Tribology in Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution - CADM

The change in modern information and communication technologies in production has led to the evolution of industries. The industrial revolutions have led to a reformation in the way of approaching the problems in manufacturing. These industrial revolutions have taken place in various stages namely, the first, second, third, and fourth industrial revolutions. At present we are in the fourth Industrial Revolution with a vast amount of manufacturing being connected to information and telecommunication technologies. Tribology is connected to all these industrial revolutions in different aspects, and it started before the birth of the Industrial Revolution. In this section lets us understand the role of tribology in all the industrial revolutions.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution - CADM

Fig-1 The schematic representation of the Industrial Revolution with its timeline [1]

Tribology existed and played major roles in history before the term tribology or industrial revolutions was coined. The pre–Industrial Revolution tribology could be seen in 3500 BC when the friction between two pieces of wood generated fire, later in the times of Renaissance around 1450 to 1600 AD knowledge of tribology increased. The friction experiments and theories by Lamarck da Vinci showed the theoretical proofs of tribology studies [2].

The first Industrial Revolution was considered the age of steam which was characterized by using steam power in transforming the agricultural and industrial sectors. Tribology in the first Industrial Revolution which is estimated around 1750 to 1850 was described to have found improvement in the new gears, journal bearings, and different types of lubricants such as mineral oils, solid lubricants, lubricant formulations, etc.


Followed by the first Industrial Revolution, the second Industrial Revolution was called the Age of Electricity which was at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. This period was characterized by developing the development of industrial manufacturing using electricity and developing railway and steel sectors. Tribology also had a significant revolution during this period which involved identifying the friction wear lubrication relationships, the development of hydrodynamic pressure and bearings, and the formulation of Reynolds theory on lubrication. All these topics formed a stepping stone for tribological improvements.

Fig-2 Schematic representation of tribology in the Industrial Revolution [2]

The third Industrial Revolution was termed the Age of Information which involved computerizing industrial processes. This revolution started in the mid of 20th century and is the first of all generations to utilize the knowledge of information and communication technologies in industries. The automated production systems were developed using the first programmable logic controlling systems. Tribology in the third Industrial Revolution got its existence with an official terminology in 1966. This revolution also expanded the knowledge of tribology in the areas of elastohydrodynamic lubrication and computational and experimental tribology. The theories of adhesion and wear, contact mechanics of surface tribology, new surface modification techniques with surface coatings, low friction bearings, etc. Further, this revolution also gave rise to the scope of studying tribology at the micro and nanoscale.

Currently, we are in the fourth industrial revolution which is called the age of cyber-physical systems. This Industrial Revolution started at the beginning of the 21st century and is mainly characterized by linking real objects and people to the virtual world. The understanding of various technologies like the Internet of Things and integrating them into physical systems. This revolution can be termed has evolution due to the way of understanding the existing system and linking it to the technological aspect of the virtual understanding. In this revolution, tribology is also evolving in explaining its field in different areas of research such as renewable energy via green tribology, space tribology, etc. Further linking tribology in all aspects of the industry through virtual means is another important feature of this revolution.




[2] Ciulli, E., 2019. Tribology and industry: from the origins to 4.0. Frontiers in Mechanical Engineering5, p.55.

I am currently working as a Postgraduate Researcher at the University of Leeds, where I am actively involved in research activities. Prior to this, I successfully completed my master's degree through the renowned Erasmus Mundus joint program, specializing in Tribology and Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from VTU in Belgaum, India. Further I handle the social media pages for Tribonet and I have my youtube channel Tribo Geek.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.