I have been in the lubricants industry for around 12 years and there always seems to be a buzz about the next big thing, latest base oils, grease thickeners or additives. Some of these things provide genuine benefits to the market while others are simply clever responses to changes in product availability or as a way to increase profitability.
Lately, though, it has not been a specific product which has taken the limelight but a category that these products are registered under. Most bizarrely whilst all the suppliers of this product seem to be lubricant manufacturers it is not actually a lubricant. The products I am referring to are, by designation, a direct contact release agent. These products are categorised by the NSF and InS under the heading of 3H.
At New Tech Lubes we think the knowledge to provide sound advice, a high-quality product, at sensible prices and a friendly and efficient approach to customer service can benefit our customers greatly, therefore, I will address this topic in the same manner.
In the food lubricants industry, we are used to dealing with H1 registration, this is the standard that all of our food range products meet, meaning that “incidental” contact can occur. If contamination should occur and is kept below 10 parts per million then the products are deemed safe and can be released to the market. The second category, H2, does not permit any products that contain extremely hazardous materials or carcinogens. I believe that this category can sometimes be deceptive and give a false sense of security to engineers and production plants, as it is meant for products that are allowed into a food production site but are still allowed zero contamination with food, 0 parts per million. Due to this, we do not have products in this category and only recommend H1 to food productions sites.
So, what exactly is a release agent? In many cases, these products are designed as start-up lubrication to release the food product from moulds, cutting blades or any machinery that may come into contact with food products or packaging until the machine is up to speed and temperature where the natural oils and fats in the product can act as a self-generating lubricant. Engineers often simply use vegetable oils they may have on site to provide the desired effect. These products are not approved and may go rancid or spoil.
This is where the 3H products come in, they are made with ingredients that are safe for human consumption and designed to use minimal quantities to achieve the desired effect. The products come in 2 forms, oils or grease. This is possibly where the confusion comes in. We are often asked for a 3H lubricant and that is simply not possible by design. 3H can only be a release agent, it is like using a knife as a screwdriver and calling it a tool, it will serve the purpose but is not strictly the same. This is why all our 3H products are also registered as H1 so they can be when required, used as a lubricant also. As soon as our FoodGuard 3H grease is put into a bearing it is no longer a 3H release agent but only a H1 lubricant.
As I have just highlighted, these products can go above and beyond their primary design often serving a dual purpose as a lubricant as well. It is often the case that because the ingredients used in the manufacture of these products are such high quality and have natural EP performance the greases and oils are very effective as a lubricant in certain situations. As long as they are kept within the limits of their temperature range and other performance restraints it is often possible to reduce the number of products on site, this can further reduce confusion or risk of contamination from using the wrong product.
I have heard, on one occasion, from a distributor of ours that a major chain wanted to replace all products in their plant and upgrade them from H1 to 3H for increased protection from any incidents. While this seems a sensible approach and to some degree would work, there are limitations in what can be achieved with 3H products and they would still have to adhere to the same 10ppm tolerance should anything happen. On the other end of the scale, there are many factories that do not know that these products are available and do nothing until they have an audit and it is brought to their attention.
This is why we love talking with our customers, especially the engineers on the front line who deal with the plant lubrication and maintenance. During a site visit we can identify these issues, and often many others, discuss the needs of the organisation and then provide recommendations to resolve the problems. These recommendations can save time and effort in both the short and long-term when sites are audited for compliance. We can supply data folders beforehand to make sure they have all the necessary paperwork on safety data, allergen status and any other relevant information such as Kosher, Halal or H1/3H certification ensuring the highest standards are met and upheld.
To conclude there is often more to lubrication than it first seems and getting the right product for the job is essential. That’s why we believe working with a supplier that understands all aspects of lubrication is vital to gaining maximum performance from your site and equipment and is why our technical assistance is free to all that use or sell our lubricants.