Differing widely in viscosity, specific gravity, vapor pressure, boiling point, and other properties, lubricants also offer a wide range of selection for the increasingly varied needs of modern industry. But whatever their derivation or properties, the purpose of lubricants is to replace dry friction with either thin-film or fluid-film friction, depending on the load, speed, or intermittent action of the moving parts. Thin-film lubrication, in which there is some contact between the moving parts, usually is specified where heavy loads are a factor. In fluid, or thick-film, lubrication a pressure film is formed between moving surfaces and keeps them completely apart. This type of lubrication cannot easily be maintained in high-speed machinery and therefore is used where reciprocating or oscillating conditions are moderate.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.