Correct lubrication is one of the most important things you can do for your machinery. It’s about more than simply making two surfaces slippy, though, because lubricants have various properties that make them suitable for different operational needs. Here’s a quick guide to what good lubrication will achieve:
The core purpose of a lubricant is of course to reduce friction, which is the force that acts against the relative motion of two bodies in contact. If you ever rub your hands when they’re cold, the friction creates the heat that makes them feel warmer. If you overdid this, however, your skin would start to burn and peel off. The same problem happens in machinery when it is not correctly lubricated, often leading to increased maintenance or catastrophic failure.
Lubrication first helps to reduce the rate at which heat is produced by minimising friction, but oil can also act as a medium to carry heat from the machinery. The oil can then be cooled by a lube oil cooler before being recirculated.
Selecting the right lubricant involves knowing the desirable viscosity, additives, and other properties. For example, Mobil DTE Light is a general purpose lubricating and circulating oil for industrial applications, while other lubricants may be formulated for extreme pressure situations like heavy-duty industrial gears.
The next important function of lubrication is in preventing wear. Those two shiny metal surfaces may look perfectly smooth to the naked eye, but if you look at them under a microscope, you’ll see two rough edges rubbing against each other. Depending on which material is weaker, particles inevitably fall off during motion. In a vicious cycle, these particles become caught between the surfaces and add more abrasion, resulting in even more particles breaking off. A lubrication film can prevent much of this from occurring by separating the surfaces.
In some applications, this film can be just one micron thick, so any contaminants can be potentially destructive. Of course, you’ll want to safeguard against any external contamination with filters, seals, and so on, but there’s always a small degree of internal wear, even with the best lubrication. This is where your lubrication’s additives come in, because some of these attract contaminants, so they can be carried to a filtration system. Other additives, meanwhile, protect against corrosion by preventing water from coming into contact with metal.
In short, correct lubrication helps machinery by reducing heat from friction, minimising wear, controlling contamination, and preventing rust, leading to more reliable and efficient operation.