Minimum Quantity Lubricants
By: Ron Quaile
Modern Machine Shop.com
We have all been conditioned to keep cars cool by filling the radiator with coolant. Much the same preconditioning has been applied to manufacturing, where coolant is routinely used to address the thermal stability of the machine tool, cutting tool and workpiece, and also to remove chips. But is coolant as essential to every machining process as it is to a car?
The cost of coolant is approximately 15 percent of the life-cycle operational cost of a machining process. This cost continues to rise. It includes the costs associated with procurement, filtration, separation, disposal and record keeping for the EPA. Already the costs for disposal of coolant are higher than the initial cost of the coolant, and they are still rising.
Even stricter regulations are under consideration for coolant usage, disposal and worker protection. As a result of all of this, coolant in wet machining operations is a crucial economic issue. An alternative, machining with “minimum quantity lubricant,” or MQL, is gaining acceptance as a cost-saving and environmentally friendly option in place of some wet machining processes. MQL permits dramatic cuts in coolant costs, while protecting workers and the environment. It also delivers improved tool life and surface finish—even though tool life is often the reason why wet machining is applied. MQL can deliver better life for two reasons: (1) the optimum…
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