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For optimal performance, ball screws must be selected based on their operating loads, environments, speeds, and other factors. Lubrication, whether oil or grease, is certainly going to be necessary to improve the overall performance of any ball screw. However, how and when to lubricate a ball screw varies greatly from one application to another, and it’s important to explore the recommendations provided by ball screw manufacturing experts.
Why is Lubrication Necessary?
In a nutshell, friction quickly wears components, which then results in the need to repair or replace those elements. Lubrication, whether in the form of oil or grease, is necessary to minimize friction.
Properly lubricated components also mean less power is wasted, as reduced friction means more power is actually available to the machine rather than lost to friction. When correctly lubricated, the life of a ball screw is also greatly increased.
Which Lubricant Provides Optimal Results?
There are a couple of factors to consider when deciding whether to choose oil or grease. Oil and grease require different delivery systems. As a rule, using oil requires the use of somewhat expensive pumps and associated equipment to function properly. Grease, on the other hand, is applied using fittings. The cost of grease is, as a result, somewhat lower than oil. However, there are advantages of each to consider.
Why Should Users Consider Grease?
As already noted, using grease tends to be less expensive than oil, but there are downsides to its use as well. Perhaps most importantly, it’s easy to use too much grease, which creates its own set of issues.
Grease also tends to move to the ends of the ball nut travel, meaning inner sections may not be getting the level of lubrication needed to ensure proper performance. That can be especially problematic if grease isn’t applied at frequent intervals.
In many cases, grease will be the best choice because of the low cost, but users must exercise care and make sure sufficient grease is applied at correct intervals. Ask about how often grease should be applied for your specific type of use.
Is Oil a Better Choice?
Depending on the particular application, oil may, indeed, be a better option. Industry experts recommend users consider using oil to avoid overheating the assembly. Oil provides better cooling characteristics than grease, which can become an issue when high-speed devices are in use. Oil is also less likely to create uneven wear, as is possible when using grease.
One issue that needs to be explored is the viscosity of the oil used. Proper lubrication of the ball screw requires the oil to form a film on the device. That means oil that’s too light won’t provide adequate protection. If the viscosity is too high, excess friction will develop.
Some of the industry’s top ball screw manufacturing experts routinely recommend using oil, but taking the time to research the best type and viscosity of oil before going into production. The idea is to maximize the life of the ball screw while keeping repair and replacement costs as low as possible.
Getting the Advice You Need
When it’s time to discuss ball screws and how to properly maintain them, it pays to work with the equipment supplier to select the best options. As a rule, the best suppliers are more than willing to work with clients to ensure they obtain the best products and use the most appropriate lubrication strategies.