Gearbox lubrication is like the blood in your body. It's essential in gearbox operation and vital to all rotating elements. Oil and grease are the two main types of lubrication you'll see in gearboxes.
The primary failure we see with lubrication is poor maintenance. Maybe the oil isn’t getting changed regularly, oil and grease has been mixed, or the lubrication has been contaminated in some way. The most common problem is the oil is spent or the grease is no longer a grease anymore. When grease separates, it's no longer doing what it's designed to do.
You have to keep the oil changed. You have to make sure the oil is the correct oil needed in your gearbox. The same thing goes with grease. Make sure to follow the O&M manual to ensure you've got the right lubricant.
As we said, when a gearbox is sent to us for analysis and repair, our aftermarket team opens the gearbox up and sees that the oil is spent, the gears are broken, or there's a lot of acidic-base buildup throughout the gearbox. From this, we know that the gearbox has not been appropriately maintained over the years. Or, in some cases, the oil was never changed, or the grease was never replenished. Remember, dust is not an acceptable lubricant!
Of course, there are two simple ways to prevent that.
1) Make sure you have the right oil in the gearbox by double-checking your O&M Manual
2) Make sure that your oil temperatures are suitable by using a thermal imagery gun.
Lubrication guys will tell you that running up to 200 degrees is okay, but you're going to be changing your oil all the time, and that's expensive. Everybody talks about speed kills, well, in gearboxes, temperature kills, and the temperature is typically the first indicator that something is going wrong. When temperature climbs up pretty fast, and then it doesn't stabilize, this can be terrible for your gearbox.
It doesn't take any time to check it. That's what's important throughout this event. Things happen; you want to eliminate as much damage as possible by catching it as quickly as possible.
After a long operation period, oil analysis is the best way to keep on top of your gearbox. So if you have something already in operation for two, three, five, ten, twenty years, start with a good sampling program. Then, go back and review your ambient operating temperatures and review the O&M manual and make sure that the oil you have in there is what we recommend; that's important. Again, dust is not an acceptable lubricant.
If you have any questions on what kind of oil you need for your operating environment--contact us!
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About Sumitomo Drive Technologies
Sumitomo Drive Technologies has been trusted by many to provide quality products and innovative solutions to help our customers solve their complex challenges. This rich history has made us a leading manufacturer of power transmission and control products such as gearmotors and industrial gearboxes for a wide variety of applications for leading brands around the globe. For more information about our products and services, please contact us.