Zero Migration Lubricants

Migration of oil from lubricating greases has been a problem since the development of the wheel. Oil migration can be induced by temperature gradients, capillary forces and gravity. Prior to 2001 Syn-Tech Ltd. customer requests for grease that exhibit little to no oil migration at high temperature were answered by increasing the lubricant's thickener content or adding oil-retaining high molecular weight polymers. This would reduce migration at higher temperatures but would increase efforts at low (<-20°C) temperatures.

Fast forward to 2016. Automotive engineers are now pushing the limits of electrical switch assemblies, gearboxes, bearings, etc. by reducing material content to make them smaller and lighter in weight while increasing power output. These tighter quarters can pose a problem for lubricants. Oil migration from a lubricant can create contamination of electrical contacts, staining of plastics and fabrics, and premature grease failure (hardening) due to oil loss resulting in increased customer complaints, warranty work and the potential for recalls.

In 2001 Syn-Tech Ltd. was asked to develop a grease for the mechanical section of a high current, butt action, window lift switch application. The customer had tried many competitors lubricants, each one allowing oil to separate and migrate onto the heat generating switch contacts. The Syn-Tech Ltd. R&D laboratory created a proprietary technique that changed how oil migration from lubricating greases is controlled. No longer would migration at high temperature be an issue. Oil separation test ASTM D6184 at 149°C for 24 hours results were 0% bleed (with no loss in grease consistency) along with migration tests at high temperature affirming no migration. The grease was sampled at the customer, accepted and is still being purchased for the same application after 14 years.

With this technique Syn-Tech Ltd. was now able to provide a lubricant that solves customer’s problems without compromise. No migration products could now be developed that work within the automotive industry requirements of at least –40°C to +85°C. Compatibility with most engineering plastics is ensured including polycaronate and ABS. Elastomer compatibility is good with neoprene, nitrile (Buna n) and fluorinated elastomers.

An illustration of the effectiveness of this technique is shown in the following migration test. A Syn-Tech Ltd. grease manufactured using this proprietary technique is compared to two other greases known for their low migration properties. A 0.5 gram sample of each of the three greases was placed on a vertical steel panel and heated to 85°C for 48 hours.

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Panel with 0.5 grams of each grease Panel in oven before test
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Panel with greases after 48 hours @ 85°C Panel in oven after 48 hours @ 85°C
After 48 hours there is noticeable oil migrration away from Grease A and Grease B

 

This original grease has since evolved into multiple products for multiple industries, not just the automotive market. Advantages seen are reduced oil migration which extends the lubricant's life, and lower grease induced efforts at temperatures below -40°C while still providing a robust lubricating film at temperatures greater then 100°C. This opened the door for applications that were previously passed on due to the inability to really control migration for the life of the part. Syn-Tech Ltd. was now able to offer proprietary products for HVAC controls, turn signal switches (both mechanical and electrical sections), window lift switches, plastic and metal gear sets, etc. New products can also be formulated to address the customer's specific application.

An example of a grease using this technique is Syn-Tech Ltd. NS-6111-G, a lubricant formulated for latch actuators with gearboxes mounted over the drive motor where oil migration can cause motor failure. This product has an operating temperature range of -45°C to +140°C. A customer of Syn-Tech Ltd had a current production gearbox that was mounted above the drive motor. They were seeing motor failures due to a competitor's grease allowing oil migration that was leaking past the gearbox seals. Using NS-6111-G in the gearbox eliminated motor failures due to the migration of oil. They also tested the grease by completely coating their drive motor and cycling at 85°C for an extended duration with no oil induced failures.

Syn-Tech Ltd. solved the ongoing issue of lubricant migration. The vehicle and consumer would now see fewer issues due to lubricant dripping and staining. The manufacturer is now able to get a lubricant with extended versatility and life, with reduced component field failures.

 

 

 

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