ILMA Compoundings - October 2020 - 54

IN NETWORK

Cross Connections
Tribology Discovers Its Wow Factor
By Ed Salek

L

et's be honest. Explaining what tribology is and why it
is important is not an easy assignment. The textbook
definition isn't much help: "Tribology is the science and
technology concerned with interacting surfaces in relative
motion, including friction, lubrication, wear and erosion."
That's not going to make the average person leap out of
their chair and say, "Wow!"
The Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE)
confronted this reality earlier this year while drafting a new
strategic plan. One of the primary objectives of the plan relates
to stronger communication and advocacy efforts. The intent is
to generate greater awareness of the economic and social value of
tribology and lubricant technology to a global audience.
It became obvious that this objective required a vision for
the organization that encapsulated what our members and
their companies contribute to the world. The existing vision
was admirable but was not going to make tribology and
lubricant technology a household word.
STLE for many years has proclaimed that its vision
was "to be a leader in the global network of individuals,
institutions, societies and corporate entities with a common interest in advancing the science of tribology and the
practice of lubrication engineering."
Compare that to three classic vision statements:
*	Google: provide access to the world's information in
one click.
*	The North Face: inspire a global movement of outdoor
exploration.
*	NASA: to discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.
After some serious brainstorming and wordsmithing, our
executive committee decided to replace STLE's 31-word
vision statement with two words that summarize the essence
of tribology: Perfecting Motion. This new vision statement
captures what scientists and engineers already knew: What
happens at the microscale or even nanoscale (where surfaces
are in relative motion) opens a world of possibilities on the
macroscale of everyday life.
STLE 2020-2021 President Paul Hetherington (CLS
manager, technical service, Canada at Petro-Canada
Lubricants) explained, "We believe this is a fairly allinclusive representation of what our members are focusing
on. Whether we are talking about tribology in hip joints or

54

OCTOBER 2020

| COMPOUNDINGS | ILMA.ORG

lubrication of all components in the family car, it is generally all about perfecting motion."
The 2020 Report on Emerging Issues and Trends in Tribology
and Lubrication Engineering 1, a research study published
earlier this year by STLE, provides details on the relevance
of this new vision statement.
According to the study, "The tribology and lubrication field
will need to assist with the development of all new vehicle
types. Newer lubricants will be needed to address performance
issues with battery electric, hybrid and the next generation of
internal combustion engines. Depending upon the onset of
new regulations, engine oils may also need to be reformulated."
Similarly, the report includes a focus on medical tribology
to explore technologies such as prosthetics and moving
parts, nature's interfaces, skin tribology and other promising
areas where tribology and lubrication are increasingly called
upon to support advancements in medicine.
STLE's new vision is being incorporated into internal and
external communication programs for the organization. We
are confident that the statement also will be an inspiration
to people involved in tribology and lubricant technology
now and in the future.
These people are the individuals who will enable the field to
continue a long history of generating great ideas. One of those
ideas is captured in an image from 2,000 B.C. of the ancient
Egyptians moving huge stone carvings on slides while men
pour some type of liquid lubricant in front of the slides - a
wonderful problem-solving tribology innovation in the day!
As we head forward, even in a time of serious public
health and economic concerns, the mark of success will be
an organization and a scientific field that are still great at
coming up with new things that foster innovation, improve
the performance of equipment and products, conserve
resources and protect the environment.
STLE members will, as the vision statement says, be
perfecting motion.
1. The 2020 Report on Emerging Issues and Trends in Tribology and Lubrication Engineering can be ordered through the STLE website (www.stle.org).
It's free to STLE members. For nonmembers: $75 digital; $100 print.

Salek is executive director of STLE.


http://www.stle.org http://www.ILMA.ORG

ILMA Compoundings - October 2020

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ILMA Compoundings - October 2020 - 1
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