Constant friction between moving parts can generate heat that can damage internal structures and components. As bearings play a vital role in separating moving parts, minimizing friction, and preventing ongoing wear and tear, they necessitate ample lubrication. For this reason, lubricants are incredibly important to the functionality of applications that have bearings installed. Lubricants reduce corrosion and protect against contaminants that could cause immeasurable damage to bearings. Paired with regular inspection and maintenance, it is possible to improve the reliability of these tiny components.
There are two main types of lubricants, those of which are solid and oil lubricants. Solid lubricants are oil-filled microporous polymers. They are perfect for reducing friction and preventing wear, especially in applications where oil or grease would not provide substantial lubrication. They are also an ideal choice for hard-to-reach areas that require frequent relubrication. Some common applications include food processing, extreme temperature environments, vacuums, and areas exposed to radiation. There are a variety of solid lubricant options, some of which are Boron nitride, Polytetrafluoroethylene, Graphite, and Molybdenum disulfide.
Beyond reducing friction and wear, solid lubricants offer permanent lubrication with no leakages. More than that, they generate low amounts of heat and offer low startup torque. Lastly, solid lubricants are good at keeping contaminants out, and they work well with acids and other corrosive chemicals.
Oil/grease lubricants are generally more popular than their counterparts. The two most common types are made of synthetic and natural mineral oils. In most cases, manufacturers will mix the chosen oil with a thickening agent to create varying viscosities and properties. There are three properties that are paramount to consider when selecting an oil lubricant, those of which are viscosity, temperature range, and evaporative rate. It is worth noting that oil lubricants are perfect for applications where bearing lube must be circulated. For instance, oil lubrication is great for transferring heat in thermal management applications and automated lube systems.
When compared to solid lubricants, oils are easier to control and clean. They operate well at high speeds and offer less startup and running torque. The last added advantage is their ability to reduce bearing noise and vibration.
Which One Is Better?
Depending on the application at hand, one may opt for solid over oil lubricants and vice versa. In applications where standard lubrication is effective, solid lubricants are ideal. For example, solid lubricants are great choices for underwater environments or areas exposed to a lot of dust and lint. Oil lubricants, on the other hand, are better suited for open bearing designs where low torque and high speed are major factors. This type of lubrication is perfect for areas where oil flow is available. They also have the ability to carry heat away from the bearing and are often more affordable than other lubricants.
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