WRITTEN BY: NATE CARTER, APPLICATION ENGINEER
The food and beverage industry faces many challenges within automation. The industry must adhere to regulations that increasingly become more stringent and limit the materials that can be used for manufacturing. Food & beverage manufacturers are expected to not only adhere to stringent regulations but also maintain low operating costs and produce quality products in clean facilities with highly contaminated applications. Many manufacturers have partnered with NSK to help them meet these expectations.
For an automated system to be successful in the field it must be able to stand up to the environment and itself (i.e. internal friction). Two of the leading causes of bearing failure (linear and/or radial) are improper lubrication and contamination. It can be argued that these two factors alone account for at least 80% of bearing failures. According to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), more than 6% of the Gross National Product is wasted each year due to poor lubrication. In order to counter this failure mode, lubrication systems and seals can become complex and costly for maintaining equipment.
Without proper lubrication, the costs of downtime, reduced production, additional man-hours for labor and replacement parts will increase. While manual lubrication points on equipment are generally more cost effective to implement, a manual maintenance schedule also adds several variables including accessibility, safety, and the need for maintenance personnel to be properly trained. Lubrication directly affects the life of bearings so it’s very important that all bearings are being lubed with the correct type and volume required. This is a major investment in personnel if it is to be done manually and has room for a lot of error. The option for an automated lubrication system reduces the cost of labor, ensures the correct volume and interval between lubrication; however, the initial investment cost is significant and you are continually pumping money into the machine via lubricant costs. If the equipment was not installed with a lubrication system then it is an even greater expense. Automated lube systems must be inspected regularly to ensure proper functioning.
Lubricants can also be very sensitive to water and other contaminants. Water can break down grease and diminish the lubricity properties. As many companies have seen from experience, once contamination enters the bearing and is caught in the lubricant, it is only a matter of time before the system fails. NSK recommends the use of seals to keep debris out of environments that operate under high contamination. The K1™ lubricant unit is a patented solution from NSK that provides a long-term, maintenance-free solution available on standard NSK linear guides, ball screws, Monocarrier™ actuators and Robot Module products. Lubrication is applied to the raceway through direct contact also acting to prevent wear on attached NSK high performance seals. Bakeries, bottle labeling facilities and even cigar plants have all experienced success with NSK K1™ Lubrication Units.
The installation of NSK K1™ Lubrication Units and High Performance Seals combats against the two most common bearing failures: poor lubrication and contamination. The K1™ unit may reduce lubrication consumption to approximately 0.3% of a normal oil lube system in general does not require maintenance for up to 5 years or 10,000 km of travel!
Lubrication Consumption Savings Calculation:
Other Lube System: 0.375CC/hr x 16hr/day x 340days/year x 5 years x 4 sliders = 40,800cc
NSK K1: (with initial grease applied at the factory) 30cc x 4 sliders = 120cc
Other benefits of NSK’s K1™ unit include low particle emission, stable dynamic friction, reduced wear, and no lubrication splatter. On top of all of this, the food grade NSK K1 is compliant to USDA: Category H1 (lubricant permitted for use where there is possibility for incidental food contact).
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