Lubrication - The Silent Component of Machinery
By: Thomas Yoon
The function of a lubrication medium is:
- To form a film between moving bearing components so that
metal to metal contact is prevented.
- To reduce friction and eliminate wear
- To protect against corrosion
- To seal against impurities like dust, dirt, water.
In order for the oil film to be formed between the moving bearing
components, the film must be sufficiently thick even under heavy
load, high temperatures or vibrations.
Some sleeve bearings that has very heavy loads, like in the
crosshead bearings of diesel engines, usually have provisions for
injecting pressurized oil to float the shafts. This method is
called hydrostatic lubrication.
However, the most common method of lubrication for sleeve bearings
is by the hydrodynamic method. When the two surfaces of a bearing
and shaft move rapidly relative to one another, the oil is carried
along the shaft to fill the gap between shaft and bearing. When
the moving components become completely separated by a cohesive
film of lubricant, hydrodynamic lubrication occurs. Hydrodynamic
lubrication prevents wear in moving parts, as there is no metallic
contact between them. The bearing metals can last for a long time.
During starting time, the rotating shaft does not have sufficient
speed to pick up the lubricant. The film separating the moving
surfaces is very thin - with only the thickness of a molecule. This
is a condition called boundary-layer lubrication. With this
condition, friction losses increases, producing heat, which raises
the temperature of the lubricant, thereby reducing its viscosity so
that the load-carrying capacity of the film is even lower. In worst
case conditions, the surfaces can even seize together.
For rolling contact bearings like ball bearings, a condition called
elasto-hydrodynamic lubrication occurs. At the point of contact,
the ball deflects and flattens out slightly for a moment under the
high pressure. When the ball rolls on, the contact surfaces return
to their original shape. However, the lubricant is not forced away
from the point of contact due to the dramatic increase in viscosity.
When the ball has passed, the viscosity falls back again.
When grease is used for lubricating ball bearings, they also act as
protection against impurities like dust, dirt and water that will
cause wear down and corrosion.
More about oils and grease for lubrication could be the subject of
the next topic.
Until next time...
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