Make Smooth Moves Through Lubrication Systems

by Joanna Dykhuis, IQS Editor

“The Wizard of Oz” is one of the most famous films ever made. Its characters are familiar to many: the Wicked Witch, the Wizard and of course, Dorothy and her companions Toto, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man. Over the years they have become cultural icons that can be identified by fans of all ages. The Scarecrow, as most people know, desperately seeks a brain while the Lion desires courage. The Tin Man wants a heart but there is also something else that should be on his wish list: a lubrication system. Though that does not fit in exactly with the storyline, this poor woodman suffers from chronic rusting when exposed to rain, tears or moisture. It is a persistent threat for him and indeed, when Dorothy finds him, he cannot speak or move because his joints have rusted shut.

Strictly speaking, tin does not rust; only iron does. Technicalities aside, metal and other materials encounter friction when they come in contact with another surface. Lubricants are applied between the contact area to minimize friction and allow for smoother motion at higher speeds while generating less heat. Lubrication systems are used to distribute and apply controlled amounts of lubricants to machinery and mechanical components in order to achieve higher performance. The Tin Man could not move until Dorothy used an oiler to apply lubrication. After the slippery substance coated his joints, he took a few stiff steps until he was able to walk as normal. The lubricant allowed him to function properly again.

Multiple components of a lubricating system must work together to distribute the lubricant to any mechanism that requires it. In most standard systems, equipment such as a grease pump sucks up the lubricant from a reservoir or pan and runs it through a filter to remove any impurities. It travels through tubes or pipes until it is squirted under pressure from a lubricator onto the parts that need it. If there is any runoff, it is collected and returned to the pump where the cycle begins again. When a lubricant is directed to a series of friction points in a mechanism, the system is referred to as central lubrication and the system is frequently placed directly within the machine itself. Lubrication equipment has advanced to the point that automatic lubricators are able to run without operators which decreases the potential for human error. To make things easier on everyone, the Tin Man could simply have a centralized lubrication system installed within his hollow body to direct oil to his joints whenever he was feeling a little rusty.

The lubricants that are incorporated into these systems vary. Three of the most common include oil, grease and air. Each has its own benefits and is chosen based on the needs of the machinery and equipment. The Tin Man needs oil because it is able to run into tight spaces and provide fast, valuable lubrication even in very small volumes. Grease is thicker than liquid oil and, because of its semi-solid state, requires grease dispensers to be effectively applied. Air lubricators use high pressure pneumatic power to provide lubrication. Lubrication systems are used in all areas of industry, from food processes to manufacturing to automated assembly. The majority of machines require lubrication to perform well without causing damage or injury. Take it from the Tin Man: lubrication systems keep things moving smoothly.

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