Previously, we’ve noted metalworking fluid (MWF) will comprise about 2% of your spend but affect 80% of your production activity. But any number of expenses touch many aspects of production. Does coolant choice really make that much of a difference?
The benefits you can achieve and problems you can solve with the best MWF choice are numerous. Let’s look at a few:
The safety difference
We’re using safety as a catch-all for everything from rashes to fire hazards. Almost all fluids involve some safety tradeoffs. Using them means either accepting a level of risk or spending time and money eliminating the risk. This expense may come from using a more costly MWF or an indirect control of the problem.
For example, if you’re concerned about misting and flammability from a straight oil, you might choose to use a soluble oil, and your per-gallon cost will decrease. But instead of fire and slip hazards, you may soon be dealing with smoke and will definitely need to spend more time monitoring your mix for biological contamination, water hardness, etc.
Advanced semi-synthetics eliminate most safety concerns, and since most of them are formulated for a specific application, they tend to be much closer to the “fill it and forget it” ease of straight oils.
The high-speed difference
Today’s high-speed machining processes can reach 2,000°F and 200,000 PSI, requiring high lubricity and excellent cooling ability. The simplest way to achieve this? A mix with a significant amount of water, such as a soluble oil or a synthetic. After all, water is inexpensive, abundant and an excellent conductor of heat.
But these come with tradeoffs, too. As mentioned above, soluble oils require careful monitoring; synthetics tend to have poorer lubricity and leave sticky residues.
The management and monitoring difference
Getting production right requires getting the chemical qualities of your MWF mix right. It also means heading off bacteria and fungi. All this carries a labor cost, testing costs, and the cost of replacing compromised fluid. It also costs time for your machinists or supervisors and may take a machine out of production temporarily.
Few products can eliminate management entirely, but formulas which are biostable and feature advanced chemical engineering can prevent biological contamination and keep other fluid-wrangling work to a bare minimum.
The cost difference
This difference is what it really comes down to. It encompasses everything on this list as well as some we haven’t mentioned. Each MWF has benefits, but most come with some gaps between the qualities they deliver and the qualities that will be perfect for your situation. Each gap creates additional costs. Insufficient cooling or lubricity can lead to rework and shorter tool life; a fluid that works beautifully in the machine but has low operator tolerance can increase worker’s comp costs and cause other labor problems.
MWF products which eliminate all gaps will usually be specialized and created with state-of-the-art chemical engineering. This likely means a higher per-gallon cost. However, if your shop is safer, experiences longer tool life, and less time is spent on getting formulations right and fighting germs, your per-piece cost will decline and more than make up for the additional per-gallon price.
Remember that 2% spend we mentioned? With the right formulation, your spend on MWF can be a lever that moves the cost of 80% of your production activities lower. And that will definitely make a big difference in the short and long runs.