lubricants, commonly known as oils, are made up of long polymer chains along with various additives. These additives may include antioxidants, which prevent the oil from oxidising, corrosion inhibitors that protect against corrosion, and detergents, which prevent the formation of deposits.
Due to the length of the polymer chains, oils are resistant to squeezing out between surfaces, but once applied, they create a slippery barrier that reduces friction and wear. The viscosity of oils varies depending on the weight, with lower numbers indicating an easy flow.
Oils are an excellent choice for lubricating machinery and equipment in situations where the use of grease is not practical or desirable. Here are some benefits of using lubricating oils:
- Oils are versatile lubricants and their applications include lubricating hinges, bearings, tools, and blade sharpening.
- Unlike grease, oils do not create significant resistance, making them ideal for applications requiring minimal friction.
- If you need to lubricate something that is difficult to reach or disassemble, oils can be wicked into tight spaces, providing adequate lubrication without the need for disassembly.
When Not to Use
- Using oil lubricants is not suitable for machines or parts that are dirty or dusty, as adding oil to a compromised surface will increase friction and cause the oil to thicken. In addition, if the surface is not clean, oils with low viscosity may drip or run, making them ineffective for lubrication.
- Oil lubricants are not recommended in wet environments as they will be washed away. Although oil can repel water to some extent, it absorbs water over time, reducing its adhesion and causing the parts to be washed away. This is a common misconception that oil makes things waterproof.
Grease Lubricants and Their Applications
Grease is formed by blending a base oil, typically mineral oil, with thickeners, such as lithium-based soaps, giving it a thick, viscous consistency to lubricate the moving parts. The thickener, typically a metal soap or a polyurea compound, acts as a sponge to hold the oil in place and prevent it from leaking or dripping.
The unique properties of grease allow it to mix seamlessly with the lubricants in the oil, providing a sticky texture that enables the lubricants to adhere to surfaces. Furthermore, grease can serve as a protective barrier, safeguarding surfaces against contaminants that can cause damage.
If you’re looking for a reliable, long-lasting lubricant for your machinery, consider using grease. Its adhesive properties and ability to repel contaminants make it an excellent choice for a variety of applications.
- Grease is an ideal lubricant for a range of machinery components, such as gears, bearings, chains, and linkages. This is because it provides superior adhesion to surfaces, ensuring long-lasting lubrication.
- In addition to its adhesive properties, grease is also effective at keeping out contaminants like dust and water droplets, which can cause damage to machinery over time. This makes it an excellent choice for machinery regularly exposed to harsh environmental conditions.
- It can provide long-lasting lubrication even in machines that are used infrequently. This is because it doesn’t evaporate or drip away like liquid lubricants, meaning you can apply it once and forget about it for an extended period.
When Not to Use
While grease can be an excellent lubricant in many situations, it may not always be the best choice for machinery with fast-moving or delicate components. Here are a few reasons why:
- Firstly, the thick consistency of grease can create too much resistance, which can slow down or impede the movement of fast-moving parts. This can lead to issues like overheating or premature wear and tear.
- Secondly, moving parts can fling grease around, making it challenging to keep the surrounding area clean. This can be a problem in cleanroom environments or applications where cleanliness is critical.
- Lastly, thick grease can be too much of a barrier in fine or fast-moving mechanisms, impeding the necessary movement of components. A lighter lubricant, such as a high-quality oil, may be a better choice in these situations.
Penetrating Lubricants and Their Applications
If you enjoy tinkering with engines or fixing things on your own, you’ll appreciate the value of these special lubricants and their applications. Penetrating lubricants act as lifesavers for those tough-to-remove bolts and nuts. They’re not meant to provide long-lasting lubrication, but instead, they’re specifically formulated to seep into tight spaces, increase lubrication, and break down rust. These lubricants come in various types, but it’s possible to create a low-cost version that’s just as effective. Knowing how to make your own penetrating oil can save you time, effort, and money.
Here are a few scenarios in which using a penetrating lubricant might be more appropriate than other types of lubricants:
- Penetrating lubricating oils are the go-to solution for freeing rusted or seized nuts and bolts. They can seep into the smallest of crevices and dissolve rust and debris, causing obstruction.
- When dealing with stubborn adhesives, such as stickers or tape residue, penetrating oils can help break down the glue and make it easier to remove the adhesive.
- In warehouse repair tasks or other maintenance activities, penetrating oils can help break down buildup or corrosion on machinery or equipment.
When Not to Use
- Penetrating lubricants and their applications and benefits are certainly unique, but it is vital to remember that they should not be used as a substitute for other lubricants.
- They should never be applied to bearings or other parts as they are short-lived and can actually cause damage to the machine. Therefore, it is essential to consider the specific application carefully and the intended use of a lubricant before deciding to use a penetrating lubricant.
CB6 is a deeply penetrating, high-performance synthetic, and “clean” lubricant especially recommended to serve the critical demands of conveyors and chain drives systems working under severe loads, extreme temperatures and in a humid or dusty environment requiring maximum lubrication.
Dry lubricants contain certain types of lubricants, such as silicon, molybdenum, graphite, and PTFE, that have a molecular structure that is extremely slippery and helps to reduce friction between surfaces. They can also be found in spray form, typically mixed with volatile solvents like alcohol or water and evaporates after application.
Dry lubricants and their applications are recommended in the following situations:
- Dry lubricants are suitable for use on threaded rods, locks, and hinges.
- They are ideal for lubricating tiny parts that cannot be clogged with grease or surrounding surfaces that must be kept clean.
- Dry lubricants are a good choice when you need to lubricate a surface that must not attract dust or dirt.
- Dry lubricants are also practical when surfaces may be exposed to extremely high temperatures or pressures, as oils may start to oxidise under such conditions.
When Not to Use
- Avoid using dry lubricants in environments with high humidity or moisture levels, as the dry lubricant particles can absorb moisture and lose their effectiveness.
- Refrain from using dry lubricants in applications that require high loads or pressures, as they may not provide adequate lubrication in such situations.
- Avoid using dry lubricants on surfaces that require constant lubrication, as they may wear out quickly and require frequent reapplication.
- Do not expose the surface treated with dry lubricants to liquids or solvents, as any remaining lubricant may be washed away.
In conclusion, it is crucial to understand the different types of lubricants and their applications to ensure that machinery and equipment operate at optimal levels. Lubricating oils are an excellent choice for various applications, while grease is ideal for machinery with slow-moving parts that require long-lasting lubrication. Penetrating lubricants are best suited for dislodging rust, debris, and other contaminants, and dry lubricants are ideal for applications where traditional lubricants cannot be used. By selecting the appropriate lubricant for each application, you can reduce machine downtime and failures and maximise productivity.