Lubricants and Condition Monitoring - OELCHECK Recognises Future Trends

Lubricant analysis plays a vital role in the monitoring of machinery, or condition monitoring. It provides a wide range of physical and chemical characteristics that can be used to deduce the condition of both the lubricant and the components of the machine alike. However, lubricant analysis is set to become even more significant in the future as the demands placed on lubricants continue to increase. With regard to lubrication and its impact on production and maintenance, OELCHECK diagnostics engineers are confronted with trends that are bound to become increasingly important in the coming years.

Table of contents

  1. Trend: Long-Term and Lifetime Lubrication
  2. Trend: Designed to Application
  3. Trend: Higher Energy Efficiency
  4. Trend: Increasing Demands on Environmental Impact
  5. Trend: Lubricants that are Essential to Facilitate Technical Applications
  6. Trend: More Effective Monitoring and Maintenance of Lubricants

Trend: Long-Term and Lifetime Lubrication

Oil is not a renewable resource, and the aim is now clearly to achieve substantially longer lubricant service life. Depending on the application concerned, the often advocated concept of lifetime lubrication is a potential option. But independent of this, the trend with regard to long-term use is primarily moving towards higher-quality base oils (group II or III). Formulated with highly effective oxidation inhibitors, these allow you to achieve even longer service life. Even today, use intervals of 10 years can be achieved with high-performance industrial gear oils. In the automotive sector, the aim is to eliminate the periodic changing of automatic transmission fluids.

Trend: Designed to Application

Simplification of the types of lubricants used must be on the wish list of almost every maintenance technician. However, the OELCHECK diagnostics engineers are often confronted with a counter-trend. It is called „designed to application“ and means that lubricants are tailored to specific applications. This is the case, for example, for roughly 85% of all automotive lubricants. Around 20 years ago, the proportion was only 25%.

Another example is industrial gear oils for modern high-tech gears. In the past, two types of base oil and four types of active ingredient were available for the formulation of lubricants. Nowadays, due to ever-increasing technical demands there are four different base oils and up to 23 additive combinations. These tailored products represent a major challenge for lubricant producers. They also increase the need for us as analysts, as the wide range of possible combinations and substances makes it increasingly difficult to assess the exact service times of used oils.


Trend: Higher Energy Efficiency

Lubricants have an immediate effect not only on engines and machine components, including their wear and service life, but also on energy efficiency. Low-viscosity, low-friction motor oils have been reducing fuel consumption for many years. Motor oil developers will exploit this potential to a substantially higher degree in the future. More and more, the behaviour of industrial lubricants is being critically analysed with regard to the efficiency and performance of the machines.

For many suppliers of modern oils and greases, energy conservation is a key selling point because hydraulic fluids or gear oils formulated with specific additives can save thousands of euros in energy costs.

Trend: Increasing Demands on Environmental Impact

This primarily relates to hydraulic fluids for mobile hydraulic systems. However, it also affects total loss lubricants such as lubricating greases, adhesive oils or two-stroke mixtures. They must also meet a multitude of requirements. Biohydraulic fluids need to remain in use for as long as possible in order to drive down oil and maintenance costs. At the same time, they are expected to provide an optimum level of operational reliability. However, specific environmental requirements need to be taken into account when formulating biolubricants. And when it comes to using plant oils as more readily biodegradable base oils, understanding how extreme pressure (EP) additives work is a science in itself.

Trend: Lubricants that are Essential to Facilitate Technical Applications

Alternative construction materials, engines with catalytic converters or diesel particulate filters, and modern machining methods are just a few of the many technological developments that are only possible with specifically formulated lubricants or cutting fluids.

For instance, ceramics respond to additives in a completely different way than metals. Conventional oils and greases are only suitable to a certain extent for the lubrication of ceramic components used in piston rings, roller bearings, compressors, high-temperature gas turbines or other equipment. Modern materials can be produced more precisely and can therefore be more resistant to temperature and wear than metals. However, their precise surfaces with low roughness require lubricants that are „thinner“ and therefore more energy efficient.

In machine tools, metals are predominantly machined using emulsions of water-miscible cooling lubricants. A trend towards dry machining is becoming increasingly clear here. This involves replacing the emulsion by a very small quantity of a fully synthetic high-additive oil that is dispensed directly and precisely through the tool to the cutting surface. In the case of engines, catalytic converters and particulate filters make it possible to comply with evermore stringent emissions standards. However, for best results and trouble-free operation these components require low-SAPS motor oils. These oils contain a lower proportion of sulphur and phosphorous additives, which are considered catalyst poisons, and therefore generate fewer deposits. Low-viscosity motor oils that have been developed with energy efficiency and environmental impact in mind are set to play an increasingly significant role in the future as formulas must be adapted to comply with the further tightening of emissions standards.

Trend: More Effective Monitoring and Maintenance of Lubricants

An essential factor for longer operating life is even more careful maintenance and monitoring of lubricants. Contamination of oils and greases by wear particles and other contaminants also increases over time. Monitoring and maintenance measures are mandatory because the machines and equipment, and in turn production reliability, are ultimately dependent on these measures. Accordingly, increasingly fine full-flow and partial-flow filters are being used, and analysis both onsite and in the lab is becoming indispensable.


OELCHECKER Winter 2013, page 4