Rubber is a common material used in mechanical construction. From aeroplanes and cars to dishwashers and refrigerators, rubber parts are included in a multitude of different shapes. Whether they take the form of a washer or are used to create a seal, each rubber component plays a key part.
A unique material, it is strong yet elastic. Incredibly lightweight, it can protect and insulate, while being resistant to abrasion. It can stretch and compress as necessary and remains waterproof, whatever thickness it has. Rubber has become valuable to many industries and is today used in an unlimited number of specialist applications, including sound and vibration dampening, chemical transportation, and thermal and electrical insulation, among many others.
It is well-known that mechanical equipment requires lubrication to run efficiently. Lubricants like oil and grease stop a machine’s metal parts from rubbing against each other and causing harm. They also help filter out dirt and debris that can clog up operations. Finally, lubricants also cool down moving parts, ensuring they don’t become overheated and become damaged.
However, just because a lubricant is suitable for metal parts, that does not mean it is suitable for use where rubber components are present. While rubber is strong and flexible, it is by no means indestructible. Read on as we take a closer look at lubrication that is safe for rubber.
Expertly engineered lubrication
Common choices include soap and water, gasoline, alcohol, motor oil, silicone spray and petroleum jelly. While all these products provide lubrication, they can also introduce potential risks to health and safety and inflict damage on rubber parts.
To protect equipment integrity and ensure safety standards for workers and the environment, engineers became an important part of selecting lubricants. Ergonomic engineers, lubricant engineers and design engineers all play an important role in picking the correct lubricant for a specific process or application.
The ideal lubricant for rubber parts
By far the most suitable lubrication solution for rubber is a carefully formulated emulsion of oil and water emulsion. This is because it can overpower rubber’s low surface energy. Effectively, this means that emulsion-style lubricant can completely coat the surface of rubber without any beading. The oil part of the emulsion has a natural affinity to rubber surfaces, while the water part is exposed to environment conditions, which facilitates evaporation.
Just a thin layer of the oil makes contact with the rubber, but it is an ample amount for the part it plays. The thin coating makes sure no residue develops and no compatibility issues arise, while temporary lubrication and a safer working environment are achieved.
Water-based lubricants can be created with different properties. This makes them ideal for a wide range of different applications. Lubricant properties like viscosity, surface residue, biodegradability, dry time and compatibility are all considered. This allows engineers to select a lubricant tailored precisely to meet specific needs. Using a water-based lubricant is the best option for increased service life of rubber components and to avoid unwanted maintenance and operational downtime.