Chain drives that operate with inadequate lubrication wear faster, drive up repair and replacement costs, and reduce plant reliability. Alleviating these problems with improved lubrication also decreases energy consumption and reduces carbon emissions. A variety of strategies are available to reduce friction, including special-purpose lubricant formulations, automatic application devices and innovative chain designs.
Dry-film lubricants: Dry film lubricants are high-performance coatings formulated with a binder that, once cured, forms a solid film that reduces friction and mechanical wear.
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Additives can be incorporated to extend chain life, such as rust inhibitors that protect against corrosion, or to support specific lubricant applications.
Interflon suggests using a penetrating dry film lubricant with a protective coating instead of conventional lubricants that might lead to corrosion inside the pin and bushing area, and dirt buildup on the outer surface. The Interflon Fin Lube EP Plus non-drip aerosol fluid, formulated for extreme pressure and hostile environments, uses a mixture of mineral and synthetic oil, paraffinic solvent, Teflon, additives and propellant. The film lubricates and protects rollers, pins and bushings. The sprockets and outside of the chain, left nearly dry, resist dirt and moisture. A thin initial layer with occasional reapplication works best, and longer penetration times lengthen the time between lubrications. Chains lubricated with Fin Lube EP Plus are said to continue working smoothly even after the lubricating layer on the outside has disappeared. Energy savings for drive chain and conveyor customers using this product were approximately 20% at startup with a running amperage reduction of as much as 26%.
For high-contamination areas, the DuPont Teflon Chain-Saver aerosol penetrates wet and sets up with a dry Teflon fluoropolymer wax film enhanced with molybdenum. Patented self-cleaning release agents are activated by contaminants such as dirt, grime and paper dust, causing outer bits of the lube and the contaminant to shed from the chain to reduce abrasion and increase chain life. DuPont Teflon Chain-Saver serves as a dry lubricant at temperatures to 120°F, and as a wet-style oil lubricant between 120°F and 300°F.
Food-grade lubricants: Lubricants in food and beverage processing have unique requirements. They might be subject to frequent washdowns, steam, condensation or temperature extremes, and must comply with health and safety regulations for purity and non-toxicity based on their exposure to edible products.
Dow Corning’s fluids, such as Molykote L-1428, reduce chain drag and wear, extend service intervals, and reduce maintenance costs. Molykote oils are molecularly engineered for maximum saturation and designed to resist water. The mineral oils are produced in a patented hydrocracking process that ensures they are nearly contaminant-free. The lubricants maintain viscosity across a wide temperature range, making them suitable for ovens and freezers. The food grade lubricants are USDA H-1 or H-2 certified and many are kosher and Ag Canada approved.
Automatic lubrication: Another way to minimize lubrication costs and increase operational efficiency is using an automatic lubrication device. An example is Lincoln’s ORSCO Spray Systems, which continuously or intermittently apply lubricant to chains. The company’s patented delivery nozzles supply minute quantities of lubricant exactly where required. The systems are said to reduce the fluid consumption by as much as 90%.
Lube-friendly chain design: Having to replace chains because of abrasion in the pin-bushing joint can be minimized with proper lubrication. U.S. Tsubaki’s ANSI roller chains, size 80 to 140, have patented PerforMax solid-lube groove bushings that hold the oil at the point of contact to increase wear life and decrease initial elongation.
The oil-retaining lube grooves on the inner surface of the bushing allows the chain to run longer without additional lubrication, which extends the maintenance interval and reduces labor and lubricant costs.
The MagSlide chip and parts conveyor by Bunting Magnetics uses twin-roller drive chains that hold and move magnets under the slider bed. The chains run in oil-impregnated SlideTrack channels machined from ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene, which provides continuous lubrication, minimizes friction and adds greater durability. Built-in oil fittings allow manual or automatic relubrication.
The Nanochain was introduced by Iwis Antriebssysteme at this year’s Motion, Drive and Automation show in Hannover, Germany. A patented nanotechnology-based surface coating on the roller chain acts like a boundary layer to reduce the surface coefficient of friction within the chain link and increase wear resistance.
E-mail Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy, managing director of Additive Communications, at Sheila@addcomm.com.