Is everything running smoothly? Then maybe solid lubricants are involved. Anyone who has relied solely on lubricating oils and greases in the past will be surprised by the advantages offered by dry lubricants. Below, we provide you with a summary of five good reasons for their usage.
Using solid lubricants: Is that a good idea?
Greases and oils are the classic lubricants predominantly used in both industrial and everyday situations. However, an alternative has meanwhile taken root – particularly in professional environments: Solid lubricants. The idea of using a solid lubricant might seem somewhat unusual at first glance – after all, we do not intuitively associate lubricating properties with small, solid particles. However, whether they are added to typical lubricating oils or greases or used on their own as a parting agent: There are good reasons for contemplating the use of solid lubricants in a wide range of different applications.
Reason 1: High temperature resistance and robustness
There is a particular demand for solid lubricants wherever conventional lubricants are stretched to their limits. Especially when used at extreme temperatures, oils and greases may quickly clog up – adversely affecting their lubricity in a major way. Temperatures of between -180°C and 550°C are no problem – depending on the composition of the solid lubricant involved.
Neither are other extreme conditions which may cause problems for classic lubricants a cause for concern for the right solid lubricant. Such conditions include, for example:
- High loads and low speeds (shock loads)
- Aggressive environmental conditions (for example acids or lye)
- Radioactive radiation
This means that solid lubricants are not only interesting for standard applications but also for special tasks, for example, in the nuclear and aerospace engineering sectors.
Reason 2: High versatility
Not only are solid lubricants (almost) totally impartial to the external conditions prevailing in their areas of application. There are also hardly any limits as to where they can be implemented. The spectrum ranges from complex industrial applications to personal hobbies. Typical fields of application for solid lubricants include:
- Ball bearings, roller bearings
- Exhaust and spark plug threads (used as copper paste)
- Engine oil
- Bullets for sporting firearms
Heavy industry, mining, the automotive industry, the aerospace industry and many more: Solid lubricants have found their way into a wide variety of industries – with innovative research and development activities enabling the range of applications to be continually expanded.
Reason 3: Individually customizable
There is a broad selection of solid lubricants to choose from. Although, on the one hand, this may initially cause headaches when having to choose the right material, on the other, it is actually highly advantageous: It is possible to find the absolutely perfect solid lubricant for every single application. A multitude of robust materials are used – either in their pure forms or commonly as sulphide compounds. The most popular solid lubricants include:
- Molybdenum disulphide
- Tungsten sulphide
- PTFE (Teflon)
- Soft metals (aluminium, copper, lead, tin)
- Precious metals (gold, silver, platinum)
The materials differ in terms of particle size and structure, corrosion properties, lubricating properties, temperature resistance and other characteristics. Getting the combination of material and lubricant right (be they liquids or solids) is a fundamental prerequisite for ensuring the success of your application.
Reason 4: Long-term cost savings
Using solid lubricants has numerous advantages – especially when it comes to the service life and maintenance requirements of your machines and components. Although adding solid lubricants to lubricating oils and greases initially requires an additional investment, the improved lubricating properties, both during normal operations and emergency lubrication measures, significantly reduce wear and tear. Downtime is minimised, productivity increased. Generally, components lubricated with a solid lubricant exhibit a longer service life and are capable of withstanding loads for longer periods of time. As a result, the lubricants, which potentially cost more, pay for themselves in the medium to long term.
Reason 5: Ease of usage
Another special feature of a solid lubricant is that it can be bonded directly to a material. Plain bearings containing solid lubricants, for example, are directly coated with an alloy made of a suitable substance – providing the component with excellent lubricating properties. Components like these are virtually self-lubricating. No oil or grease needs to be added. Solid lubricants offer a simple and reliable alternative, especially in the case of complex components that are difficult to reach or where lubricating them would be extremely costly and time-consuming.
Solid lubricants for industrial and everyday applications
Even if a drop of oil serves the purpose in the case of a squeaking garden gate or for a bicycle chain at home: It pays to look more closely at solid lubricants where more complex applications, extreme conditions or the desire for greater efficiency and productivity are involved. They can open up huge potential when considered as an alternative or supplementary solution – and their integration does not normally require too many adjustments.