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Hydraulic oils and machine shop: An effective optimization technique

12/4/2017

News and updates

By Alan Suan, Industrial marketing advisor for ExxonMobil Fuels & Lubricants

Operating a profitable machine shop is hard work.

You need to deliver products on time, on budget and to your customer’s specifications while juggling responsibilities that include contract development, training staff and managing supplier relationships.

In this context, having an equipment maintenance strategy that prioritizes equipment reliability can go a long way toward enhancing your business success.

And, the best equipment maintenance strategies are anchored by an effective lubrication program that incorporates both high-quality hydraulic oils and impactful technical services such as used oil analysis.

With an optimal lubrication program, you can help enhance long-term equipment performance, and enhance equipment reliability by avoiding unexpected downtime.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why should you use high-performance hydraulic oils?

There is a misconception that the only difference between hydraulic oils is price.

The truth is that hydraulic oils can vary significantly in quality depending on their formulation. You want to make sure you are using a high-performance hydraulic oil formulated specifically to protect your cutting machine equipment from challenging operating conditions.

For example, hydraulic oils with a balanced formulation can help protect your equipment from challenges associated to:

  • Water contamination, which can lead to corrosion, blocked filters or pump wear
  • Varnish formation, which can lead to sticking valves
  • Deposit formation on the inside of the system

So, what characteristics should you look for when deciding on which oil to use?

Here are some key considerations:

  • Viscosity/Viscosity index – A lubricant’s viscosity is its resistance to flow, or the thickness of the film layer produced to prevent contact with surface metals. A lubricant’s viscosity index measures the change in lubricant viscosity due to change in temperature. A good hydraulic oil will be formulated to maintain proper viscosity at both high and low operating temperatures. 
  • Wear resistance – Antiwear additives are critical in any hydraulic oil formulation, as they can help extend component life and improve production capacity.

    Look for hydraulic oils formulated with advanced additives offering exceptional antiwear properties.

  • Oxidation stability – This measures a lubricant’s ability to withstand oxidation. Oxidation creates sludge and results in component wear and corrosion, which greatly reduces the life of the fluid and equipment. Hydraulic oils should be formulated with specific additives that can resist oxidation.
  • Anti-foaming – Foaming of the hydraulic oil is not desired, as it can lead to entrained air. Entrained air bubbles can cause extreme localized heating of the hydraulic fluid, resulting in nitrogen fixation that – when combined with oxidation – can form deposits that plug oil filters and cause servo valves to stick. To mitigate this, elect an advanced hydraulic oil formulated with anti-foam additives.
  • Corrosion resistance – Resistance to corrosion, particularly in the presence of water. Rusting can occur as water carried by oils impacts metal components, threatening long-term equipment performance. Use hydraulic oils formulated with the right additives to mitigate corrosion.

As outlined above, there are numerous performance characteristics that determine the effectiveness of your hydraulic oil, which is why it’s important to use an oil that has a balanced formulation – such as ExxonMobil’s Mobil DTE™ family of hydraulic oils. These oils have a balanced formulation of high quality base oils and a robust additive package to deliver well-rounded performance.

By selecting such an oil, you can help reduce unscheduled equipment downtime, saving your shop substantial maintenance, servicing and personnel costs.

Why should you take advantage of used oil analysis services?

In addition to using the right oils, conducting used oil analysis is a great way to help enhance the longevity of your equipment.

Used oil analysis data can help identify potential problems at their earliest stages, enabling you and your staff to better understand your equipment performance.

With oil analysis results in hand, machine shop personnel can adjust their maintenance program as needed to increase productivity of their machining equipment and prevent unexpected equipment downtime.

Advanced oil analysis platforms can provide even more helpful insights, including reviews and documentation to validate used oil analysis results. These insights can also help explain and guide implementation of necessary remediation steps, ensuring you fully understand the used oil analysis results and can take proper actions to keep your operation safe and productive.

Why should you consult your lubricant supplier?

If you haven’t already consulted with your supplier on effective ways to maintain your equipment, then you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity.

By leveraging decades of experience working with leading equipment builders, lubricant suppliers like ExxonMobil can help provide insight into lubricant programs – including products and services – that best suit your operation’s needs.

For example, after analyzing your equipment’s operating conditions and specifications, your supplier can identify the hydraulic oils formulated to meet your specific needs.

You can also take advantage of suppliers’ highly trained experts, who can help execute technical services such as oil analysis or service changes in order to optimize equipment performance. And, suppliers can even offer technical training to your staff to ensure they are knowledgeable and updated about their equipment.

In sum, between using the right product, taking advantage of critical services and leveraging the expertise of your partners, optimizing your lubrication program can have a big impact on the performance of your equipment.

To get the most out of your equipment and help your machine shop be as productive as possible, connect with your lubricant supplier to see how you may be able to further optimize your lubrication approach.  

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