Economical Monitoring and Lube Flexibility

Economical Monitoring and Lube Flexibility

By: Ed Sullivan

A new automated lubrication system design gives heavy industry an economical means of validating that critical bearing points receive proper amounts of grease or oil.

The increasingly crushing costs of bearing failures continue to plague heavy industrial plants, including steel and metals mills, particularly in, rolling mills, multi-roll cluster mills, wire and rod mills, and continuous casting operations.

Frequently, these costs are a consequence of the failure to verify that bearings are receiving the proper amounts and types of lube oil or grease via the integration of monitoring capabilities into large, automated lubrication systems.

Without proper lubrication bearings seldom survive more than 5-10 percent of their potential service life. This is due to multiple factors, among which corrosion, heat, caustic elements and high shock loads are major players. However, according to Richard Hanley, president of Lubrication Scientifics (Irvine, CA), failure to properly lubricate production equipment, particularly at the critical points, can be an even greater cause of bearing failures and resulting in unnecessary downtime and replacement costs.

Lubrication Scientifics engineers and manufactures a variety of automated lubrication systems and components that are installed on equipment used in a wide variety of applications in industries including steel, pulp & paper, petrochemicals and mining.

The critical points Hanley refers to include those bearing points that, if not provided the appropriate lubricant at necessary intervals, will cause the most extensive damage to equipment or present risks to plant personnel.

“You can’t be sure that you are lubricating all of those points successfully unless you have consistently accurate monitoring, or verification, that the lubricant is dispensed through the pump to the point where it should be injected – at proper intervals,” Hanley explains.

Yet, the large investments required to install and maintain lubrication systems with monitoring capabilities – often $500,000 or more – discourages steel and metals processing plants from doing so. Or, if they are installed, they often require frequent and expensive repair or replacement.

The Conventional Approach

The traditional methodology for heavy industrial lubricating applications is the conventional dual-line lubrication system. Capable of delivering varied amounts of lubricant, this type of automated system is ideal for lubricating thousands of points over long distances, with lube oil or grease output being controlled individually at each point. Also important, a single blockage will not shut down the entire system.

Yet, there are drawbacks to this standard dual-line system. Because it is composed of multiple one-piece lubrication dispensing blocks (each servicing up to eight points), whenever a single lube point fails, the entire block most be replaced, resulting in added time and labor to the cost of a replacement block. But even more significant to many applications, critical point monitoring, or verification, is very expensive with standard dual line systems.

“In heavy industrial application such as steel mills and metal working plants, the cost of critical point monitoring has become a key issue,” Hanley says. “In large systems, it can cost thousands of dollars to monitor a single bearing point.”

A Modular Alternative

To dramatically reduce those monitoring investments and simultaneously reduce bearing maintenance and replacement costs, Lubrication Scientifics has introduced a new design in dual-line lubrication systems, one that can continuously lubricate and monitor critical equipment bearing points over long distances. The new system, known as the MDL-50 Series, is a modular design with lower investment costs and higher system sustainability.

Because of its modular design, the MDL-50 retains all of the benefits of standard dual-line systems; the MDL series offers several additional features that dramatically reduce lifetime maintenance costs. For example, it is never necessary to disconnect MDL supply or discharge valves to change out a non-working section. When valve replacement is required, only the piston section – rather than the entire valve block – is replaced, a job that takes only about two minutes instead of two hours.

In order to meet the largest lubrication system requirements, the MDL-50 system design also permits the creation of dual-line valves with an infinite number of outlets, making this technology ideal for the automated lubrication of equipment used in the steel, cement, pulp & paper, mining and other heavy industries.

“Essentially, the user can tap into the dual lines anywhere and insert a dual-line valve, a capability that enables and the grouping of critical lubrication points into zones,” Hanley explains. “Creating zones enables system designers to economize on monitoring hardware. In effect, this provides systems design options that have never before been available.”

The new modular system is available in both carbon steel and 316 stainless steel for use in highly caustic environments, including those that are washed down with caustic solutions.

Plus, the MDL-50 series provides the flexibility of a “hybrid” system because it can be easily converted to dispense either grease or oil without having to abandon the original investment in dual-line components.

Long-term benefits, short-term payback

Hanley says that conventional dual-line systems with monitoring capabilities cost users in excess of $100 per point to incorporate monitoring hardware, plus installation expenses.

“Using the new modular dual-line approach with critical points grouped in zones, users can monitor everything tied to that valve, up to 360 points, for less than $1,000,” Hanley says.

He adds that, with modular dual-line systems dispensing grease, significant reduction of lubricant usage is required – sometimes a reduction of 90 percent. “This not only saves on grease costs but also virtually eliminates the high costs of grease disposal.”

Hanley adds that while the savings of lube oil will not be as great as that of grease, by ensuring that a constant supply of clean oil in the required amount and intervals will also greatly improve on bearing life, which is the biggest payoff of the modular system.

For more information, contact Lubrication Scientifics, LLC., 17651 Armstrong Avenue, Irvine, CA 92614; Toll-free: 877-452-0157; or visit

About the Author

Ed Sullivan is a Hermosa Beach, CA-based writer. He has researched and written about high technologies, healthcare, finance, and real estate for over 25 years.