The approaches to wire rope lubrication have shifted in recent years, largely due to important technological advances to improve the application and performance of lubrication products for wire ropes. Locally, Lubrication Engineers (LE) South Africa has been at the forefront of these advancements.
Issues with “old-school” lubricants
LE South Africa’s Managing Director, Colin Ford, explains that one of the bigger problems that older types of lubricants have is that they “fling off” as a result of the force that is applied when a rope goes back onto a winder or over a sheave. More durable, modern products no longer have this issue as they dry quickly and are designed to be more adhesive, sticking to the rope better.
Ford says these newer lubricants include penetrating oil, used instead of grease for wire rope lubrication, as it decreases the risk of product flinging off because the oil gets deep into the core of the rope. “Penetrating oil is recommended to infiltrate into the core of the rope and protect it from corrosion from the inside out,” he says.
Ford explains that another of the key shifts for wire rope lubrication has been a move towards safer and more efficient application of lubrication. In the past, lubrication of wire ropes required equipment downtime as a general type of grease was applied to the ropes. However, increasing labour costs and a greater imperative to minimise downtime has led to wire rope operators seeking long-lasting products that require less frequent applications and which contribute to safer operating conditions.
“We have seen this particularly in the mining industry, where ropes have to be well lubricated for safety purposes, but having a wire rope on a lift out of action for lubrication means people can’t get up or down into the mine. Being able to lubricate these components less frequently with a product that lasts up to three times as long is very important. Nowadays, in some instances, you can even effectively spray or lubricate a rope while it is in use,” says Ford.
Industries embracing change
Some of the key applications where there has been a shift in the lubrication used for wire ropes include platinum mines and crane operations. LE South Africa was also approached by an original wire rope equipment manufacturer to supply its Wirelife™ wire rope lubricants as the recommended solution for the OEM’s equipment.
Engineers in various industries are also beginning to rely on the technical specs that are published by companies like LE to help them select lubricants with a proven track record and the right corrosion and wear protection to increase the performance and lifespan of equipment. This is an important shift in attitudes and speaks to the increasing focus on sustainability, in terms of costs, time and more broadly, in high-intensity applications and environments.
Improving lubrication at a prominent gold mine
In an important example of the value of using long-lasting wire rope lubricant products like Wirelife™, Wirelife™ rope lubricants were applied by LE at a renowned gold mine in early 2020. With the subsequent arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, maintenance access and general supply constraints because of lockdowns meant that frequent lubrication of the ropes would have been challenging. However, the initial application of the Wirelife™ rope lubricant product kept the wire ropes running smoothly for over two years and helped the mine’s operations during that difficult period for everyone around the world