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Coolants: Evolving to Support a More Healthful Machining Environment?

In CNC automation, knowledge of machine tool coolants is ever-evolving. At Tag Team Manufacturing, we have a stake in quality, including the environmental and health aspects of the materials used throughout U.S. manufacturing. Today we offer a rundown of the safety and performance improvements in coolants. 

Coolants Are Essential

Metal cutting would be impossible without coolants of some type. Coolants are essential for moderating the temperature of tools, chips, and workpieces.

Yet a big concern surrounding coolants is whether they are safe for workers and the environment. Can coolants work well—without compromising health and safety? The answer is complicated, but progress is being made.

Mineral or Vegetable?

Innovations in cutting fluids are solving workplace hygiene problems related to tramp oils, by improving filtration performance. Traditional, petroleum-based cooling fluids would attract bacteria, as tramp oil mixed with debris tended to form a film on them. Managers would apply antiseptics, but those chemicals introduced further environmental health and safety issues, and could compromise metalworking performance.

Today’s coolant makers put an emphasis on vegetable emulsions in place of the traditional petroleum-derived fluids. Companies sell these newer products based on the fluids’ growing reputation for improved outcomes on the shop floors. It turns out the benefits of the innovations are environmental as well.

Beyond the Cheap Chlorine Mixes

Product developers once brought chlorinated paraffin into cooling fluids meant for application in nickel-based metals and stainless steel. The additive’s purpose was to bond under pressure, and create a lubricating film capable of withstanding high heat.

Chlorine alternatives, such as sulfur and phosphorous, tend to cost more. Today’s manufacturers avoid chlorine ingredients, and offset extra costs by recycling the fluids. Recycling systems are available from Eriez, PRAB, and Canada’s Custom Coolant Equipment corporation.

Additionally, we’re seeing innovative, ester-based coolants that take U.S. manufacturing workers’ safety and well-being to higher levels. These products significantly cut down on fume release, or misting. This is the way of the future, as Canadian suppliers recommend chlorine-free solutions, and in light of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent moves to restrict chlorinated paraffins in fluids marketed for manufacturing in USA workplaces.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Ester

The early, natural vegetable ester fluids lacked staying power. And, like petroleum-based fluids, they had an undesirable smell. Bio-stability was a key issue for the emerging products, because bacteria were attracted to the oils. But as Condat and others today develop synthetic esters, the chemical makeup makes these fluids practically bio-resistant.

Products based on vegetable esters, including Vasco, cost more up front, but pay off in performance. There is also Condat’s innovative MECAGREEN line. It uses a high-performance mix of synthetic, vegetable-based esters. Tool life is lengthened up to 20%, and the amount of product used can involve savings as much as 40% relative to petroleum-based fluids. Bonus improvements include smaller amounts of residue on parts, ease of cleanup—and a measurable difference in workplace skin issues.

Catch Up With Tag Team Today

Tag Team Manufacturing is an innovative CNC manufacturing company, dedicated to continuous improvement in the process of CNC machining.  Call us at 303-841-5697, or toll free at 866-915-2058.

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Tag Team Manufacturing