Good management of cutting fluids benefits every department within a business. In truth, no fluid management is better than poor management. At least it gives you a baseline, whereas poor management can be moving you further away from where you need to be, without you even knowing it!
Image: Steve Coull, managing director, Jemtech (UK)
Through our partnership with Blaser Swisslube, we have many years of experience in cutting fluid technology and its management. When correct management is in place, we see increased fluid life (reducing usage by 15 -20 per cent), significantly increased tool life (typically 10-20 per cent) – especially when machining exotic materials – and improved process security, which, in turn, leads to reductions in scrap and rework. Also of significance is the lowering of waste volume of around 25 per cent. With disposal costs running at £500/2,000 litres and a typical user producing 20,000 to 30,000 litres of waste per year from cutting fluids, the cost and environmental advantages are plain to see. Cutting fluid housekeeping needs to be tackled in a positive manner, by factory-trained technicians – either in-house employees or suppliers, such as Jemtech. Throughout the process, there are pitfalls that can easily be avoided. For instance, poor fluid management will inevitably lead to inconsistent concentrations. A weak mix leads to much lower lubricity and the risk of tool breakage, while a rich mix above recommended levels is simply wasting money, as there is no perceivable production benefit.
Another area that may affect the quality/performance of cutting fluid is a drive from purchasing to reduce costs. Buying cheaper, in an attempt to deliver the same results, can lead to significant issues in production.
If we take a typical machine tool for high value, precision aerospace components, costing around £350,000, including the machine purchase, training, tooling package, software and installation, this is a major investment in anyone's terms. The coolant tank on a machine of this type would hold 1,000 litres, requiring 80 litres of concentrate. The cost to fill this tank using Blaser Swisslube products would typically be £400 or £5/litre. By switching to a product at, say, £2/litre, you would save £160 on a £350,000 investment! Moreover, you are compromising the machine tool's full potential.
The question that needs to be asked, especially in the aerospace sector, is: can you justify the potential cost of a tap breaking in a component manufactured from expensive (limited availability) material, which has had many hours of machined value added to it for the sake of saving £240 on cutting fluid?
Users must look at value, rather than purely price, and ensure that they are getting the maximum possible from their cutting fluid, in terms of tool life, fluid life, waste reduction and cost benefits. The complete control of cutting fluids is vital to the production and financial performance of any business involved in metalcutting. It is control that will deliver consistently high quality components, on time, and profitably.
First published in Machinery, July 2010