With 70 years of history behind them, perhaps its time to stop thinking of synthetic lubricants as pioneers. Theyve made deep inroads into mainstream markets, with double-digit shares in some regions, and their position resembles that of the rest of the lubricants industry: tough and competitive. Thats why R. David Whitby of Pathmaster Marketing Ltd. expects the global outlook for future sales of synthetic lubricants to be interesting, but not spectacular. While not gloomy overall, he believes that the next stage of growth for synthetics will only come through hard work and a sharpened focus on technical performance, rather than marketing sizzle.
The Surrey, U.K.-based industry analyst pointed out that commercialization of synthetic lubricants began in earnest shortly before and during World War II, with development of esters for aviation uses. The next decades brought a flood of other chemistries – polyalkylene glycols and silicones, phosphate esters and polyol esters, and more – all of which tended to serve only the most demanding niches, such as military needs, gas turbines, hydraulic systems and instruments in critical service.