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TAKING CARE OF SPINDLES with lubrication and seals

Phil Burge from SKF explains how the value of machine tool spindles to the engineering industry can be protected through the use of advanced lubrication, seals and condition monitoring


odern manufacturing and processing centres are looking every which way

to provide better, faster service while maintaining output quality and competitive prices. Today an advanced machining centre aims to offer a wide range of production options using engineering processes that provide the best possible technical and commercial solution for each project. Such businesses invest heavily in

advanced CNC machine tools, operating dedicated manufacturing cells for both milling and turning plus multi-spindle machining centres with virtually zero chip to chip tool change and high spindle speeds. Combined, these can result in high output at exceptional quality and low part cost – as long as the spindles remain operational. One of the difficulties with spindles is that changes in performance can often be subtle and incremental over time and not always obvious until the precision of machined parts start to deviate significantly from the norm, by which time irreparable damage may have occurred.

DAILY MAINTENANCE The answer is to maintain spindles on a daily basis by providing an appropriate delivery of lubricate via the use of a centralised lubrication system; these devices allow a precisely metered level of lubricant to be applied to machine tool spindles which require lubrication at controlled intervals. Incorporated either as external or internal parts of your machinery, centralised lubrication systems can play an important role in improving efficiency and stemming the many problems that arise from inappropriate lubrication. Spindles are especially vulnerable to

contamination so you need to specify appropriate, effective seals that keep lubricants in and contaminants out. The choice of seal depends upon the operating conditions. Contact seals are effective but wear out quickly and are not sufficiently resilient to heat to be useable in high speed applications.


Labyrinth seals can offer three or more stages to keep lubricant in and contaminants out and if contamination is extreme an air barrier can be created by applying an outward air flow between the labyrinth gaps.

CONDITION MONITORING Having provided the right seals and a reliable supply of lubricant, use preventative maintenance to keep them operating at optimum performance. A useful method of monitoring spindles

on site is to use the SKF Spindle Assessment Kit, a solution for condition monitoring and quality control that improves machine tool output and reduces downtime. The kit is easy to set up and operate, enabling engineers to identify problems early by swiftly measuring and interpreting key spindle operating data. A constant challenge for

A centralised lubrication system allows a

precisely metered level to be applied to machine tool spindles at controlled intervals

“There are potentially strong

engineers and operators is the fact that a number of variables can affect machine tool performance including running accuracy, vibration, thermal behaviour and rigidity. The Spindle Assessment Kit offers eight condition tests, the results of which provide users with a comprehensive understanding of why their spindle might be working incorrectly or inefficiently. This kit allows users to recalibrate a spindle with outstanding accuracy which in turn helps extend machine tool life and improve cutting quality. The use of such tools as part of a predictive plant maintenance programme

solutions to employ that will maximise the performance and productivity of spindles..."

is delivering significant benefits across industry. Using the latest condition monitoring technology to examine and prevent the causes of spindle wear and failure can make significant reductions in downtime. In some instances the most effective line of defence is to install an integrated condition monitoring system that enables engineers to assess real time performance and functionality of spindles, drives, gearboxes to implement a long term predictive maintenance strategy that delivers tangible cost savings. Spindle precision is critical to the performance of any machine tool and plays a defining role in the accuracy of the end product so it is important for engineers to be aware of the ways in which

damage can be avoided and to consider taking advantage of the growing availability of reconditioning

Spindle precision is critical to the performance of any machine tool and plays a defining role in the accuracy of the end product

and upgrade services. SKF Spindle Service Centres repair and recondition over 6,000 machine tool spindles worldwide every year, handling all brands and all defects and offering added value services including consultancy, field support, performance upgrading, statistics reports and partnership frames for machine tool end users. There may be many potential problems

for machine tool spindle operators to negotiate but by ensuring good lubrication and sealing, taking advantage of cost-effective reconditioning options and investing in powerful preventative maintenance tools, there are some potentially strong solutions for engineers to employ that will maximise the performance and productivity of spindles.


T: 01582 490049


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