NSK’s solid-lubricant Molded-Oil bearings are providing cost savings of £9,992 per annum as a result of solving a problem of premature bearing failure on an IHT conveyor at a milk processing plant in the United Kingdom.

The cause of the problem on the conveyor was inaccessible bearings that were impossible to lubricate. As a result, engineers were changing bearings every 10 weeks, resulting in combined downtime, labor and equipment costs of £9,922 annually.

Obviously, this ongoing cost was unsustainable; so an initiative was launched with a view to sourcing more durable bearings. As part of this initiative, an engineer from NSK’s Cost Savings Program was called in to give advice. The program is designed for end-user bearing customers that are looking for a value-added service that actually helps them to improve reliability, reduce operating costs, and improve efficiency and profitability. These objectives are achieved by delivering tangible savings to assets, such as equipment and machinery, and also by improving the working knowledge of maintenance and engineering personnel.

The engineer quickly identified the problem to be water washout, which is extremely common in food processing applications. This is the tendency of lubricant to be flushed out of conventional bearings under repeated washdowns. The loss of lubricant is usually progressive rather than immediate; but the result is inevitably the same: premature failure of the bearing or bearings concerned.

NSK has worked with majors in the food and beverage industry on this problem, providing a very effective solution, known as Molded-Oil. These bearings employ a special solid lubricant that effectively addresses lubricant loss due to washdowns. As such, it transforms the performance of machinery, in terms of reliability, maintenance- free intervals and operation, in environments exposed to high humidity, corrosion and contamination.

Molded-Oil can significantly increase the operating life of grease lubrication in water-contaminated environments. Moreover, the technology means that operating environments are kept free of grease; and there is no need for refilling of lubricant, as Molded-Oil provides a continuous supply of lubricating oil.

In this milk plant application, NSK recommended F-UC206 Molded-Oil bearing inserts to overcome the failure modes. These bearings cost £99 but are saving nearly £10,000 per year. In addition, NSK also recommended changing the existing housings for the bearings to Silver-Lube units. A range of mounted bearing units designed specifically for use in industries where hygiene considerations and corrosion and chemical resistance are important – typically bottling and brewing, food processing, pharmaceuticals, fisheries and chemical processing.