Lubricants for Plastics Manufacturing

Lubricants for Plastics Manufacturing

Investing in and maintaining high-quality hydraulic fluid may be seen by some as a nonessential expense in plastics manufacturing; however, the reality is that high performance lubrication can deliver significant long-term savings and improve your total cost of ownership. Hydraulic fluid is the lifeblood of a hydraulic injection molding machine. Learn more in the articles below how you can get the most out of your equipment and your lubricants.

Ask any technical manager of a plastics injection molding plant what their key challenges are, and productivity will no doubt be at the top of the list. To remain competitive, most must run their manufacturing highly efficiently in a 24/7 operation. There is no time for machine breakdowns and, if one does occur, often it’s blamed on a mechanical failure rather than poor lubrication.

Lubricants play a vital role in helping to extend the life of plastics molding machines. Indeed, in hydraulic injection molding, the hydraulic oil is the lifeblood of the machine. Its primary purpose is to transmit power mechanically throughout the system. In so doing it is exposed to high pressure, fluctuations in temperature and various contaminants, such as water and air. This means that a good hydraulic oil should be able to cope with typical application challenges such as wear, corrosion, oil leaks, fluctuating temperature, oxidation and thermal breakdown, and build-up of varnish and sludge that could lead to blockages and malfunctioning valves and filters.

Investing in high quality hydraulic oil may not seem like a top economic priority for a plastics production plant. Hydraulic oil is a fraction of the maintenance budget, but the long-term savings can be significant. When evaluating the effect of quality lubricants, consider total cost of ownership (TCO): the total amount spent on industrial equipment, including the cost of acquisition and operation over its entire working life, including costs of lost production during equipment downtime.

“Multiple surveys conducted by hydraulic equipment manufacturers and other industry bodies have shown that 50% to 70% of failures in hydraulic equipment are linked to oil quality and oil cleanliness1,” says Ahmet Guven, Product Application Specialist for hydraulics and circulating oils at Shell Lubricants. “To be more productive and cost effective, customers have to choose the right hydraulic oil and keep it clean and cool to enable their equipment to run continuously.”

Shell developed its Tellus range of hydraulic oils to meet the demands of hydraulic systems, offering protection against wear, oxidation resistance, thermal stability, hydrolytic stability and filterability. First introduced in 1947 to inhibit rust and oxidation, over the past 70 years the formulation of Tellus has been enhanced and improved to match changing hydraulic system design and customer needs.

More than 200 scientists and lubricants engineers are dedicated to developing innovative lubricants technology at a variety of Shell Lubricant research centers throughout the world. As the process of creating new formulations is highly complex, Shell works closely with leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), to understand the needs of equipment and performance requirements.

The latest addition to the Shell Tellus range – Shell Tellus S2 MX – took 10 years to develop. It offers increased productivity, with extended oil life2and outstanding system efficiency. Once rigorously tested in the lab, customer field trials are conducted to further validate its performance.

For instance, AGI Freden GmbH, a Germany-based leader of plastic products that specializes in injection-molded packaging solutions for DVDs and video games, has been running Shell Tellus S2 MX on its plastics molding machines for the past few years. Before this, AGI Freden had been using Shell’s last generation Tellus S2 hydraulic oil for some 48,000 hours (six years) without a fluid change“With Shell Lubricants, we have established a relationship that offers the same level that we expect from our own team members in terms of technical expertise, quick response and a very professional service. The optimal outcome of this trial with Shell Tellus S2 MX would be to increase the lifetime of the hydraulic fluid even further,” says Dieter Gottschalk, General Manager at AGI Freden.

In addition to the right lubricant, Shell offers services to support customers in helping to reduce machinery downtime and maintenance costs. These include LubeAnalyst, a means of monitoring the oil quality in their hydraulic systems to help identify any potential problems at an early stage, and LubeExpert, a technical consultation service that offers application-specific knowledge.

Selecting the right lubricant together with harnessing support from these specialist technical services from Shell Lubricants is a critical step in improving productivity and helping to realize significant TCO savings.

For more information on how Shell can help you improve your total cost of ownership or to speak to ask a technical question, contact us today.

1 Multiple surveys by industry bodies including additive companies, filter manufactures, hydraulic equipment manufacturers. One source includes Parker Hannifin GmbH Bulletin: HY30-3248/ UK: Hydraulic Fluids for Parker Axial Piston Pumps Series PV

2 Compared in ASTM D2272 RPVOT test where Tellus S2 MX and Tellus S3 M achieve 400 mins

3 The savings indicated are specific to the calculation date and mentioned site. These calculations may vary from site to site and from time to time, depending on, for example, the application, the operating conditions, the current product being used, the condition of the equipment and the maintenance practices.

In many plastic injection molding operations, whether it’s producing large car bumpers or small DVD cases, the key priorities are repeatable: high-quality output in the fastest possible cycle speed. With machines often running continuously, any unplanned shutdown due to equipment failure is costly and detrimental to productivity.

Lubrication is vital for these machines, particularly hydraulic fluid choice. As well as the protection of moving parts to help prolong equipment life, it also transmits power mechanically throughout the hydraulic system. However, not all technical managers are aware of its critical role in operations. In a survey carried out by Shell Lubricants, more than half of respondents didn’t have a clear understanding of how delayed or lost production, equipment availability or unplanned downtime can be influenced by their choice of lubricant.

Below are four top tips to help effectively select, apply and manage lubricant products, based on Shell’s decades of experience serving the worldwide plastics sector.

Top tip 1: Reconsider the importance of lubricants

Today’s injection molding machines face ever-increasing operational challenges from working harder and longer. Keeping your equipment at its peak performance is crucial yet suboptimal performance and even outright failures can often occur. Typical application challenges include corrosion, contamination, leaks, wear and formation of sludge and varnish, which can lead to issues such as blocked valves, filters and worn out pumps.

These failures are often blamed on the equipment rather than the hydraulic fluid. However, multiple surveys conducted by hydraulic equipment manufacturers and other industry bodies have shown that 50% to 70% of equipment failures are related to ‘improper hydraulic fluid condition’.

It’s easy to overlook the importance of hydraulic fluid, after all, it’s estimated that it represents less than 2% of the overall operating cost of an injection molding plant1. However, the reality is that high performance lubrication can deliver significant long-term savings for businesses as enhanced equipment protection helps to mitigate risk of equipment breakdown and its associated costs. The hydraulic fluid is the lifeblood of a hydraulic injection molding machine. As well as doing its primary job of transmitting mechanical power, it should also serve to extend the life of the machine, reduce downtime and improve productivity and repeatable precision.

Top tip 2: Understand which lubricant is best for your hydraulic system

Hydraulic systems are expected to deliver peak performance while operating at high pressures, fluctuating temperatures and often in tough conditions. With such demands on lubricants, it pays to opt for product formulations with advanced protection and stability properties. Prioritizing lubrication within a balanced maintenance strategy will help lower the total cost of ownership (TCO), for example through reduced start-up times, decreased energy consumption and optimized cycle times. Fast start-up time is important because it means the plastics injection molding machine reaches optimal operating conditions more quickly.

While advanced lubrication can often have a premium price point, it is important to take a total cost of ownership approach to purchase, taking into account the long-term savings that they can help achieve.

For example, SMP, a leading global plastic processing company, producing automotive parts for several major German car manufacturers, switched to Shell Tellus S4 ME at its Neustadt plant in Germany, the company has achieved energy savings of 3.4%, shorter cycle times and doubled its oil drain interval (ODI) which has resulted in a total annual saving of over €50,650.

Top tip 3: Take advantage of lubricant-related services from your provider

To support the selection of the right lubricant to meet the challenges of hydraulic equipment, lubricant suppliers such as Shell Lubricants offer additional lubricant-related services to customers. Online tools include Shell LubeChat, which provides answers on demand to questions about oils and lubricants.

For a complete service offering engineering, technical and application knowledge, customers can also make use of Shell LubeAdvisors and LubeAnalysts.

The LubeAdvisor service is delivered through regional technical help desks and field-based lubrication engineers who will carry out a lubrication survey and plant assessments and offer customized lubrication and operations advice to help improve efficiency.

To keep equipment running smoothly and to avoid maintenance costs, plastics production plants can also utilize Shell Lubricant’s oil condition monitoring service, Shell LubeAnalyst. Acting as an early warning system, customers can regularly monitor the condition of their equipment and lubricant.

A company that has benefited from its use of the Shell LubeAnalyst oil condition monitoring program is Alpha, a world leader in the development and production of plastic packaging. Alpha wanted to extend the oil drain interval (ODI) on its Netstal-Maschinen AG plastics injection molding machines in its Croatia plant. The company upgraded to Shell Tellus S3 M coupled with Shell LubeAnalyst. This resulted in an extended oil life from 5,000 to 15,000 hours, which helped reduce equipment downtime and led to a total annual saving of over USD$16,500.

Top tip 4: Staff training and upskilling

With the right lubricant selected, companies need to ensure that they have the right processes and practices in place to maximize its benefits. This includes implementing proper lubrication maintenance. The education and training of staff in terms of, for instance, extending oil drain intervals and the correct handling and storage of oil in the plant, is crucial to this. Again, Shell Lubricants can help through comprehensive training programs. For instance, Shell LubeCoach is a workshop-based course delivered by technical experts who offer practical insights and best-practice techniques.

Implementing these four tips within a plastics injection molding operation can make a significant difference to your total cost of ownership (TCO).

Investing in and maintaining high-quality hydraulic fluid may be seen by some as a nonessential expense: it’s after all just a fraction of a plant’s maintenance budget. But it could help contribute to savings far higher than the cost of the lubricant itself.

Plastics injection molding machines can be one of the most valuable assets to a manufacturing business. In an output-intensive industry, productivity is a priority and any unplanned downtime caused by equipment breakdown will impact directly on the manufacturer’s bottom line. Not only will customer delivery deadlines be at risk, but there is the added cost of machine repair along with expensive shift workers standing idle while this takes place.

At the heart of these machines lies the hydraulic system with hydraulic fluid playing a vital but often underestimated role. As multiple surveys carried out by hydraulic equipment manufacturers and other industry bodies reveal, 50% to 70% of mechanical failures are related to ‘improper hydraulic fluid condition’1. These failures can be as a result of a build-up of what are often called the ‘hidden killers’ of productivity – sludge and varnish.

Gaining notoriety as the hidden killers, whilst most standard Oil Condition Monitoring (OCM) tests like Total Acid Number or Viscosity can help screen for problems such as ineffective corrosion-protection, helping to pre-empt hydraulic system failures, they cannot detect the build-up of sludge and varnish. The reason being that soft contaminants don’t typically impact the bulk chemistry of the hydraulic fluid making them difficult to measure.

Equipment failures can then result from reduction of the spool-to-bore clearances in valves leading to valve malfunction, the clogging of a suction strainer that will lead to pump failure or damage to seals and o-rings leading to oil leaks and cylinder problems.

The resulting unplanned repair downtime and oil change can have a financial impact on the manufacturer. Additionally, short oil drain intervals are costly not only in terms of the oil cost but also oil waste cost.

Poor-quality hydraulic fluids are more susceptible to this problem as they readily oxidize in the presence of yellow metals, water and air contamination. In addition, they contain additives that are not thermally stable and so decompose at elevated temperatures. The best way to avoid this is to use a high-quality hydraulic fluid which has high oxidation resistance and excellent thermal stability helping to mitigate risk of sludge and varnish build up, lowering the operator’s total cost of ownership2.

Shell Lubricants’ Tellus range of hydraulic fluids has been specifically formulated to meet the demands of hydraulic systems by resisting thermal and chemical breakdown, which adversely affect a fluid’s lubricating performance. Shell Tellus can provide better reliability and system cleanliness compared to competitor products having achieved excellent results in the industry standard thermal stability test of hydraulic oils – ASTM D20703. This test method evaluates the thermal stability of a hydraulic oil in the presence of copper and steel at 135 °C.

Many of Shell’s customers that operate plastics injection molding machines have reaped the benefits of switching to the Shell Tellus range. For example, an electrical appliance manufacturer based in Jiangsu Province, China, which owns 13 plastics injection molding machines, was experiencing problems caused by blocked filters. The Shell technical team investigated and discovered an excess formation of sludge, which meant that the oxidation stability and filterability performance of the machine’s hydraulic fluid was not effective. Switching to Shell Tellus S2 M 46, the company no longer experienced blocked filters and was also able to significantly extend the oil-drain interval from 8,000 to 24,000 hours. As a result, it reported total annual savings of USD$126,1404.

This underlines how effective hydraulic fluids, like those in the Shell Tellus range, can provide equipment reliability and system cleanliness that in turn protects against these ‘hidden killers’ mitigating breakdown risk and its associated costs.

1 Source: multiple surveys by industry bodies including additive companies, filter manufactures, hydraulic equipment manufacturers. One source includes Parker Hannifin GmbH Bulletin: HY30-3248/ UK: Hydraulic Fluids for Parker Axial Piston Pumps Series PV

2 Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is defined by Shell Lubricants as the total amount spent on industrial equipment, including cost of acquisition and operation over its entire working life, including costs of lost production during equipment downtime

3 *Test method ASTM D2070 was carried out under third-party laboratory conditions. Shell Tellus S2 MX 46 was tested against 17 competitor oils. Each oil was heated to 135 degrees Celsius for a period of 168 hours together with catalyst rods of copper and steel. The precipitated deposits were weighed, with weight loss recorded, along with total sludge and acid number change. Shell Lubricants is able to provide a copy of the ASTM D 2070 report on request.

4 The savings indicated are specific to the calculation date and mentioned site. These calculations may vary from site to site and from time to time, depending on, for example, the application, the operating conditions, the current product being used, the condition of the equipment and the maintenance practices.

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