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Lube-free chains keep it clean

“The latest conveyor chains offer both operational cleanliness and cost savings in packaging applications.”

Lube-free oil impregnated sintered roller chains and engineered plastic / stainless steel combination chains dispense with the need to use external lubricant and can extend the wear-life of conveyor equipment dramatically. Lube-free conveyor chains also protect food products and packaging from marking and contamination, and since food grade lubricant is expensive they can also reduce day-to-day operating costs. 

There are some obvious initial benefits to using lube-free or (internally lubricated) chain in packaging machinery. It will generally retrofit directly into standard ANSI, BS/DIN sizes and really does not require any externally applied lubrication. As a result of this technology wear tends to be minimal since the key components of the chain are lubricated thus reducing maintenance cost and downtime. Food production and packaging environments in particular that have traditionally used expensive food grade lubricants can now operate without the need for chain lubrication, even in some arduous wash down environments.

Lube-free chain packs butter better
A de-palletising machine at a large UK butter processing site is using the lube-free Tsubaki corrosion protected drive chain to overcome issues with both lubrication and corrosion. The company processes over 26,000 tonnes of butter in the UK every year.  The butter arrives on pallets holding 50 blocks each, it is then thawed, salted and processed into retail packaging.

Because of the food grade nature of the plant, each machine is washed down using high pressure salt water at 70 deg C after each shift. The Lambda corrosion protected chain requires no external lubrication due to specially sintered oil impregnated rollers and is coated with a water protective finish.  It is able to work cleanly in a food processing environment and often withstand extremely arduous conditions without corroding.

Extended wear-life of sintered chains
Normally all chains must be thoroughly lubricated to extend their life. Most chain manufacturers issue lubrication recommendations, and most maintenance personnel understand the importance of lubrication. However, there is often a gap between what is understood and what is done.

In real-world situations chain wear-life, and hence replacement cost can be dramatically affected by using lube-free chain, in-part because ideal lubrication conditions rarely exist; often inconsistent maintenance procedures can exacerbate chain wear problems when using standard roller and conveyor chain.

Poor lubrication is the main cause of chain replacement due to excessive wear. In some extreme instances a standard chain can wear out in a matter of months or even weeks in comparison to an expected operating life measured in years.  The advantage offered by Tsubaki’s lube-free technology is that in the majority of applications they are a size-for-size direct replacement for conventionally lubricated chains.

Production increases on conveyor applications
Outright product quality can also make a huge difference; Tsubaki lube-free conveyor chain for example can be used to significantly increase production on exiting machines. The wear characteristics of cheaper chain mean that frequent adjustment is required to maintain accuracy and replacement can be as frequent as every twelve months.

The Tsubaki chain can often last years with only minor routine adjustment required. Maintaining a high level of accuracy allows throughput to be increased, resulting in a significant production increase without engineering changes being required.

Fantastic Engineered Plastic
There are a number of ways of achieving non-lube performance of chains. These vary with the load capacity and life requirements. Engineering Plastic is the material used for the inner links on Tsubaki PC chain. They are lube-free chains used in power transmission and conveying applications in the lighter side of the packaging industry, typically in food production or medicines by relying on the friction coefficient between the Engineering Plastic inner link and the stainless steel bearing pin. As this inner link is a solid extruded material it has no roller and therefore does not trap materials that could create possible contamination in the same manner as stainless steel chains that do require rollers to operate effectively.

Today engineering plastics, especially self-lubricating polyacetal types are ideal in applications where corrosion resistance and weight saving are criteria over load capacity.
PC chain has the advantage of being 50% lighter than all-stainless steel chain, whilst maintaining the same strength and gives easier handling and installation, In addition, corrosion resistance is often greater than that of an all-metal alternatives. PC chain is low noise, being 5 dB lower than standard drive chain.

Further details on these products and more, can be found in the new Tsubaki Drive & attachment chain catalogues available in printed form or via the download section of our website.


For editorial enquiries contact: Roland Renshaw, DMA Europa. Tel: 01299 405454  Email: roland@dmaeuropa.com

Contact for reader enquiries: Marketing Department, Tsubaki UK Ltd, Osier Drive, Sherwood Park, Annesley, Nottingham. NG15 ODX. Tel: 01623 -688788 Fax: 01623 -688789       e-mail: sales@tsubaki.co.uk. Web: http://www.tsubaki.eu



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