CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited
Industrial Lubrication and Tribology - the first 50 years
Industrial Lubrication and Tribology the first 50 years
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Industrial Lubrication and Tribology, originally launched as Scientific Lubrication, in October 1948. The editor at that time was E.V. Paterson, and the journal was published by Scientific Publications, based at Wellington, Shropshire. It is interesting to compare the issues of 1948 to those of today. In some cases, little has changed, while in other areas, things are very different. The following article briefly analyses the contents of that first issue, and reflects on the relevance of the comments of the time with the situation as it exists today.
"Scientific Lubrication its place in industry"
This introduction highlights the importance of correct lubrication practices and emphasised the fact that there were no other journals in existence which dealt exclusively with the subject of lubrication. The object of the journal was to assist in research and help to generally progress lubrication issues by providing a forum for free and independent discussion and expression of knowledge.
The scope of the journal was defined as follows.
Lubrication of plant and machinery
Aero engines, air compressors, anti-friction bearings, automobile engines, automobile chassis, bearings all types, calendars, chains, cranes, diesel engines, electric motors, gas engines, gas compressors, gas turbines, gearboxes, jet engines, looms, machine tools, motive power plant, oil engines (land and marine), paraffin engines, petrol engines, presses, rock drills, separators, spindles, steam engines, steam pumps, steam turbines, textile machinery, tractors, transmissions, water turbines, wire ropes, etc.
Air filters, centrifugal separators, chassis lubricators, coolers, flow indicators, gear oil dispensers, gear oil testing machines, grease guns, grease pumps, high pressure systems, mechanical grease lubricators, mechanical oil lubricators, oils filters, oil piping, oil seals, pumps for circulation systems, sight feeds, storage tanks, testing apparatus (physical and chemical tests), test engines, etc.
Special process oils and greases
Antiseptics for cutting oils, brick oils, colloidal graphite, cutting compounds, cutting oils (soluble), cutting oils (straight), drawing compounds, drawing oils, flake graphite, flushing oils, germicides for cutting oils, graphited oils and greases, hydraulic oils, lanolin compounds, mould oils, oleine, penetrating oil, quenching oils, rolling oils, rust removers, silicones, solvent oils, stainless oils, switch oils, synthetic oils, tempering oils, transformer oils, wire-drawing compounds, wire-drawing oils, etc.
For anti-foaming, bearing corrosion, prevention, compounding steam cylinder oils, detergency, dispersion, extreme pressure lubricants, greases, heavy duty oils, hypoid gears, oxidation inhibitors, oiliness, premium oils, pour point depressants, rust prevention, sulpho-chlorinated cutting oils, viscosity index improvers, etc.
Engine testing of lubricants, frictional theories, fundamental principles, hydrodynamic theories, lubricating grease tests, lubricating oil tests, oiliness theories, practical applications, research procedures, research results, technical terms, viscosity, viscosity index, etc.
Organisation of lubrication oil industry
Blending methods, distribution methods, drums and barrels, handling, lubrication engineers, lubrication plant inspections, marketing methods, office organisation, reclamation, refining methods and practices, sales staffs and methods, storage, etc.
Automobile factories, bakeries, biscuit factories, breweries, cements works, collieries, confectionery industry, dairies, general engineering industries, iron and steel works, laundries, machine tool builders, marine engines, paper works, printing works, power stations, sand and gravel works, textile mills, transport contractors, waterworks, woollen mills, etc.
The scope of the journal as defined above is interesting, and provides an insight into the issues of the day. There is no clear distinction between industrial and automotive lubrication categories as we know them today. This is hardly surprising when one appreciates the very low vehicle population in 1948; the automotive oil market was very far from the major business sector as at present. The inclusion of viscosity index improvers is interesting. Admittedly, although very basic improvers were known in the 1930s, their use did not become widespread until the early 1950s, with the introduction of multigrade engine oils on a commercial scale. Certain industry categories are notable by their absence, e.g. the mining industry, although this is probably more of an oversight. However, the scope of the journal as quoted is still largely relevant to the present, although other areas such as biodegradable lubricants, synthetic cutting fluids, etc. can now be added.
"The lubrication of land and marine oil engines Part 1. Component parts of the lubrication system"
This paper was described as being "specially contributed", although the author is not named.
This article dealt mainly with the mechanics of lubrication, namely, the components requiring lubrication, the circulation system, oil filtration and cooling, priming systems, etc. Reference is made to the increased stresses on the lubricant caused by the "very high specific power outputs of the modern engine". However, although no figures are quoted, it is certain that the specific power outputs were not nearly as high as the 0.2+ bhp/kg achieved by some of today's high-performance stationary engines. Following the rapid escalation of fuel prices in the late 1970s, steam turbines used for the majority of marine propulsion applications rapidly gave way to the more efficient diesel engines. Marine diesel engines were the subject of much development at that time, and now have virtually eclipsed the use of steam turbines. Much of the development was directed at modifications to engine design to accommodate fuels of deteriorating quality.
In recent years, the drive to maximise the yield of premium products from crude oil has resulted in fuel oils with poorer combustion properties and more impurities. Lubricants have also followed the developments of the marine diesel engine, and are now very much more sophisticated than in earlier years, although there is still as yet no simple system for the classification of marine diesel engine lubricants.
This article provides a fascinating insight into at least one school of thought at the time with regard to future developments for lubricants. The predictions were both correct and incorrect in that, some 50 years later, we can now confirm that the use of synthetics is becoming increasingly widespread, but the author failed to predict the happenings of the intervening period.
The author first deals with some historical background, rightly confirming that in general lubricants were inevitably allied solely to mineral oils extracted from petroleum. It is clear at this point that some of the disadvantages of the products emanating from the more sophisticated solvent refining process were becoming apparent. Although the solvent process enabled the refiner to produce more "good" oil from poor crude, it was increasingly realised that oils which performed well in laboratory tests with high viscosity indices, good oxidation resistance and low carbon contents did not necessarily perform as well in practical applications such as in motor vehicle engines. As such, the merits of engine testing were beginning to emerge as being a more reliable predictor of lubricant performance, and it is obvious that some differences of opinion between the chemists and the engineers were beginning to emerge.
The author quite rightly highlighted the deficiencies in the simple engine tests of the period, but indicated that the fashion of the time was very much orientated towards the development of such tests. However, he also stressed the urgent need for the development of true and functional laboratory test methods which could more accurately predict the behaviour of a lubricant in practice, rightly stating that laboratories were more capable of performing simple evaluations of specific gravity, flash points, viscosities and oxidation tests. He described the development of the additive oil concept, but one gathers that he did not wholeheartedly agree with the use of additives to rectify what he considered were deficiencies in the base fluid. He saw instead that the future for lubricants was clearly linked to the development of synthetic fluids, and described two of the fluids of the time in some detail.
Ucon oils and fluids, also known as Prestone motor oils, were based on polyalkylene glycols and their derivatives, which were available at that time in a variety of viscosities, and also as water soluble and water insoluble varieties. The high price limited their general uptake, but he considered that the first truly economic application of such fluids would be as hydraulic fluids, where their high viscosity indices would be most appreciated.
Plexol Lubricants, manufactured by Rohm and Haas, in Philadelphia, included in their range Plexol 201, i.e. di-2-ethyl hexyl sebacate. This fluid had shown considerable promise as a lubricant in comparison with those derived from petroleum oils, and he predicted a bright future for such products. Silicones, he considered, provided a very definite pointer towards the future, with their high thermal stability and high viscosity indices.
He considered that since the three types of fluids described above had been developed by chemists whose experience in the field and application of lubricants was limited, there was much potential for further development of such fluids in the filed of lubricants.
He concluded by drawing attention to a paper on "Friction and lubrication" in the 1945 Annual Reports on the Progress of Chemistry. The paper presented evidence which supported the view that the improvements in boundary lubrication properties arising from the use of fatty acids was due to the formation of metallic soaps at the metal surface rather than by a simple adsorption effect. This view was supported by the evidence which showed that those metals which were most likely to be attacked by such fatty acids were those which were the most effectively lubricated. What is interesting is that the same two authors of the 1945 paper were still producing evidence in support of their theory in a further paper some 40 years later, dated 1986.
The author concludes by confirming his belief that the future of lubricants is clearly linked with the use of synthetics rather than base fluids emanating from petroleum. He predicted that the development of such fluids would not necessarily move away from the large petroleum companies, since he considered that such companies would develop a whole new industry based on the production of such fluids from petroleum or other feedstocks.
The author's beliefs have to some extent been subsequently confirmed, but the developments in additive technology and base oil manufacture were clearly not foreseen. These developments have delayed the widespread uptake of synthetics for use in crankcase lubricants. However, recent specifications for motor oils are becoming increasingly difficult to meet without the use, at least in part, of synthetic fluid bases.
"Keeping the wheels turning"
This author referred to many of the points included in the previous article, which were obviously the burning issues of the day. The outmoded acid washing technique for base oil production was being rapidly replaced by solvent refining using solvents such as propane and cresylic acid (the "Dou-Sol" process), furfural and benzol/sulphur dioxide. The advantages and disadvantages of solvent refined oils are again discussed, together with the need for additive treatment. Again, the article centres mainly on engine oils, which were at the time classified simply as regular, premium and heavy. Regular motor oils consisted of straight mineral oils containing no additives, premium oils contained additives to control oxidation and corrosion of bearings, while only the heavy duty oils contained detergency additives which helped to prevent the formation of varnish and lacquer on pistons, etc., as well as holding deterioration products in suspension. It had already been established that certain additives performed better in certain base oils, so the matching of additive systems to base oils derived from certain crude sources and refinery process routes was necessary. Assessment of additive compatibility could only be made in the mechanical laboratory. The effect of fuel quality variations in both petrol and diesel fuels was recognised in that variations in lubricant performance could often be wrongly attributed to the lubricant, rather than to variations in fuel quality.
In particular, in the case of diesel fuel, sulphur content was a contributing factor in the engine cleanliness and piston ring sticking. At the time, sulphur contents of 0.3 per cent were commonplace, with the expectation that levels could reach 1.0 per cent. The article referred to current investigations using fuels of 1.4 per cent sulphur, involving both field and mechanical laboratory tests, the object of these tests being to achieve cleaner running diesel engines with no ring sticking.
The article also briefly referred to transmission lubricants, including the particular cases of worm drive rear axles, also the recently-introduced hypoid bevel gears, which demanded additive treatment as specified in the then US specification 2-105.
"Application of colloidal graphite"
This article dealt with the theoretical considerations of lubrication, including hydrodynamic films and their rupture in some detail. The cleavage planes and characteristics of graphite were then described, with reference to the then recent work which attributed the adsorbed surface films, and particularly that of water, as contributing to the lubricating characteristics of graphite. The advantages of dry film lubrication in certain situations was described, particularly the use of resin bonded fabrics in rolling mills, which were lubricated and cooled by water. These bearings benefited from the presence of sodium oleate as a wetting agent, in addition to the deposition of a film of colloidal graphite on the bearing surface.
The benefits of the use of colloidal graphite to assist running-in bearings of new vehicle engines were described. Also, the addition of colloidal graphite to petrol was found to increase the power developed during the warming-up period of the engine, when the lubricant was still too cold and thick to enable proper splash lubrication to take place.
The use of colloidal graphite dispersed in a grease or used alone, to assist in the lubrication of metal and wire drawing operations was described. Particular success was noted when drawing tungsten wire using graphite alone.
The addition of graphite to mineral oil was used as a substitute for vegetable oil in compounded oils, due to the scarcity of the latter due to the difficult post war conditions.
Finally, the advantages of graphited oils were described since the graphite film deposited during prolonged use continued to act as a lubricant even during film rupture due to abnormal conditions.
This was the first of a series of articles explaining in simple language the fundamentals of lubrication. This particular article dealt with the definition of viscosity.
News of the oil industry
The opening of the new engine test house on 24 July 1948 at the BP Research Centre, Sunbury-on-Thames, was described. Also details of a training centre for trainees from the motor trade at the offices of Wayne V. Myers, manufacturer of the Redex oil and fuel additives, were described.
Your lubrication problems
This was a question and answer forum, which interestingly, may be resurrected if there is sufficient interest. The questions on this occasion included advice on the problems experienced when changing to a heavy duty (i.e. detergent) motor oil, problems arising from the accumulation of condensed water in the circulatory oil of a turbo generator, and a request for literature references describing the maintenance of insulating oils for transformers.
New materials and equipment
A new oil filter
The Purolator "Micronic" oil filter, which had been available for some time in the USA, was now being manufactured by Automotive Products, in Leamington Spa. The filters, which incorporated paper elements impregnated with plastic, were capable of removing particles down to one micron in size. Demonstration tests were described where the performances of the filters were demonstrated.
Other items included here were Speedoil upper cylinder lubricant, an automatic drip feed lubricator that only operated when the bearings were rotating, the use of Mintex anti-friction bushes on the valve motion reversing link fitted to a shunting locomotive used by Nigerian Railways, a re-designed drum tap by Trumek Ltd which provided more satisfactory operation even with more viscous fluids such as lubricants, and finally a new hydraulic coupling developed by Ruston and Hornsby in conjunction with the Shell Oil Co. in the USA, for use on supercharged diesel engined locomotives where high torque was transmitted.
Those received for review included:
Wear and Lubrication of Piston Rings and Cylinders, by Dr Reemt Poppinga;ASTM Manual of Engine Test Methods for Rating Fuels;Reviews of Petroleum Technology, Vol. 7, from the Institute of Petroleum;Lubricating and Allied Oils, by Elliott A. Evans;D.A. Low's Pocket Book for Mechanical Engineers, by B.B. Low;Involute Gears, by W. Steeds;Metal Cutting Tools, by P.S. Houghton.
Among those described were:
Emulsifiable Hydrocarbon Oils and Emulsions. This described the addition of an alkali metal polyphosphate in addition to the normal emulsifier.Extreme Pressure Oil Composition. This described the use of chloralkyl esters of the thio acids as EP agents.Grease Composition. This described the substitution of mineral oil by di-esters in greases for use at low temperatures.
Finally, it is interesting to survey the advertisers appearing in this first issue of 50 years ago, and to speculate how many of the organisations are still in existence:
Abrac Tri-Cresyl Phosphate; G.E. Adams, manufacturers of oil cups, oil valves, grease cups, grease nipples, etc.; British Industrial Solvents, manufacturers of various organic chemicals; British Vapour Blast Vapour, blasting services for removal of scale, etc.; Collgraf System for ensuring oil-free lubrication and condensate from steam plants by injecting colloidal graphite into steam lines; De Laval Oil Purifiers; Denco, suppliers of centralised lubrication equipment; Farval, suppliers of centralised lubrication equipment; Jones-Willcox Patent Hose, non-rubber hoses for oils, petrol, etc.; Londex Automatic Sight Feed Lubricators; Menrow Pumps; Shell Oil, the four ball extreme pressure lubricant tester; Spiral Tube Oil Coolers; Sternol Lubricants and process oils; T&K Mechanical Lubricators.
Of the manufacturers and suppliers listed above very few are still in existence, or are still trading under the same name, the notable exception of course being Shell.