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Tsubaki chain delivers trouble-free service for over 8 years and counting…

26 August 2015

Maintaining food production lines requires expertise and specialist products to ensure efficient and reliable operation. For a popular chocolate manufacturer, there was one production line that was experiencing chain elongation and contamination of the chain lubricant that was causing loss of production. Switching to Tsubaki Lambda Lube Free chain resulted in considerable savings in maintenance costs as well as improved production reliability.

The maintenance regime required to keep the moulded chocolate production line running was relatively costly in both man-hours and consumables, such as food grade lubricant. However, despite the best efforts of the maintenance engineers, the production line still experienced unacceptable amounts of lost production time, due mainly to wear and corrosion of the chain drive system, which was used to convey the chocolate moulding trays.

The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) chain would typically last up to 3 years before it would have to be replaced, at considerable expense. When the cost of maintaining this chain was included along with the cost of lost production, the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) for this chain was alarming and it compelled the maintenance manager to examine the alternatives.

A root cause analysis by Tsubaki established that the lubricant, which was being regularly applied, was being contaminated with chocolate. This prevented it from penetrating into the bearing areas of the chain. This reduced lubrication caused increased wear and corrosion on the pin surface, which led to elongation of the chain and ultimately to moulding tray crashes which would cause the production line to be stopped.

The Tsubaki engineers suggested installing a Lambda Lube Free chain, fitted with a unique attachment which connects with the moulding trays. The Lambda chain is dry to the touch, with the lubrication impregnated into the bushes, so it can be installed straight from the box and begin operation, without the need to lubricate it.

Lambda’s improved wear-life can reduce the overall cost of replacement chain significantly; as lower quality chains will have to be replaced several times before Lambda shows any sign of wear. Lambda can also return several times the purchase value during it’s working life through reduced maintenance and costs of lubricants and associated automatic and manual lubrication procedures. Lambda chain has a wide operating temperature range from –10°C through to +230°C without compromising lubrication performance.

There are obvious benefits to using lubrication-free roller chain in clean industries such as food processing, pharmaceutical and electronics manufacture where product contamination should be limited. In addition, Lambda delivers very low whole-life costs when compared to conventional chain. Lower maintenance requirements, longer wear-life and reduced downtime all contribute towards lubrication free chain being the most economic choice in many routine industrial applications.

The replacement chain in this case has now been in operation for over 8 years and it is still performing without the need to continuously maintain it and without causing any loss of production. In that time, this simple replacement using higher quality chain has saved the company over €12,000 every year when compared to the OEM product. In addition, there are savings in maintenance costs and in reducing lost production, in all amounting to an annual saving of over €50,000.

Greg Sharp, Engineering Manager at Tsubaki, comments, "This is just one of many examples which provide solid evidence that investing in high quality products does pay major dividends and ultimately will save money in the longer term. The Lambda chain has provided a much cleaner environment as well as delivering greatly improved performance which has led to higher productivity and efficiency."

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