Lambda Lube-Free "Frog" Chain Keeps Daily Mirror Production Flowing

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Tsubaki's lube-free Lambda chain is now in its third year of operation at Mirror Group printing (MCP Watford), where the unique operating conditions meant that previous generations of roller chains were lasting only three months.  Since installation Lambda has also saved critical down time in an operation where there are only a few hours available for maintenance between print runs.

Lambda chains are utilised in two areas of a continuous printing process at MCP Watford.  The first is on forwarding stations where the printed papers are moved from the press to assembly machines.  The second area of usage is in transfer stations; these are effectively crossroads in the finishing and assembly process where three pairs of chains run in parallel, each pair with plastic 'frog' attachments, set at different intervals to carry papers as they change format with folding and inserts.


The newspaper printing industry represents one of the harshest working environments for transmission chain.  Fine particles and fibres are released from handling the paper and these stick to exposed lubricant and are absorbed.  Once in suspension the particles form a fine and extremely effective abrasive paste inside the chain.  The paste then creates a 'lapping' process that can wear down moving metal parts extremely quickly, causing chains to become loose, lose accuracy and require replacement within weeks.
MCP Watford initially sought to resolve this problem by operating roller chains without lubrication (i.e. dry).  It did solve the immediate problem, but in the process reduced the life span of the chain to approximately three months, resulting in frequent maintenance and high replacement costs.

As a final solution to these problems, Tsubaki Lambda Lube-free roller chain was introduced in 1998 and is still in operation.  The longevity of the chain is due to the 'lube-free' technology.  Lambda chain rollers are forged with lubricant included in the material structure of the steel.  During operation, the lubricant forms a micro thin layer between the roller surfaces.  Meanwhile the exterior of the chain is dry to the touch, a condition that stops it acting as a surface receptor for harmful paper particles.

An additional benefit is that the motion of the lubricant within the rollers in Lambda chain is from the centre outwards, the opposite direction to conventionally lubricated chains that draw lubricant in from the exterior.  As a result of this, any debris from the atmosphere that does settle on the surface of a Lambda chain is excluded from the load bearing surfaces of the rollers and does not cause excess wear.

The chains at MCP Watford perform an integral role in a system where each print run is completed in one continuous process and any failure would bring the entire operation to a halt.  Printing is carried out seven days per week, leaving only a few hours each morning for maintenance and creating a short and pressurised window between printing runs.

The relative infrequency of chain replacements since the employment of Tsubaki Lambda Lube-free chain has transformed maintenance procedures at MCP Watford, greatly reducing the time and effort required for replacement work.  As a result, the printing operation is running more smoothly and the pressure on maintenance time has been significantly reduced.
An added benefit of using Lambda Lube-free chain is the elimination of occurrences where lubricant previously marked papers during forwarding or transfer operations.  With Tsubaki's Lambda chain the lubricant is retained within the roller, so there is no lubricant build-up that could find its way onto the printed material during high-speed operations.

In-house assembly and local distribution ensure total support:

MCP Watford are so impressed with Tsubaki's Lambda Lube-free chain, they insist that any replacement chain, used as part of routine maintenance or emergency work, is automatically a Lambda chain.  Tsubaki now assemble the chain complete with attachments and hold stock at their UK headquarters in Nottingham.  Tsubaki also sources the special attachments direct from the supplier, cutting down on fitting time and inventory costs for the customer.

The chain is stocked and supplied locally by Wyko Industrial Distribution from their Watford branch.  Using a local distributor ensures that supply is guaranteed and delivery times are as short as possible; it also means that experienced engineering support is on hand locally.  For added ordering convenience 'Frog chain' is inventoried using the customer's own stock numbering system.

Mirror Group (MCP Watford) prints various papers such as The Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and the Racing Post.  Lambda chain is a lube-free drive chain that is uniquely available in attachment, roller, conveyor and corrosion resistant variants.  It is available direct from Tsubaki UK or from your local distributor.

– 2000 October 1