Lube-free Lambda still going strong after 5 years at 3M where standard lubricated roller chain lasted only 8 weeks

Industrial Lubrication and Tribology

ISSN: 0036-8792

Article publication date: 1 August 2004




(2004), "Lube-free Lambda still going strong after 5 years at 3M where standard lubricated roller chain lasted only 8 weeks", Industrial Lubrication and Tribology, Vol. 56 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Lube-free Lambda still going strong after 5 years at 3M where standard lubricated roller chain lasted only 8 weeks

Lube-free Lambda still going strong after 5 years at 3M where standard lubricated roller chain lasted only 8 weeks

Keywords: Tsubaki UK Ltd, Chain lubricants

Tsubaki's Lambda lube-free chain has just completed 5 years service without elongation or wear, in an environment where previously, standard lubricated BS roller chains from another manufacturer were seizing and breaking within 6-8 weeks of being fitted. The self-lubricating properties of Lambda chain result in it being dry to the touch, in this application it means that small fibres do not stick to the chain and soak up lubricant, causing chains to wear excessively, dry out and become prone to breakages.

The 3M plant in County Durham UK manufactures disposable respirators for the worldwide market, exporting over 70 per cent of production to mainland Europe, Africa and Asia. The respirators are produced on a 24 h per day, 365 day per year cycle. They are manufactured on large converting machines where the filter material is layered and sealed. The fibre material is highly absorbent, so much so that similar material is used in booms by operators in the North Sea to mop up oil spills.

Unfortunately, this quality causes problems where conventional power transmission equipment is concerned, especially where externally lubricated equipment is exposed. In applications where fine particles and fibres are involved in the process, they tend to stick to exposed lubricant and are absorbed. Once in suspension the particles form a fine abrasive paste inside the chain that can wear down moving metal parts extremely quickly, causing chains to become loose, lose accuracy and require replacement within weeks.

Prior to 1997, 3M used standard lubricated roller chains that suffered from this problem. These were lubricated regularly, and much care had to be exercised to ensure that no contamination of the product occurred. In spite of this regime the chains were drying out totally, wearing and within 6-8 weeks breakages became a frequent occurrence leading to high replacement costs and unacceptable levels of downtime.

In an effort to overcome the problem, the maintenance engineers at the plant replaced the standard roller chain with Tsubaki's lube-free Lambda chain. This was over 5 years back and since then breakages have stopped completely. “We stripped a system down recently and the Lambda chain was as good as new, says Alan Wayper, Maintenance Team Leader at the plant. “The chain hadn't stretched or worn. Previously breakages were frequent, now we just don't have any.”

The Lambda chain achieves such excellent resistance to wear, thanks to roller bushes that are forged with lubricant included in the material structure of the steel. During the operation, the lubricant forms a micro thin layer between the pin, the bushing and the inner surface of the roller. Meanwhile the exterior of the roller and supporting chain leaves are dry to the touch, a condition that stops the chain acting as a surface receptor for harmful fibres and other particles of debris. This virtually eliminates wear and also prevents the possibility of product contamination from external lubricants.

Lambda was developed specifically to meet industry demands for “clean”, maintenance free operation where lubrication is neither practical nor desirable. It directly replaces standard ANSI and BS roller chains and other types of roller chain including attachment versions.

The maintenance team at 3M recognise the contribution made to the smooth running of the plant and the reductions in replacement costs that Lambda has brought whenever a chain is replaced now, Lambda is always specified.

For further information, contact: Marketing Department, Tsubaki UK Ltd, Osier Drive, Sherwood Park, Annesley, Nottingham, NG15 ODX UK. Tel: +44 (0)1623688788; Fax: +44 (0)1623688789; E-mail:; Web site:

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