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work in. The challenge for the lubricant is to be fully compatible with a broad range of elastomer materials to help preserve the flexibility and function of seals under static and dynamic conditions, often for extended durations.

Material compatibility

As well as seals, lubricants must also be compatible with many other materials, from the paint inside the gearbox casing to an array of sealants and component coatings. Compatibility issues can cause sealants to harden or paints and coatings to flake off. This can remove functional or protective layers and contaminate the lubricant, limiting gearbox performance and longevity. New paints, coatings and sealants are often introduced by OEMs, so a focus on compatibility early in the lubricant development program is essential for minimising the risk of component failure in the field.

Diverse applications:

Gearboxes are used in an array of applications from power generation to mining, materials processing to production and warehousing, and marine propulsion to port operations. In addition to the overarching trends of increased torque and reduction in gearbox footprint, each OEM will also consider specific application needs which can give rise to conflicting OEM fluid specifications.

For oil companies who are looking for broad coverage lubricants, these conflicts must be resolved within the additive chemistry. Improving the performance and longevity of all gearbox components including lubricant is a shared objective for OEMs, elastomer manufacturers and lubricant suppliers.

Insight-driven development The bringing together of appropriate engineering expertise, in-depth additive understanding and fluid evaluation capabilities at the earliest stage of development generates the most useful and actionable insights. Additive systems offering the right performance, longevity, and compatibility with innovative new materials are most likely to be achieved successfully through collaborative development.

This has certainly been the case when developing lubricant additives for extremely demanding


applications, such as wind turbines. Long-term partnerships with equipment builders, parts suppliers and materials manufacturers have resulted in proven additive technology that performs reliably in operation.

Lubricant testing capabilities

Whenever hardware and lubricant specifications are evolving, especially when this is happening rapidly as it is for industrial gearboxes, fluid evaluation capability becomes integral to success.

In-house test rigs provide early access and setup flexibility to run both standard and bespoke test procedures, offering an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of exactly which factors are influencing gearbox and lubricant performance, and why. Being able to explore these factors to improve fluid formulation and equipment reliability helps OEMs to bring new gearbox developments to market with greater speed and confidence.

Recognising this, installing test equipment for all the latest gear oil specifications is a logical step to take. This enables teams of mechanical engineers and chemists to work even more productively with gearbox OEMs, parts suppliers and oil companies to resolve specific hardware and lubricant challenges. Next generation gearbox fluids can be developed faster, as bespoke tests can be devised to better predict real world lubricant performance at an earlier stage. Given current hardware trends, the focus areas for testing should include seal and bearing compatibility.

Figure 1: Gearbox Seal testing

Conventional sealing rings have a maximum service life that depends on several factors: how much strain the operating cycle places on the seals – speed, starts and stops, dynamics – and how long the gearbox is Continued on page 14

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