Cutting through the fog on pneumatic lubrication

Choosing the right strategy to prolong the life of key equipment will have a major impact for your plant.

06/14/2017


A standard oil-fog or direct feed lubricator delivers oil drops 2 microns or larger directly into the air stream. They are best located near the tool they are lubricating. Courtesy: IMI Precision Engineering

Click here to view the 2017 Lubrication Guide.

Pneumatic devices that push, pull, lift, position, or convey last longer and perform better when supplied with compressed air that is clean, dry, pressure-regulated, and lubricated. The service life of many air tools, cylinders, valves, air motors, and other air-driven equipment can be extended by consistent aerosol lubrication.

Why lubricate? Environmental factors like extreme temperatures and excessive moisture, along with operational factors such as start-up and operational friction, reduce the life of most working pneumatic devices. Oil aerosol delivered in compressed air reduces the effects of these factors and extends the life of pneumatic components.

How aerosol lubricators work

Aerosol lubricators automatically deliver a metered amount of oil into the air path of operating pneumatic equipment. Lubricators function by creating a pressure drop that causes oil to be siphoned into an adjustable dome. Using the dome adjustment and observing the drip rate allows an operator to set the amount oil to be delivered to downstream equipment.

Operating manuals for pneumatic equipment typically specify the amount of oil required to keep the device operating optimally. Lubricators should be adjusted to deliver the amount of oil specified at defined operating conditions and then validated after the equipment is in operation.

Oil-fog, direct to the tool

The mostly widely used type of lubricator is oil-fog, sometimes called direct feed. These lubricators deliver 100% of the oil drops seen in the dome directly into the air stream. Oil particles traveling downstream are normally 2 microns or larger. Because of gravity, these particles only will remain airborne for a distance up to about 15 feet, and they normally will not travel up or follow intricate flow paths. As a result, oil-fog lubricators should be located in-line and near the tool they are lubricating. They are very efficient at delivering the right amount of oil directly to the cylinder, valve, or tool.

It is not always possible to meet optimal conditions for oil-fog lubricators. When these conditions are not met, the oil will collect in the air line instead of travelling to the equipment. The result is reduced air flow and either inadequate or excessive tool lubrication.

Standard oil-fog lubricators are not efficient for applications where the air line has vertical air paths, multiple tool lines, or bends in the air stream that prevent larger oil particles from reaching a tool. In these situations, a micro-fog lubricator provides better lubrication results.

Micro-fog – multiple paths

With a micro-fog lubricator, the oil drip is atomized into particles smaller than 2 microns. Approximately 10% of the oil drip seen in the dome is transported into the airflow and the rest of the oil is returned to the bowl for future use. Because the particles are small, they can travel long distances, vertically, and through intricate flow paths. Because only 10% of the oil is being delivered downstream, they are good for applications that require better adjustability of small amounts of direct lubrication.

A micro-fog lubricator atomizes oil into droplets smaller than 2 microns. These can travel vertically, over long distances, or through intricate flow paths and can be used to lubricate multiple tools. Courtesy: IMI Precision EngineeringFilter-regulator-lubricator

A lubricator is almost always used together with a filter and regulator pre-conditioning the air. These can be stand-alone components or an integrated filter-regulator-lubricator. Air leaving a compressor contains water and contaminants that can cause damage and shorten the life of downstream equipment. Even pre-lubricated components can fail when contaminated air degrades the lubrication or washes it out. Allowing contaminated air into a lubricator can result in reduced oil feed.

Filtering ensures that clean dry air is sent through the lubricator and on to the operating equipment. Regulating air flow to meet conditions specified by the equipment operating manual ensures the equipment performs optimally. Aerosol lubrication is the final step after filtration and regulation. Proper lubrication protects equipment, prolongs tool life, helps control costs, and keeps processes running efficiently and productively.

Charles Werdehoff is a precision engineering and product marketing manager for IMI Norgren Filter/Regulator and Lubricant (FRL) Products.



Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
July/Aug
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me