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Chain Lubrication Part 1

Chain lubrication and understanding the principals involved in lubricating this piece of equipment commonly used across all industries.

Imatech Cutting Edge Technologies Newsletter

The majority of chains used in industry suffer unexpectedly short lives. However in most cases, the problem is not the fault of the chains but rather the method in which they are lubricated.

Most chain lubrication practices consist of applying a heavy oil or grease to the outside of the chain. While this does a good job of lubricating the sprockets and externals of the chain, it does little to protect the most vulnerable area, the contacting surfaces inside the pin and bushing. Chain wear primarily occurs on the inside of a chain between the pin and bushing. In effect, this is the bearing surface.

So keep in mind that with chain lubrication as with bearings, gearboxes and hydraulic systems, oil is recirculated using a reservoir replenishing these parts as the equipment operates.

Chain Lubrication

In a chain the only place for lubrication is the fine tolerances between the pin and bushing. Think about the differences; we are trying to lubricate a precision machine with a minimum quantity of lubricant that is precisely what the device requires, MQL, Minimum Quantity Lubrication.


To achieve MQL we need a Total Loss Lubricating film. As the chain operates, the small amount of lubricant is consumed by heat, friction or by pressure. As the lubricant is recirculated, a film of oil forms which acts to protect the pin and bushing, this is Total Loss Lubrication film. The lubricant selected should meet mechanical requirements and regard should be given to the environment of the chain.

The expected outcome of this process would be an increase in chain life, a reduction in amperage and a smooth reliable chain.

Chain Lubrication
In summary a chain is a precision machine and with any precision machinery it requires proper lubrication. Using the tribology theories of MQL or Total Loss Lubrication ensures the chain receives adequate lubricant during operation to avoid unnecessary maintenance and replacement costs.


In the next issue:

  • We discuss properties best suited for chain lubrication

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