STLE Gives Window on Industry


MINNEAPOLIS – The lubricant industrys largest trade conference kicked off this week here at the 73rd annual meeting and exhibition of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers. More than 1,500 representatives of lube producers and their suppliers, equipment makers, end users and researchers gathered to check in on the latest developments in the field.

Officials said 1,507 people registered for the event, which runs from Monday through Thursday, up from 1,466 last year. Attendance routinely reached those levels in the early 2000s but plummeted during the global recession of 2008 and 2009 and has since been recovering.

This years event includes more than 500 technical presentations, a trade show and education courses on lubrication and tribology, the study of friction.

The technical program includes several new features reflecting industry trends. On Tuesday there was a special session about several automotive engine and drivetrain trends expected to have dramatic impacts on lubricants, including shifts toward electric and hybrid vehicles, growing use of turbochargers and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commercial trucks.

We organized this session in order to present information about what OEMs are doing, said session chairwoman Dairene Uy, of Ford Motor Co. The four-hour session included four presentations and a panel discussion. Timothy Newcomb, of lube additive supplier Lubrizol Corp., detailed ways that lubrication needs of electric vehicles differ from those of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. Raj Chandramohanan, of transmission and turbocharger supplier Borg Warner, discussed the implications of commercial trucks trending toward lower-viscosity engine oils as part of a push to improve fuel economy.

If someone had told me 15 years ago that they were going to put a 0W-20 oil in a commercial truck, I would have said, What! Chandramohanan said, noting that 15W-40 was the prevalent grade of heavy-duty diesel engine oils at the turn of the century. But thats where fuel economy is taking the industry.

The program included a track of papers on tribochemistry, combining nanochemical and lubrication principle topics that in the past would have been covered separately.

In previous years we would have a track on nanoparticles and a separate one on lubrication fundamentals, said session chairman Zhijiang (Justin) Ye, of the Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering department at Miami Universitys College of Engineering and Computing. But we have so many researchers and engineers doing research with these materials, and the practical work draws on multiple aspects. Thats the nature of science and technology in general these days.

Use of nanochemicals was also the subject of a new education course this year, Nanotribology III. What were learning from the courses we offer is that our constituents are looking for advanced instruction as opposed to just the basics, said Chevrons Greg Croce, who was installed this week as president of STLE. Weve had courses on nanotribology, but this one is more advanced, and it shows that nanochemicals are getting ingrained in the industry.

The association is working to step up its outreach to foreign countries. This years meeting was attended by a few dozen individuals from Mexico – a jump from previous years. Outgoing President Mike Anderson, of Falex Corp., said an STLE expects to form a Mexico chapter this year.

Weve had some interactions there to promote the organization, and weve found a lot of interest, he said. People are very interested in the networking and the opportunity to learn. The association is also working to form chapters in Thailand and Singapore.

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