In recent years, the Automatic Dispensing of Grease, as opposed to manual greasing with a grease-gun, has found ever-increasing use of the maintenance practitioners. This is due to several disadvantages of manual lubrication.
- Over-lubrication and/or Lubricant Starvation – at best, one lubricant technician ‘estimates’ somehow accurately, the grease quantities required in bearings. At worst, one may dispense too much grease in a bearing, or at times, forget to re-lubricate at the correct intervals. Ultimately, this leads to premature bearing failures.
- Solid Contamination, as well as Moisture entering the grease – aside from degrading grease quality, contamination plays a big aggravating role in accelerating wear in bearings. Manual lubrication may more prone to contamination, even due to failures of simple house-keeping in the lubricant shop. The illustration below is not uncommon.
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- The use of the Incorrect Grease – related to house-keeping, and in having an organized system of classifying and identifying greases for the corresponding applications (specific bearings), or the lack thereof of a system. The wrong lubricant again may produce catastrophic and unintended damage to components, causing down-time and lost production hours.
Automatic Lubrication in its many forms addresses these potential problems with manual lubrication.
Over-lubrication or lubricant starvation, barring any leaks or clogs in the lube lines, is eliminated. Most automatic lubricators are programmed to charge a fixed amount of grease, over a fixed, predetermined frequency. As an example, a single point auto-lubricator may be programmed to charge 0.3 cc of grease per day, for one bearing. This results in a consistent grease level inside bearings at all times, averting grease and bearing failures.
Any contamination to the grease is also minimized as fixed grease lines, in tubes, are sealed from the grease pump to the bearings that require lubrication. In this manner, there is no possibility of charging the incorrect grease, too. Such is illustrated by the example below.
Automatic Lubrication is also useful for situations where access to the lubricating ports are distant, or even hazardous, and is likewise ideal for machines that are unable to cease running for maintenance due to high production demands.
The advantages are therefore numerous, though the maintenance manager will be wise to calculate the returns, as there is an up-front investment for automatic lubricators.
In our next discussion, we shall take on the different automatic lubricating technologies that are available in the market.