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What Is a Tribometer?

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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2014
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A tribometer is a device used to measure the friction and wear between two surfaces. There are different designs for tribometers, but the most basic involves a flat or spherical surface that is moved repetitively across the face of another material. An exact weight is applied to the moving part for the duration of the test. The final measurement shows the wear on the material and is often used to determine its strength and longevity. Tribometers are an integral part of manufacturing and engineering.

Tribology is the study of the wear objects suffer when two surfaces are touching and moving. It also includes the study of how lubricants affect the wear and friction of the surfaces. A tribologist is often employed by manufacturers of consumer products to determine how long they will last and to establish realistic tolerances through the use of a tribometer.

Specific types of tribometers are used to simulate different conditions. The most common machine is a flat disc that can be made of several materials, or a sphere. When started, the probe will either spin over the surface of the material being tested or will move back and forth in a tracklike path. The results of the tests are measured with various instruments and by physically weighing the amount of material that was lost during the process.

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Another type is a variable incidence tribometer. This device is used to determine the slip resistance of a surface. It consists of a piston that is driven down onto the surface to be tested in increasing levels of pressure until the slip resistance number is determined when the piston slides. This is often used to determine workplace safety and to test new designs for the soles of shoes.

A nano or micro tribometer is a device much like the standard unit, but it has been modified to allow wear tests to be performed on incredibly small scales. This is frequently used for testing paper, surgical instruments and electronic components. Precision equipment is usually required to garner the results from these tests because of the fractionally small areas involved.

Some tribometers are designed to simulate very extreme conditions. High-load units are used to test materials used in large-scale construction, exposing them to very heavy weights. High-temperature units simulate abnormally intense temperatures and are often used to test materials in the aerospace industry.

In industry and manufacturing, a tribometer can be used for a variety of products. They are commonly associated with testing footware, tools and machine parts. Other lesser known applications, however, include testing cosmetics, medical implants, flooring and lubricants.

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