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A new approach to lubricant friction testing

Tom Lecklider
Lubricating oils are mixtures of a base material usually derived from petroleum and additives. When the lubricant is required to provide boundary lubrication, it is these additives which are critical to the performance of the oil. Parameters to consider include its lubricity, static and dynamic friction coefficients, how it performs under pressure, whether its acidity affects mechanical components, and how its flow properties are affected by temperature. Because of the sophisticated chemistry involved when designing additives to meet these criteria, as well as the need for low production costs, laboratory testing of lubricating oils is an ongoing process. For boundary lubrication, one of the most important parameters in determining the lubricants performance is its friction coefficient, defined by the equation: FC = FH C/FN where FC is the friction coefficient, FH is the horizontal force, FN is the normal (downward) force, and C is a constant. In general, the lower the coefficient of friction, the better the oil will lubricate, and the less energy will be lost within a machine or engine using the oil. Hence a method for accurately measuring these parameters is an important step to assessing the in-service performance of lubricants.
Sliding puck Normal load Lubricant

Drive mechanism


Force transducer

Amplifier and output

Figure 1. Schematic of a lubricant test machine

provide the necessary performance data. The waveforms produced by this type of test machine are generally square in shape, but there can be several types of aberration. For example, an oil that is formulated using incorrect additives can exhibit stick/slip characteristics, where the force required to drive the sliding puck changes quickly and often produces a triangle-wave modulation (superposed signal) on top of the basic square wave. Another common effect is an overshoot which results from the higher value of friction when the puck is stationary compared to when it is moving (sticktion). In many cases, the waveform is not exactly square, but exhibits bowing along its horizontal section. Examples of these effects are shown in Figure 2. Although the testing machine should theoretically produce exactly the same results both on the forward and reverse strokes, in practice there is often a

small difference. One way of compensating for this effect is to take the mean of the heights of the first positive and negative peaks.

Analysing the results

Normally, an oscilloscope is used to monitor the output from the testing machine, with subsequent analysis being carried out by hand from plotted waveforms. This procedure is timeconsuming and can introduce the possibility of human error. Fortunately, however, instruments are now available which can introduce a degree of automation into the waveform analysis operation.

Measurement sequences
The instrument shown in Plate 1 offers, among other benefits, a number of advanced measurement routines plus the facility for programming in customized measurement sequences. For the lubricant testing application, it is

Test equipment
In many lubricant laboratories, a standard friction-coefficient testing method, of the type shown schematically in Figure l, is used. In this system, a weighted puck is pushed and pulled back and forth (reciprocated) across a base plate which carries a film of the lubricant being tested. The force required to move the puck is measured by a transducer within the instrument, and the output of this transducer is recorded and analysed by laboratory chemists to

Basic squarewave shape

"Stick-slip" modulation

"Bowing" of top and base levels

"Improved" lubricant, but "sticktion"

Figure 2. Typical waveforms encountered during friction testing

4 Industrial Lubrication and Tribology Vol. 47 No. 6, 1995, pp. 4-6, MCB University Press, 0036-8792

Basic waveform rising crossing

First rising crossing of differentiated signal

Figure 4. Expanded view of differentiated stickslip waveform

Plate 1. The Gould DataSYS 700 is an automated measuring system based on an advanced digital storage oscilloscope; the ability to program in customized measurement sequences makes it ideal for analyses of waveforms produced by mechanical test systems

measurement routine to the waveforms to determine the peak values. Figure 6 shows plots of an actual signal used to simulate the output of a friction testing machine. In Figure 7,

possible to use this combination of features to pick out the first peak on a heavily modulated square wave and then carry out the appropriate analysis functions. The measurement sequence makes use of the fact that, if one finds the first negative crossing of the differentiated and filtered testing-machine waveform, one is guaranteed to find the upper time bound of the first peak in the waveform, irrespective of its exact shape. The lower time bound is always given by the zero crossing of the basic waveform itself. Then, by using the ability to bound a measurement by the results of two previous measurements, one can determine the peak of the first overshoot. Because of the physical nature of the test, it is realistic to assume that the phase difference between the basic square wave and any stick/slip modulation will be restricted, as shown by the theoretical example in Figure 3.

Differentiating the square wave allows all the stick/slip transitions to be examined with respect to the zero voltage level, rather than with reference to otherwise arbitrary levels. This means that the number of crossings can be used to find the nth positive peak, for example. In Figure 4, the indicated areas both of the square wave and its derivative have been expanded and overlaid to show more clearly the time points used to bound the max or min function, which then determine the heights of the first positive and negative peaks of the square wave as required. The sequence shown in Figure 5 is used to acquire the basic signal, differentiate it, filter it, and then apply a



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Figure 5. Basic measurement sequence for signal acquisition

Date: 16 Feb 1912 Start time: 04:15:35

Basic waveform

TR1Z: 2V 500s

TR2Z: 2V 500s Differentiated waveform

Figure 3. Differentiation of a stick-slip waveform

Figure 6. Output signals

ILT November/December, 1995 5

RISE_CR : TRC1/ + 3.55V + 1.483ms FALL_CR : TRC1\ 3.35V + 741.0 s FALL_CR : TRC2\ 683mV + 759.0 s MIN : TRC1 3.35V FALL_CR : TRC1\ 3.28V + 2.224ms RISE_CR : TRC1/ + 3.55V + 1.483ms RISE_CR : TRC2/ + 1.26V + 1.503ms MAX : TRC1 + 3.55V DELTA : + 6.8936E + 00 (see Figure 7)--- HALF : + 2.00E + 00 RATIO : + 3.4468E + 00 ( divided by 2)--- CONST : + 3.50E + 00 FN : + 100E + 00 MULT FC Notes: + 12.064E + 00 ( constant 3.5) : + 120.64E 03 Nt/Nt RISE_CR = rise crossing FALL_CR = fall crossing FN = normal force FC = friction coefficient :

Date: 21 Feb 1912 Start time: 02:11:11


TR1Z: 2V 100s

TR2Z: 2V 100s

Figure 7. Expanded output signal

Table I. Measurement sequence for obtaining friction coefficient from basic force waveforms

the plot has been expanded horizontally to show more timing detail: specifically, the two sharp peaks identified by locating peaks both in the differentiated and original waveforms. The measurement routine (Table I) consists of two parts: the first, down to and including the min function, finds the first two peaks of the force waveform. The second part adds the absolute values of those peaks, divides by 2,

multiplies by a constant (3.5 in this case), and finally divides by the normal force (100kg). The final friction coefficient is scaled in Newtons (horizontal force) per Newton (vertical force).

Tom Lecklider is at Gould Instrument Systems.

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