The Changing Role of Today's Metalworking Fluids

Posted by Mary Kimbro on Mar 26, 2020 12:08:18 PM

Metalworking lubricants and coolants are essential to maintaining the efficiency of the machining process.  New technologies are available that provide improved tool life, longer sump life, little to no odor and increased efficiencies.

Machine set-up and maintenance should always include changing fluid, but also choosing the most efficient fluid for the operation.  Matching the latest formulations to the performance requirements of the machine and application is key to maintaining and improving a shop’s ROI.

Metalworking Fluids Affect Your Applications

Machining centers can be utilized for a variety of operations, from drilling, tapping, turning and honing.  Any of these procedures will stress the tool, workpiece and the Changing Role of Today’s Metalworking Fluidslubricant.  That is why the compatibility of the fluid is integral to the machining process.

The chemistry of metalworking fluids typically includes different types of additives, base stocks and water.  When combined, the fluid’s lubrication and the cooling property of water provide for a smooth operation and reduces the transmission of heat.  The ultimate formulation of the fluid must be matched to the material of the machining process, type of tool and the machine performing the operation.  The more sophisticated fluid manufacturers formulate coolants for specific applications, materials and cutting tools.

Today’s Enhanced Metalworking Fluids

Metalworking fluids have come a long way over the past several decades. As machining processes have become more complex and with more chemistry types available, metalworking fluids have morphed into complex formulations and are relied upon to do so many more things than just lubricate.

Straight Oils

Straight oils are made up of oil and chemicals and are meant to be applied to the process as received. They are mainly used for very difficult processes that require more lubrication and provide good sump-life, corrosion protection, and lubrication. Their downfall is fluid consumption costs.  A subsection within straight oils is Swiss Cutting Oils which are ideal for the medical and aerospace industries.

Emulsifiable Oils

Emulsifiable oils are essentially straight oils with the addition of chemicals called emulsifiers that help disperse the oil in water. This class of fluid has its place in the market as it tends to be more cost effective and have the highest lubrication of the water-based products.

Synthetic Coolants

As machining processes continue to increase in speed, metalworking fluid formulators continue to increase the amount of water in their formulations to the point they no longer contain oil at all. These are known as synthetic metalworking fluids and are used in processes that generate extreme heat, like surface grinding. They rely heavily on water-soluble corrosion inhibitors, and lubrication from chemicals that have a cloud point. Chemicals with a cloud point are soluble in water at room temperature.

Semi-Synthetic Coolants

As more and more chemicals are developed for emulsifiable oils and synthetic fluids, metalworking fluid formulators search for the best balance between lubrication and Metalworking Fluidscooling. Emulsifiable oils provided the lubrication while synthetic fluids provided the most cooling.  Semi-synthetic fluids are a formulation that combines soluble oil, water soluble chemicals and balance the oil and water almost evenly.  Most top of the line products available in the market today are semi-synthetic fluids and there continues to be much research and development in this area.

Hybrid Semi-Synthetic

Hybrid Semi-Synthetic fluids are newer to the market and don’t fit into any of the categories discussed above. This newer type of fluid relies on breakthrough technology that offers productivity unparalleled in the market today.  Use of mineral oil alone or even with older lubrication technology won’t provide the type of performance these new hybrid products can offer.

Honing

Honing lubricants are essential to remove heat during the honing operation and to prevent the abrasive from picking up chips and welding to the part.  A high-quality honing oil is formulated with an oxidatively stable base oil and a high-performance additive package.

Other Specialty Fluids

Premium quality specialty products such as tapping, sawing and grinding fluids are integral to the operation of any shop.

  • Tapping fluids are designed to be applied directly to the tool-workpiece interface and provide high performance properties to improve threading accuracy, extend tool life, and improve surface finishes.
  • Sawing fluid is a general purpose semi-synthetic fluid formulated to provide both lubricating and cooling properties in metal sawing applications.
  • Grinding fluids that are specifically designed for general purpose grinding applications are oil-free allowing for extended sump life with no sticky or oily residues left on machines or parts.
  • Synthetic minimum quantity lubricants are designed to minimize the amount of fluid used in both cutting and forming applications.

Conclusion

The metalworking fluids industry is changing.  Faster and more high-tech machinery is forcing fluid manufacturers to rethink their formulations to produce fluids that provide increased efficiencies that can be tied to higher profits.  Environmental awareness, the need for varying fluid type options and the high demand for custom formulations are some of the leading change agents in the industry. 

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Today's Metalworking Fluids

Topics: Metalworking Coolants & Fluids

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