Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The wonder that is Lubring (Turcite®)

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It is only rarely that a marketing push succeeds so thoroughly that the brand name becomes synonymous with the product itself. When Turcite B ® was first introduced, PTFE itself had been around for quite a while. Yet, so effective was the branding of this variant of PTFE that everything from the properties, to the composition to the colour merged under a single umbrella and became known simply as “Turcite ®”. The material itself has become a mainstay in the industrial goods market with machine tool builders, re-conditioners and bearing manufacturers demanding it for their applications.
As the market expanded, new manufacturers developed their own variants under different brand names (ours being Lubring), which all succeeded in their own way. However, to this day, clients will initially demand “Turcite ®” – following which there will be a brief discussion about the fact that our material is equivalent to Turcite ®, but that we brand it under a different name. Usually the client is happy as long as the properties match and that the colour of the material matches the turquoise-green shade developed specifically for Turcite ®.
We want to take a closer look at this material, because despite it’s widespread usage, there are always questions from clients regarding the application and installation of this material. We will look at the following aspects:
  1. What is Turcite ® (Lubring)
  2. Where can it be used? What are the possibilities and limitations?
  3. How must it be installed?
What is Turcite ® (Lubring)?
Quite simply – Turcite ® is PTFE impregnated with fillers and additives that serve to enhance the wear properties of the material. It is used, most often in a sheet form, in thicknesses ranging from 0.5mm (0.02”) to 4mm (0.16”), although in some applications, it is also used as a bush and in more rare applications it is used as a thick plate.
Being based on PTFE, the material cannot be extruded like a normal plastic sheet and instead needs to be “skived” – the process most commonly used to make thin PTFE sheets (See: PTFE – Myths Busted!). Also, the material will not easily adhere to other surfaces – another feature resulting from its PTFE base. Therefore a chemical etching is required on one surface of the material, so the sheet can be bonded to other articles.
In a broad sense, Turcite ® (Lubring) offers the following key advantages:
  • Very low friction for reduced power loss
  • No stick-slip for positional accuracy / control
  • Good specific bearing loads
  • Low wear for long life
  • Excellent chemical resistance / fluid compatibility
  • Unlimited shelf life
  • High temperature resistance
  • Absorbs vibration during machining

Applications of Turcite ® (Lubring)
Most commonly, Turcite ® (Lubring) has been used in the machine tool industry where it serves to either replace or reinforce standard phosphor-bronze LM guideways. The material was earlier used primarily to recondition old machines in which the guideways had worn out. However, increasingly it is incorporated in new machines as well – owing to the higher life and lower maintenance required in comparison to metal guideways.
As mentioned above, Turcite ® is also used as a bush – which needs to be specially moulded and machined as per the customer’s requirements. These bushes are usually replacements for metal bushes – especially in areas where the lubrication of the metallic bush is as issue. Turcite ® – and in fact all PTFE grades – has self lubricating properties which means it can function deep within a sub-assembly taking enormous wear loads and does not need to be lubricated constantly to avoid damage.
However, the material is not an out-and-out replacement for metal. Being PTFE based, the material has a compressive strength limited to 150 Kgs per square cm (2,200 psi). This means that a single square foot of Turcite ® can accommodate a load of up to 150 Tonnes – which is more than sufficient for most applications. However, it is also a soft material (Shore D Hardness: 50-60) – meaning that point loads and excessive squeezing of the material can cause deformation.
Another limitation is with regards to insulation. Although the material has excellent temperature resistance (up to 260 Degrees Celsius/ 500 Fahrenheit), it does not have any electrical insulation.
In all, the industries for which we have supplied Turcite ® (Lubring) include:
  • Automotive
  • Machine tool
  • Infrastructure
  • Nuclear power
  • Casting and forging
  • Textiles
  • Pumps and valves
  • Pipe liners
Installation guidelines for Turcite ® (Lubring)
Preparation: The metal surface to be mounted with Lubring can be prepared by the normal machining methods such as, grinding, milling, shaping, and planning. The surface roughness of all forms of preparation should be preferably between Ra = 1.6 µm and Ra = 3µm and not more than Ra = 6µm. Once roughened the surfaces can be cleaned with Trichloroethylene, Perchloroethylene or Acetone.
Bonding: For bonding of Lubring the following resin adhesive can be used: Ciba Geigy's Araldite - Hardener - HV 953U; Araldite AW106. The Araldite should be applied both to metal and Slideway and be spread as uniformly as possible by means of a serrated spatula. To obtain the best dispersion of the adhesive, when spreading on the surface brush in the longitudinal direction; when spreading on the metal, brush in the transverse direction. The total quantity of bonding should be approximately 200gm per sq. mt.
Hardening: After mounting the Slideway a clamping pressure of between 30-35 Kg/cm2 is recommended. It is important to keep the pressure constant during the hardening process. Due to the differences in the thermal expansion coefficient of the materials, maximum curing temperature should not exceed 40°C. The hardening time for various temperatures is: 20°C min 15 hours; 25°C min 12 hours; 40°C min 5 hours.
Finishing: After curing of the adhesive, the PTFE can be machined by conventional means – if required. The choice depends on the machinery available viz.: grinding; grindstone.
Grinding: For grinding of Lubring use the same speed as grinding cast iron, taking care that sufficient cooling is used with an ‘open ’stone. The grindstone should be preferably silicon carbide based with rubber or polyurethane binding; grain size 80-30. Alternatively aluminum oxide with rubber bonding may also be used for soft, fine grinding action, pre-polishing and pre-mating treatment.
Oil Grooves: Lubring pads can be machined with oil grooves using the same methods and cutting data as used for cast iron. The form and depth of the oil grooves are optional. However, the oil grooves should never pierce through the Lubring Slideway. Oil grooves should be away from the edges by 6mm.
Metal Mating Surface: The metallic mating surface running against the PTFE pad should be preferably Stainless Steel (SS) 304 with a grade #8 mirror finish. Against this material, Lubring will have a coefficient of friction of between 0.1-0.12.

The recent surge in PTFE prices has obviously had a substantial impact on the price of Turcite ® (Lubring). However, owing to the ambiguity surrounding the material’s composition (many clients know it simply as “Turcite ®” and are unaware that it is PTFE based), there has been genuine confusion as to why the price has increased recently. While it take times and patience to convince clients that the price of Turcite ® is governed by the price of PTFE, it does serve as yet another reminder of how an effective branding campaign can truly give a product it’s own identity.
Turcite® is the registered trademark of Trelleborg Sealing Solutions

Sunday, June 5, 2011

PTFE Wear Plates: Misconceptions and Applications for Heavy Equipments

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Although PTFE is used extensively for its wear resistant properties in a range of different products, its application as a wear resistant plate remains restricted and not widely known in certain areas where it would be ideal.
In most cases, the preferred composition for PTFE wear resistant material is PTFE with bronze (along with some friction reducing additives). As discussed in our earlier article (see: PTFE Compounds and their effects), this composition improves the PV value and wear rate for the material and although the coefficient of friction does increase, over-all it performs superbly as a replacement to metal bearing parts that require frequent lubrication.
Currently, some of the main applications for PTFE as a wear resistant material for which we supply include:
  1. Slideway bearings: Commonly referred to by the brand name “Turcite” (Poly Fluoro brand name: Lubring), PTFE slideway bearings are used widely in the machine tool industry, where they serve to either replace or reinforce standard phosphor-bronze LM guideways. The material was earlier used primarily to recondition old machines in which the guideways had worn out. However, increasingly it is incorporated in new machines as well – owing to the higher life and lower maintenance required in comparison to metal guideways
  2. Wear strips: PTFE wear strips are used either in running lengths or punched into flat components, which are used in sub-assemblies, like shock absorber struts and pistons. Usually the tolerance on thickness for such wear strips is very low – implying the requirement of a high precision skiving machine. In most case, where we supply these items, a tolerance of +/-0.02mm is maintained on thickness.
  3. Piston rings: Here, thin bands of PTFE wear material are machined and fitted on the piston shaft to absorb the wear resulting from a constant back-forth movement. As this process is wasteful (and therefore expensive) due to the machining involved, sometimes customers prefer to buy wear strips and bond them around the shaft. However, bonding PTFE is usually only recommended when there is minimal shear force being applied on the item – so this method is usually unsuccessful.
  4. Bushings: PTFE can either be machined into a solid bush, or be used as a layer on a metallic bushing (commonly called DU bushings). Again – the idea here is to create a self-lubricating bush, which can be installed within a sub-assembly and allowed to run without the constant need for lubricants.
  5. Wear plates: Used in more heavy duty applications, wear plates are usually employed in thicknesses exceeding 10mm and often require milling on the surface to create oil-grooves and holes for bolting. In most cases, their function is similar to that of a slideway bearing, however we have noticed that many OEMs remain apprehensive to employ PTFE wear plates into their equipments. In an attempt to clarify certain points regarding PTFE wear plates, we are going to be looking at 2 aspects of their usage:

1) The common pitfalls clients experience when using these bearings and misinformation regarding the same
2) Our own experience in the Die Casting Industry, where the success of these plates has led us to aggressively recommend it to OEMs

Issues hindering the adoption of PTFE wear plates
  1. Installation: We find that most people adopting PTFE wear plates do so because they have some prior experience with installing slideway bearings. Consequently, they assume the installation methods would also be the same. However, as slideway bearings are much thinner (going up to no more than 5-6mm) and because following installation, they remain subjected to very little shear loads, they can be bonded to the metal bed and this bond is likely to survive over a long period of time.

    In the case of wear plates, bonding is not an option as it is likely that there is some shear load which will get applied which, when coupled with the thickness of the plate would weaken the bonding and cause the plate to come loose in the medium to long term.

    The correct method of installation is bolting – although valid apprehensions exist with regards to this. For one: the plate needs to be milled with a stepped hole to allow the bolt to rest within the piece. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the bolt head does not rest above the surface of the PTFE plate. As an added measure, PTFE discs can be bonded to the head of the bolt to ensure that in the event that any extra pressure squeezes the PTFE plate, the contact between the bolt and the moving plate is not damaging. Furthermore, tightening the bolt too much can cause the PTFE plate to get crushed (a common reason cited by OEMs for not using a soft material like PTFE). Hence the correct method would be to use a metal bush to ensure the bolt is not tightened beyond a point (see below).

    The purpose of the bolt is to ensure the PTFE wear plate does not slide away during operation. As long as this is ensured, the plate will perform properly.
  2. Load bearing

    A common misconception relating to the load bearing capacity of PTFE leads many machine tool builders to write-off PTFE as a wear pad material. The assumption is that phosphor-bronze, being a metallic material, is the only option strong enough to take the load of heavy moving parts.

    In truth – PTFE has a compressive strength of at least 135-140Kg per square cm. This implies that a 100mm x 100mm plate would be able to withstand 13.5-14 Tonnes of vertical load. In most heavy-duty equipments, maximum loads of 5-6 Tonnes are present, meaning that the load bearing is not an issue at all. Furthermore, the coefficient of friction of PTFE against another surface only reduces with the application of pressure – implying that apart from taking the load, the effectiveness of the wear plate in ensuring a smooth functioning of parts is greatly enhances.
  3. Machining

    Clients who are looking to convert to PTFE wear pads frequently express two concerns pertaining to machining.

    The first is on tolerance: as the thickness on phosphor-bronze wear pads can be grond to within a few microns. In the case of PTFE – a maximum tolerance of 50 micros is possible – which we have found is acceptable in most industries.

    The other concern is around specific grooves and the exact positioning of holes. As PTFE can be milled (we use a CNC vertical milling centre) – any groove pattern and hole dimensions can be machined on to the surface of the wear plate.
  4. Environment

    Finally – we have heard concerns over the conditions in which the equipment is used and whether PTFE will be able to withstand the same in the long term.

    Firstly – PTFE has the ability to withstand temperatures of up to 250 Degrees Celsius. In most industries we know, the actual heat generation never causes the surrounding temperature to go about 80 Degrees, so clearly there is no issue in using PTFE.

    The other concern is on the build up of dirt and whether grit and other hard particles will damage the surface of the PTFE plate. While the recommended option here would be to make a seal around the PTFE to ensure that dirt does not get accumulated between the PTFE and the other moving plate, it should also be noted that in case a particle does get lodged between the plates, PTFE has the unique ability to absorb the same so that it does not hinder the movement of the assembly.

Case Study: PTFE wear plates in the Die-casting industry

A client who was consulting on technical metrics with various companies engaged in aluminum die-casting approached us, a while back. The problem they were facing was that the wear plates that had been installed on as bearings between the platens was wearing out every 2-3 months, with the result that there was significant down time on the machines every time these plates needed to be replaced.

The plates being used were a fiber enforced resin plates and it was easy to see that a few months of usage had significantly worn out the plates leading to deformation and even cracks.

We offered them PTFE wear plates and these were installed on a few machines as a trial. The machines were run normally for a period of 3 months and the PTFE plates were analyzed with the following results:

  1. Wear out was minimal: In fact, the PTFE wear plates were much the same dimension as when they were installed. The customer felt that the load of 2.5 Tonnes being applied on the plate would compress the plate and lead to a deformation on thickness – but this was not the case.
  2. Lubricity was greatly enhanced overall: The plates had become completely smooth due to the constant sliding across its surface and this smoothness translated into the more efficient operation of the equipment. The customer also reported that while earlier there was some amount of “jerkiness” in the motion of the platens was no longer an issue.
  3. Improved cycle time: Apart from the fact that the down-time of the machine was no longer an issue as the plates were not worn out, the overall cycle time of the machine during production was also improved. This was mainly because there was no longer a need to continuously monitor the level of lubrication on the wear plate.

Following the successful trial of the PTFE wear plates, the material was adopted in all machines of the client and we are now working with a number of clients in the die-casting industry to replace their resin plates with PTFE plates.