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Change the delivery method, change the lubricant!

Change the delivery method, change the lubricant!

Grease is a mixture of oil and a thickener. In very expensive, specialist greases the thickener may have special properties that enhance the overall performance of the grease; it may contribute to corrosion protection or include particles to add functionality, but these types are in the minority. In most general purpose applications it is the oil that does the lubrication and the purpose of the thickener is to prevent the oil from simply draining away.

This is critical for periodic manual lubrication; the thickener holds the oil in place between lubrication rounds. It is common for some of the thickener to separate in normal use and remain in the lubrication path impeding the free flow of the lubricant and reducing its effectiveness.

One positive aspect of a grease gun is that it can deliver new grease at high pressure of 200-300 bar without undue effort. This is more than enough to shift this old excess thickener. In bearings this pressure may, however, have undesirable side-effects by overfilling the cavity, raising the operating temperature and even dislodging seals.

Using a simalube single-point lubricator as an alternative to manual lubrication significantly changes the way that lubricant is delivered. Instead of the periodic high pressure dose of grease, the lubrication point receives a very slow continuous flow. This provides a significantly better working environment for the moving parts and optimises their working life.

What is often not considered, however, is that the amount of thickener previously required to hold the oil in place between lubrication rounds is no longer needed. Providing the grease lines are free-running before the simalube is fitted, this is normally not a problem but there is one important exception. 

In Y-groove bearings, where the grease must flow around the groove in the housing and then through very small holes in the bearing’s outer ring it is possible for these small holes to become blocked. A simalube can produce up to 5 bar of pressure but this will not be enough to clear such a blockage and lubricant delivery will stop.

The best way to avoid this situation is to change the grease to better match the change in delivery method. For simalube this can be achieved by using SL06, liquid grease (rather than SL01) when working with small Y-groove bearings.

This is a situation common to all single-point lubricators and one to look out for if a customer is already using a competitor’s product. The customer will likely be aware that their existing lubricators do not fully empty on small Y-groove bearings and if you can arrange to purge the blockage and fit a simalube with SL06 as substitute it is likely to work much better and empty fully. This puts you in a good position to discuss further substitutions and potentially take over the total supply.