One of the key challenges that the quarrying sector faces is environmental contamination of plant equipment. It’s the nature of the industry – dirt and dust get into all the components of rotating machinery, and this poses problems for the machine function, particularly when it affects the bearings.
One of the best solutions for bearing health is solid lubrication, says Michael Greelish, BSC National Accounts Manager for Mining, Quarry and Resources. Solid lube or maintenance-free bearings do not require extra grease after installation. This creates savings in labour and grease costs, whilst also mitigating the negative environmental impacts of grease run-off. In the below interview, Michael provides some insight into the maintenance-free bearing solution that BSC provides to businesses within the quarry sector.
What customers do you work with in the Quarry mining sector?
There are three main players in the industry: Boral, Holcim, and Hanson. Between the three, they account for almost 90 per cent of the quarry industry. I work closely with them to supply solutions for their quarrying needs.
What are the key challenges that companies face in this industry in terms of machinery performance?
The main challenge is environmental. Quarries are dusty environments that contain a lot of contaminants that get into the bearings and other machinery components. Basically, everything gets contaminated in these environments, it’s just the nature of the beast! Once contaminants get into the bearings, they cause significant issues and shorten the predicted life span of the product. This results in increased downtime at the quarries as well as increased costs from replacements.
Can you describe what this maintenance-free bearing solution is?
The Molded-OilTM bearing is a solid lubrication solution, developed by NSK. Molded-OilTM consists of lubricating oil within porous polyolefin resin which is injected into the free space of the bearing. As the bearing rotates in the application the lubricating oil slowly releases out of the resin due to centrifugal force and maintains the oil film between the rolling elements. The oil within the resin is enough to last for the life of the bearing. NSK adds a dye (pink or blue) to the oil which reflects the oil levels contained in the resin. The colour of the resin diminishes as the bearing is used over a period of time and when it appears white, it indicates the bearing has low to nil levels of oil left in it.
Why is this solution particularly suited to quarry mining applications?
These Molded-OilTM bearings are ideal for the quarry industry because bearings and equipment are often located in hard to reach areas, making them difficult to lubricate. For example, on most conveyors, you usually have a walkway on one side of the conveyor, so you can only access one side. Unless there are grease lines to the other side, it’s impossible to grease them. Even when there are lines, they can get blocked up, and people think the bearings are getting greased even when they are not. Using solid-lubricant bearings solves this problem because mines no longer have to lubricate their bearings. The product is also suited anywhere where there are wash down areas because the solid grease can’t wash out. Moreover, solid lubrication isn’t affected by moisture or the contaminants that usually make it into the bearings.
Why do you recommend this particular solution?
Solid lubrication loses about 12 per cent of its lubrication principles per year. The maintenance-free life of the bearing should be around eight years. In a normal bearing within that environment, you’re lucky to get 12 months out of the bearing. Because of this, you get massive cost savings even though there is a higher upfront cost.
Other than the financial benefits, it is also good for the environment. There is no excess grease. And because it doesn’t leak any grease, it’s not dripping into the waterways or onto the ground. A lot of the time, environmental issues are caused when the machines are over-greased to purge the bearings, but then excess grease either sits there or drops on the ground.
Can you provide any examples of where this product has been used successfully?
Most of our quarry customers have had great success with NSK’s Molded-OilTM bearings. We have case studies where we’ve seen these bearings run more than eight years without maintenance.
Outside of the quarry industries, BSC helped a sugar mill save $270,000 in maintenance and materials savings. Instead of changing their bearings every year, the solid-lubricated bearings have lasted two years so far with no additional lubrication needed.