Tell us about Engineered Lubricants (EL).
Engineered Lubricants is celebrating 50 years this year. Based in Maryland Heights, Missouri, it was founded in 1967 by Don Wachter. During the 1973 oil embargo, we launched our laboratory to bring extended life to our in-service products by ensuring the products in the field are performing as expected and suitable for continued use. The lab has evolved to an R&D, quality control, and extensive used-oil testing facility. We serve mostly manufacturing industries, but we also work in power generation and OEM fluids. We do a lot of customization of lubricants for special applications.
What products do you offer for gear manufacturing?
We make industrial lubricants, metalworking fluids, metal-processing fluids, and industrial cleaners. Many products have been custom tailored for a customer’s specific needs. We’re small enough to have that flexibility and the bench testing capability to support custom formulated products.
Can you give us an example of how you worked with a customer to find the right lubricant?
A high-volume tool manufacturer was using a European worm gear drive at higher speeds in order to meet demands. For years, it was accepted the life expectancy for this gearbox was two months with 24/7 operations. A review of the operation and documentation of the manufacturer’s recommendation revealed they used the proper conventional gear lube in the proper ISO viscosity grade, but the gearbox temperatures were extremely high from the overwork. Based on extensive R&D work in our laboratory, we determined replacing conventional lubricants with a higher viscosity PAG-based fluid based on the aggressive cycle times and elevated temperatures should extend the life of the gearboxes. By monitoring the used fluid at two-week intervals and trending the amount of accumulating particulate, the customer was able to increase the component’s life from two months to 14 months under identical conditions.
Tell us more about your lubricant testing facility.
Our facility enables evaluation of used fluids in service to identify degradation, oxidation, depletion of critical components, dilution from other fluids, and other sorts of contamination. Wear-debris analysis by DR, ferrography, and optical particle analysis are used to evaluate the condition of equipment for predictive maintenance. We have the capability to determine where the wear debris is being generated, which can help a component manufacturer understand the mode of failure that is occurring and identify appropriate corrective measures. This can be beneficial in any warranty issues. Elemental analysis by ICP and XRF are also important tests for determining what is going on in a fluid system.
We also have a quenchalyzer for quench-curve analysis. Monitoring the quench curve will help maintain consistent metallurgical properties in the parts being heat-treated. There is a certain curve profile associated with the required hardness; that curve needs to be monitored and maintained. Things like oxidation of oil or contamination can change the curve, changing the quenching properties of the fluid, which affects the hardness and service life of the metal being quenched.
What sets EL apart from others in the same industry?
Our extensive lab service and plant surveys. For a plant survey, we go into the facility and identify all the service points for all of the equipment and identify the proper lubricant for every machine in the plant. We also establish a sampling schedule, and we schedule regular visits to help support the customer with material handling and how to service the machine. We provide a lot of in-plant services. We work on and with the machines in the plants to achieve optimum performance.
What challenges do you see in the lubrication world?
Customers are dealing with increasing price competition, and some seek cost savings through lower purchase prices. This overlooks the value of the full service and support and, in fact, leads to higher usage and maintenance costs. Dependence on savings from the lowest cost provider leaves multiple cost-saving benefits on the table. It’s a difficult trend to reverse with these pressures. Some customers realize the value of full service and monitoring and benefit from lower overall plant maintenance and reliability costs.
Another challenge is the possible ban on mid- and long-chain chlorinated paraffins, an additive widely used in heavy-duty formulations. We are active in replacement chemistries and utilization of wear-test evaluations for prediction of impact on tool life.
How has lubricant selection evolved in the past years?
It’s moving toward synthetics and oil-replacement chemistries. Many end users believe that synthetics are always the best product for the application, but that is not always the case. We council them on the best product for the application.
Do you offer training?
We provide in-plant training for our customers so they can read the in-service test results. With our preventive maintenance programs, we train customers in proper lubrication practices. We also do presentations and webinars for customers, trade organizations, and local technical schools.
What’s in the future for EL?
We are investing in the demand of environmentally acceptable lubricants. Product diversification and specialization for specific applications will continue to be a demand. W will soon be launching a web-based, used-fluid test reporting service, allowing easy access to past and present data.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, go to www.englube.com