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ROBOTIC RESOURCES

The True Cost of Bearing Lubrication

igus Inc.

The True Cost of Bearing Lubrication
By Matt Mowry
Product Manager
Spring 2011

*This is only an excerpt from the whitepaper.
To download the entire paper - no registration required - click here.

Table of Contents
Introduction..................................................................................................................................2
Hidden Costs of Lubrication ....................................................................................................3
Ancillary components for OEMs ...............................................................................................3
Other costs not required for self-lubricating bearings .........................................................4
self-Lubricating Plastic Bearings .............................................................................................4
Benefits of plastic bearings........................................................................................................4
Application parameters not conducive for self-lubricating plastic bearings .....................6
field applications using high-Performance Plastic Bearings...............................................6

Introduction
Today, machine and equipment manufacturers are feeling more pressure than ever to reduce costs without sacrificing machine performance and this balancing act can be difficult to achieve. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) often overlook a simple solution that can have a positive, long-term impact on profitability for themselves and their customers: the elimination of bearing lubricant. By eliminating lubrication systems where possible, OEMs can reduce production costs, while at the same time making their equipment more marketable and less expensive to operate for the end users.

What are the issues with bearing lubricant? According to a major ball bearing company, 54 percent of bearing failures are lubrication-related. In a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it was estimated approximately $240 billion is lost annually (across US industries) due to downtime and repairs to manufacturing equipment damaged by poor lubrication (footnote 1). Improper bearing lubrication or re-lubrication accounts for up to 40 to 50 percent of machine failures. By eliminating lubrication from machinery, OEMs can minimize the costs and risks associated with maintenance for the end user. At the same time, costs related to the proper disposal of oil can be eliminated and the initial expenditure for ancillary components and processes (grease lines, zerks, manifolds, etc) can be decreased.

There is a lower cost, easier-to-maintain machine component that eliminates the total cost of bearing lubricants: high performance, dry running plastic bearings.

Hidden Costs of Lubrication
Proper lubrication delivery is critical for the operation of ball bearings, and most require continued maintenance
for re-lubrication. The re-lubrication process typically requires scheduled machine downtime, which increases maintenance costs and causes a loss of production time. In addition, re-lubrication maintenance practices often fall short. While some processes are automated, the majority of re-lubrication is performed manually using a grease gun. This seemingly simple task actually involves a number of critical steps to ensure proper lubrication delivery, including correct amount of lube, the right grease gun, proper cleaning, and careful storage and handling conditions, just to name a few. In addition, it is critical to use the same grease for the entire lifespan of a bearing. The Technical Training Division of Life Cycle Engineering conducted a study that found 80 percent of maintenance workers surveyed scored less than 50 percent when it came to the basic technical skills needed to perform their job (footnote 2) 2 and “bearing lubrication” was noted first on their list of tasks.

Re-lubrication maintenance practices fall short due to:
  • Lubrication not being properly or consistently administered;
  • Lubrication points not being easily accessible;
  • Maintenance personnel not being properly trained; and
  • Using the incorrect or improper quantity of lubricant.
I. Ancillary components for OEMs
Using lubricated bearings can increase manufacturing complexity and expenses. They often need to be fitted with grease zerks and manifolds, oil lines, and sometimes oil reservoirs and pumps. Not only are there extra costs associated with purchasing these components, there are also manufacturing costs associated with the machining and assembly of the mating parts.

Ancillary components for lubricated bearings:
  • Grease fittings / zerks / oil lines / pumps
  • Wipers / scrapers / felt wicks / seals
  • Grease guns
  • Grease / oil / lubrication
To download the entire whitepaper - no registration required - click here.

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