Used for the application of reducing friction between two or more moving surfaces, lubricants such as grease act similarly to oil due to their properties. Although grease is coined as a general term, the actual material itself is composed of a varying range of base oils and additives. Semi-liquid in consistency, greases are typically composed of 80% to 90% base oils while thickening agents and additives are included in tandem to produce the quality and consistency that such lubricants are known for. Within this blog, we will discuss the purpose of greases, what they consist of, and how they are made.
Upon creating grease, base oils are the primary component in forming such a solution. Making up the vast majority of a particular grease, base oils determine how a grease can be applied in regard to a specific type of machinery. For instance, the heavier the force or friction between two objects is, the more viscous a grease may have to be. Although viscous greases are typically excellent for reducing friction between moving parts, the viscosity and efficiency of a grease is ultimately determined by how well the base oil performs under certain operating temperatures, forces, and friction. In general, greases consisting of lighter oils are preferred for low-temperature use while thicker oils tend to be applied to heavier materials with a higher operating temperature.
Making up roughly 10% to 15% of the composition of aviation greases, thickening agents play a key role in determining how thick a grease will be and what it can be applied to. The viscosity of a particular grease is easily determinable by measuring how deep a common metal cone sinks into the mixture. In order to achieve a desired consistency, clay or soap based thickeners such as lithium soap, sodium and calcium soap, barium soap, aluminum soaps, and other types are generally used. With there being various thickeners that can be used to provide a specific composition for grease, these agents can create consistencies ranging from semi-fluid to solid, wax-like, greases.
Turning to the last component aiding in the process of forming such lubricants, additives make up the remaining 5% to 10% of the composition of aviation greases. As the final material needed to form grease, additives primarily consist of antioxidants, load carrying additives, and less commonly, solid film lubricants such as graphite or molybdenum disulfide (Moly). For solid lubricants in particular, such types are best acquired for heavy-leaded machinery operating under a sliding force.
When it comes down to applying a grease on or within machinery parts or pieces, it is imperative to note that not all greases and aircraft primers can be combined. If greases of differing oil compositions are mixed together, it can result in the lifespan of parts or seals to break down and no longer be sufficient for operation. Mixing greases of varying thickness can also directly impact the working stability of the product. Combining two or more thickeners that exhibit varying densities can have immediate and detrimental repercussions, producing a grease that is poorer in quality and performance.
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