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Grease degradation diagnosis technology

20 June 2024

NSK IS developing a world-first: a high-accuracy way of rapidly and accurately diagnosing the remaining life of lubricant grease. The company will provide the solution as a mobile app, enabling users to perform the on-site analysis of lubricant condition in bearings and linear motion systems.

This innovative capability will reduce the need for grease inspection and replenishment costs, and help companies implement condition-based maintenance strategies. NSK’s is currently seeking customer input and feedback ahead of launching its new app.

A broad spread of machinery and equipment, from machine tools to railcars, utilise grease- lubricated products like bearings, ball screws and linear guides. However, grease degrades over time as machinery operates, so on-site lubricant inspection is vital to help maximise uptime and OEE (overall equipment effectiveness). In recent years, more and more companies are switching their equipment maintenance strategy from time-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance. A need therefore exists for a grease degradation diagnosis method capable of rapid and highly accurate deployment on site. Such an app would also help combat labour shortages and support carbon neutrality efforts.

Existing high-accuracy diagnosis methods rely on laboratory analysis, but this comes with high cost, a lack of suitability for on-site use, and a long wait for results. Visual observation or densitometer methods are thus more common, but suffer from low accuracy. As a consequence, many companies replenish lubricant unnecessarily early to ensure stable operation, resulting in wasteful grease usage.

With these thoughts in mind, NSK set about developing a far more convenient, cost- effective, fast and accurate method of grease degradation diagnosis. Importantly, the new NSK app can analyse the level of lubricant degradation using just a small sample of grease. Chemical changes to the base oil and additives of the grease occur due to heat from operation and oxidation with the passage of time. These chemical changes cause the molecular structure of the lubricant to change and absorb more short-wavelength light, affecting its colour. Grease itself starts off white when new, turning yellow or orange with use and eventually becoming black, which indicates zero remaining life. The NSK app quantifies grease by its colour to calculate remaining life.

NSK has a 40+ year history of in-house grease development, allowing the company’s to base its new grease degradation diagnosis technology on a deep understanding of the chemical composition of lubricants.

http://www.nskeurope.com

 
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