Q&A with Robert Bruce

President of Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers

I understand that the STLE is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. Could you tell us a little about the organization’s history, and your current role?
I would be glad to. STLE was incorporated for a $10 fee in Illinois on March 3, 1944, as the American Society of Lubrication Engineers. The stated purposes of the society at the time can be summarized as advancing the knowledge of lubrication and supporting the development of theory and practice of lubrication techniques. The name change to the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers was approved in 1987, and it was meant to fully address tribological issues not including lubricants, such as the wear of materials. STLE’s mission is to advance the science of tribology and the practice of lubrication engineering. I am currently completing the last few months of my one-year term as president of the society, but my primary position is principal engineer, tribology, with GE Aircraft Engines in Cincinnati.
How many members does the society have, and where are they found?
We have approximately 3,400 members with 300 different companies, and they are found worldwide. Fifteen percent of them are found outside North America, in fact, and that number is growing. But we reach an additional 6,000 or so individuals who utilize the resources we make available, such as the publications we produce. For our members we publish Tribology & Lubrication Technology magazine, which is known as TLT, along with the Tribology Transactions Journal and Tribology Letters. Tribology Transactions, in particular, is an excellent source of information since each paper published requires evaluation and approval by three independent reviewers in the industry. We also publish the STLE Update newsletter and offer many books on our Web site such as Friction Science and Technology: From Concepts to Application, Machine Oil Analysis, and Metalworking Fluids, among many others. In addition, we offer many technical papers on our Web site that are the result of important research by industry experts, so there’s a lot to be gained by visiting us online or even considering becoming a member. As you can see, two of our main emphases are on developing technologies and education.
You offer a number of conferences and training opportunities each year.
That’s right. STLE organizes its annual meeting in the spring of each year, and in the fall we present the International Joint Tribology Conference in cooperation with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, or ASME. Information about local section meetings and education programs can be found on our Web site. The 2009 STLE Annual Meeting in Orlando will offer more than 350 presentations, including sessions on Gears and Gear Lubrication, Bearings, Synthetic Lubricants, Surface Engineering, and Engines and Drivetrains. There will also be quite a few papers presented on coatings, which is my specialty, and so an area that’s very near and dear to my heart. We also present 10 one-day education sessions that are very popular and a 70-exhibitor trade show. STLE also started a highly successful Certified Lubrication Specialist (CLS) certification program in 1994, followed by the Oil Monitoring Analyst (OMA) and Certified Metalworking Fluids Specialist (CMFS) certification programs.
What does the future hold for the society?
We’re always working to develop new ways to serve our members and to provide educational opportunities to our own industry and others, and we’ll also be expanding our research interests into areas such as coatings and nanotechnology. But another thing we’re now involved in is reviewing our constitution and its bylaws to make sure we’re operating as efficiently as possible. We’re asking ourselves questions such as where we’re going, what the society of the future should look like, and what it should be involved in. What should we be doing that we aren’t, and what should we stop doing? This type of periodic review is essential to any organization, especially during changing times, and we see it as a very healthy exercise that will only make us stronger and more efficient in the coming years.
Call (847) 825-5536, send e-mail to information@stle.org, or go online to [www.stle.org].