Pneumatic lubricators for compressed air systems

Pneumatic lubricators aren't commonly used for compressed air systems today, but they still serve a purpose for specific applications and settings.

05/28/2017


Image courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaLubricators have been used in compressed air systems for many years. They are the "L" in filter/regulator/lubricator (FRL). They are designed to introduce oil as a vapor into a compressed air system. However, if you observe new machines that use compressed air, you will notice that these devices are hardly ever used anymore. Why is this?

Early pneumatic products like valves and cylinders used natural rubber and other materials for seals. In fact, leather was often used for cylinder rod seals. Have you ever heard the term "packing?" These materials required oil lubrication in order to seal effectively and reduce friction. This is why lubricators exist—to provide a consistent supply of oil to seals on valves and cylinders.

Modern pneumatic seal material

Seal materials have come a long way. The most common material now used for seal material for pneumatic components is Nitrile, which is a synthetic rubber copolymer. Some seal manufacturers also add products like Teflon to their Nitrile blends to provide additional lubricity. This allows the seal to operate effectively without additional lubrication. Also, manufacturers of pneumatic products add special greases to the seals during assembly. These greases are designed to coat the surfaces that come in contact with the seals, and they are designed to resist drying out or degrading.

When are pneumatic lubricators necessary?

There are still a few pneumatic products that require internal oil lubrication. Anyone who uses a pneumatic tool understands that light machine oil must be added periodically. Additionally, some air motors and air clutches also require internal oil lubrication. If you need to use these products, you will have to figure out a way to get them lubricated periodically.

Use a pneumatic lubricator if you intend to use a pneumatic product that requires internal lubrication. Then, try to use it so that you only lubricate the device that requires it. Why lubricate the entire system when only one device needs it? In fact, depending on where you locate the lubricator in the system, the oil may not ever make it to the device that needs it.

Remember: the oil is suspended as a vapor in the compressed air stream. If the air must take a circuitous route to reach the intended device, the oil may come out of suspension before it gets there.

There are other factors to consider as well.

  • Who will be responsible for keeping the lubricator bowl full of oil?
  • Will they be trained to adjust it to provide the right amount of oil?
  • Will they be trained to only use the proper oil?

These are important considerations. Many machines have had performance issues directly related to poor lubricator maintenance and adjustment. If the lubricator runs out of oil, the oil inside the system will tend to dry out, causing many pneumatic products to stick or slow down. If improper oil is used, it can damage the entire pneumatic system. If too much oil is used, it tends to come out of the system exhaust where it can create puddles of slippery oil or oil vapor in the atmosphere.

When are lubricators unnecessary?

Pneumatic lubricators used to serve an important purpose in a compressed air system. Advances in seal material have minimized their importance. If a new machine that uses compressed air is being designed, then the lubricator isn't needed. If a device requires internal lubrication, then the lubricator needs to be installed so that it only supplies oil to that device. If the user wants to lubricate the entire system, then the lubricator should be installed in a location that is highly visible and easy to maintain. You should also consider providing documentation with your machine that clearly states the correct setting for the device, the maintenance schedule to check oil level, and a recommendation for the correct oil to be use. 

Wade Wright is pneumatic product manager for Cross Company Motion Solutions. This article originally appeared on Cross Company's Motion Control Solutions blog. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

Cross Company is a CSIA member as of 5/13/2017.



Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers.
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
October 2018
HMI hardware evolution, Data acquisition strategies, Matching motors and drives, Machine vision advice
September 2018
Optimize controls via cloud software, ladder logic simulation, industrial wireless best practices
August 2018
Augmented reality and virtual reality education, autotuning PID control, cybersecurity advice, educating engineers
Edge Computing
This article collection contains several articles on how today's technologies heap benefits onto an edge-computing architecture such as faster computing, better networking, more memory, smarter analytics, cloud-based intelligence, and lower costs.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
SIDB

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, progressive cavity pumps
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers.
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
October 2018
HMI hardware evolution, Data acquisition strategies, Matching motors and drives, Machine vision advice
September 2018
Optimize controls via cloud software, ladder logic simulation, industrial wireless best practices
August 2018
Augmented reality and virtual reality education, autotuning PID control, cybersecurity advice, educating engineers
Edge Computing
This article collection contains several articles on how today's technologies heap benefits onto an edge-computing architecture such as faster computing, better networking, more memory, smarter analytics, cloud-based intelligence, and lower costs.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
SIDB

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, progressive cavity pumps
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers.
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
October 2018
HMI hardware evolution, Data acquisition strategies, Matching motors and drives, Machine vision advice
September 2018
Optimize controls via cloud software, ladder logic simulation, industrial wireless best practices
August 2018
Augmented reality and virtual reality education, autotuning PID control, cybersecurity advice, educating engineers
Edge Computing
This article collection contains several articles on how today's technologies heap benefits onto an edge-computing architecture such as faster computing, better networking, more memory, smarter analytics, cloud-based intelligence, and lower costs.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
SIDB

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, progressive cavity pumps
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me