Expert helping converter to troubleshoot problems with blown film downtime

Blown Film Troubleshooting: Reduce Line Downtime with Expert Tips on Lubricants

Breakdowns, failures, and unplanned downtime can have serious impacts on a business. Fortunately, converters can leverage lubricants to minimize downtime on blown film lines.

By Shell Polymers on Mar 18, 2021

Aside from the costs associated with reactive maintenance tasks and repairs, production losses can be extremely expensive. Relationships with customers can also be affected if delivery dates are missed. Maintenance experts from our colleagues at Shell Lubricants have put together these tips to help film extruders keep their lines running at peak performance.

While many plastic film converters are familiar with a given line and intuitively solve problems, new personnel won’t have the same knowledge. Processes that may be easy-to-forget or rely on muscle memory could end up being the main cause of a defect when not treated properly.

Reduce blown film machine downtime with these eight lubrication tips

1. Store Lubricants Properly

Dirt, water, and heat all can reduce the effectiveness of lubricants. There are different approaches to the proper storage and handling of lubricants. For low-volume converters, there are sealed containers, pails, and kegs while high-volume converters may look at tanks, bulk containers, reusable drums, and automated lube carts.

Realizing the danger of improper lubricant storage is the first step toward finding the right solution. Using lubrication that is not properly stored can shorten the life or lessen the reliability of blown film equipment. To prevent those issues, our experts recommend keeping containers horizontal, indoors, and at the right temperature.

2. Choose the Right Type

Lubricants are classified as either liquid, wax, or solid. Liquid lubricants are typically used to dissipate heat and help with high-speed friction. But even within the category of liquid lubricants there are multiple classes, viscosities, and grades available. Finding the right selection at the right cost takes time and research.

Likewise, wax, and solid lubricants protect against surface wear and corrosion and are effective in high-pressure loads. Wax and solid lubricants are limited with regards to sourcing though, so finding a reputable lubricant will be important for a blown film converter.

Remember, not every oil is compatible with every piece of equipment. To minimize downtime, seek advice from lubricant experts and the equipment manufacturer to understand a machine’s specifications and which type of oil is most compatible.

3. Monitor Equipment Regularly

In today’s competitive environment, a reactive maintenance philosophy just doesn’t work. Unplanned stoppages are rarely sudden. Instead, they are the result of a number of factors coming together and reaching a point of no return. Regular monitoring or predictive maintenance should pick up wear and tear or loose seals that currently do not pose a big problem but, if left unchecked, will ultimately cause more machine downtime.

While preventative maintenance is the norm today, McKinsey estimates that predictive maintenance could help blown film converters experience a 10-40% reduction in maintenance costs, up to 50% reduction in equipment downtime, and a 3-5% reduction in equipment investment.1

Learn how to Ensure a Trouble-Free Blown Film Extrusion Machine Shutdown

4. Conduct Site Assessments

More formal than regular monitoring, site assessments are carried out with supplier partners, often biannually, to assess the health of the whole operation. These assessments can pick up issues such as lubricant storage and handling errors or incorrect product applications.

Our experts recommend recording these kinds of errors or applications and weaving them into regular processes. The more standardized the storage and use of lubricants is at a given site, the better machines will function.

5. Use Premium Lubricants

It may be typical to be cost conscious around lubricants but, in many cases, premium varieties extend the life of machinery and reduce the need for invasive machinery maintenance and oil changes. These kinds of maintenance are more intensive than the usual diagnostics and involve stoppages. Any way for a blown film converter to reduce machine downtime means more time spent being productive and less time waiting for machines to be operational.

6. Check Equipment Components

How equipment components perform can affect the lifetime of other machine parts or the reliability of the equipment as a whole. Our experts recommend the regular checking of seals and bearings. Seals can be prone to leakage and bearings often experience wear and tear over time. If there are leaks or broken components, no amount of lubrication will help. Checking these components will help make sure that lubricants are able to do the job they’re expected to do.

7. Maintain a Clean Environment

Good storage should mean most dirt and dust is avoided, but it is also important to maintain general standards of cleanliness around oils and machinery, as well as in transportation and handling. Using the proper storage mentioned in the first point is only part of the solution. Dirt and dust can degrade how well a lubricant works. Water also reduces the oil’s ability to lubricate and oxidizes it more quickly. A dirty environment is just one source of contamination. Our experts recommend a regular cleaning of the lubricant storage area to protect a converter’s investment.

8. Sample and Analyze Lubricants

The continuous monitoring and sampling of lubricants can be a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to effectiveness. Flow rate and oil pressure can have adverse effects on machine components if too fast or slow, or too high or low. Similarly, the regular process of oil sampling and analysis can help converters identify patterns that enable operators to make the necessary changes and prevent machine downtime.

Lubricants can help plastics converters get the most out of their equipment and increase the lifespan of their machines. With the investment converters make into the right lubricant, it only makes sense to properly store and effectively use it. These tips will help reduce downtime in blown film lines and keep machines running smoothly year round.

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1 McKinsey Global Institute The Internet of Things: Mapping the value beyond the hype, page 70