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Machine failures occur for a variety of reasons. Each of these failures creates a ripple effect of costs and productivity loss. Some of these issues can be mitigated by choosing a high-performance lubricant — one that can withstand time and harsh environments. While high-performance lubricants are more expensive initially, the added expenditure is recovered through reduced breakdowns, downtime and maintenance costs, which result in long-term overall savings.
High-performance perflouropolyether (PFPE) lubricants are inert, water- and oil-repellant, solvent-resistant, non-flammable, non-toxic, and compatible with most common elastomers, plastics and metals. This unique chemistry enables them to potentially outlast and outperform conventional hydrocarbon. PFPE lubricants also can perform under extreme temperatures, extreme pressure and exposure to harsh chemicals.
It's common practice to use hydrocarbon or silicone-based lubricants to relube components on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. With PFPEs, that need is greatly reduced, freeing personnel for other tasks and minimizing downtime caused by the need to replace worn out components. Following are a few examples of PFPEs driving performance, value and reducing downtime:
One copper rod manufacturer believed lubricating its roller bearings, which were operating at temperatures of more than 200 degrees C (400 degrees F), every four hours with a synthetic hydrocarbon grease was the longest-lasting solution available. However, by switching to a PFPE lubricant, they lowered relubrication to a monthly interval and cut annual bearing failures by nearly 98 percent, reducing replacements from 186 bearings each year to four. By switching to PFPEs, this manufacturer reduced maintenance costs, parts costs and production downtime. A cost analysis showed a total annual savings of $66,920.
A U.S. textile manufacturer utilizes a hot flue drying oven as part of its process. In the drying oven, wet fabric passes along many bearing rolls inside a large metallic box, moving through nine heated zones with temperatures reaching 218 degrees C (425 degrees F). The company was replacing at least six bearings per month due to premature bearing failures. Frequent downtime was adversely affecting productivity. Worse, fabric quality was compromised. The manufacturer needed a lubricant that would retain its integrity at high temperatures in high-humidity environments. After using a high-temperature PFPE grease, the manufacturer experienced a significant extension of bearing service life, minimizing costly downtime.
A polyethylene manufacturer was struggling with maintenance costs and frequent shutdowns of its high-capacity, sealed centrifuge because of hazardous material exposure. Specifically, a mineral oil lithium-thickened grease used in the centrifuge bearings leaked and led to premature bearing failures. The leaking hazardous solvent created an additional exposure threat to workers. The new lubricant needed to be non-reactive and insoluble to hexane, provide enough adhesion to avoid leaks, and remain fluid enough to deliver the required lubrication. The manufacturer turned to PFPEs. Since doing so, unplanned shutdowns and relubrication have both been reduced with relubrication down to twice a year. These dramatic results decreased maintenance costs and increased worker safety.