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SECTOR FOCUS: INDUSTRIAL


Tried and tested: How the right questions can unlock gear oil performance


Chris Pether, Industrial CTS Specialist, Afton Chemical and Paul Norris, Senior R&D Scientist, Afton Chemical


Developing the next generation of gearbox lubricants demands a fresh look at how gear oil is evaluated. External testing tells only half the story – whether a lubricant has passed or failed.


But what we really want (and need) to know is: Why? And how can we improve on that?


Additive companies with in-house and bespoke test rigs are uniquely positioned to bring together expert insights from OEMs, part suppliers and formulators and improve understanding of how oil, additives and hardware interact. Afton Chemical argues that collaboration offers the most flexible and direct route to reliable next generation gear oils, even for the most severe applications.


Challenging times Industrial OEMs are tasked with reducing the physical size and weight of the gearbox while increasing the torque output. Amplified torque density demands improved gear and bearing wear protection from the lubricant under higher loads, extreme pressure and even shock loading, depending on the application.


Consumers expect gearboxes to last longer while also running them for extended periods of time or even continuously. Lengthier operation at higher temperatures requires excellent thermal and oxidative stability to stop the by-products of lubricant breakdown, such as acids, from building up and attacking sensitive gear, bearing and seal surfaces.


10 LUBE MAGAZINE NO.165 OCTOBER 2021


The combination of engineering changes as well as the more severe operational use puts more stress on the gearbox and the lubricants that protect it. It’s no small feat for a single lubricant to deliver balanced performance across a range of operating conditions, while providing focused protection on critical elements such as bearings, seals and material compatibility.


Evolving equipment design: New bearing types


Roller bearings come under considerable stress when the input shaft is rotating faster. Larger-diameter steel roller bearings can handle higher loads but have reduced speed capacity, so many OEMs are moving towards the use of journal bearings instead. These space-saving bearings can handle greater loads and higher speeds but present a challenge due to the different metallurgy. The gear oil must ensure that all metals in a journal bearing are protected from any chemically corrosive elements, and that an effective tribo layer is present to prevent wear damage from start-up to fully operational temperature and speeds.


Seal performance at speed


Higher operating speeds place huge demands on seals, which are designed to keep the lubricant contained within the gearbox and keep external contaminants such as dust and moisture out. Multiple seals comprising different elastomers are used depending on the task they must do and the environment they


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