Flood coolant systems, where a constant stream of coolant is applied during cutting applications, have long been the choice of manufacturers to lubricate, disperse heat, and remove chips to prevent tool wear and improve part quality. Flood cooling requires enough fluid to immerse the entire cutting zone completely. While flood cooling works, premier manufacturing organizations must continuously look at ways to improve their production methods to stay competitive in a global market.
Manufacturers implementing Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL) practices save money, better protect the environment, and create a healthier workplace without sacrificing production quality. With new fluid technologies, greater demand, sustainability and safety initiatives, supply chain issues, and rising disposal costs, manufacturers can gain several benefits by optimizing fluid consumption.
What is MQL
Minimum Quantity Lubrication, or MQL, is precisely what the name implies. MQL uses a small amount of a rich fluid to reduce the friction between a cutting tool and the workpiece. The amount of fluid is somewhat subjective and will depend greatly on the materials, processes, and tools.
MQL uses a compressed air system to atomize lubricant into an airflow, or a mist, that is applied directly to the cutting tool with a small nozzle. The goal of MQL is simple: use just enough fluid to thoroughly lubricate the operation with the least amount of airflow needed to carry the droplets to the tool. This keeps the cut and tool well lubricated while minimizing any excess aerosol that could be generated.
MQL and Reduced Production Costs
Use less fluid, reduce costs – makes sense, right? But there is more to it than just buying less fluid. MQL practices reduce maintenance, cleaning, and fluid waste disposal costs. Workers spend less time cleaning machines, which results in greater machine uptime and manhours focused on production. Since MQL fluids don’t adhere to the chips, they can be removed more easily and provide a higher scrap value. Additionally, lower fluid use can extend tool life.
MQL and Longer Tool Life
We know water-based coolants are very effective in removing heat. But they may be too effective. The tool’s cutting edge gets very hot in the cut and is immediately plunged into the coolant. This repeated thermal cycling causes the tool to weaken and crack on the cutting edge. Flood cooling can also corrode the machine, tool, and other accessories faster.
MQL focuses on heat management and the elimination of frictional heat. The idea is to lubricate and cool the cut to the extent necessary without using any more fluid than is needed. In addition, with less fluid, operators gain better visibility of the cutting operation to ensure better quality control.
MQL and Sustainability
MQL eliminates fluid waste, and MQL oils are non-toxic and biodegradable. MQL also reduces overall energy and water use, which can result in a 15% lifecycle cost reduction compared to a conventional high-volume water-based coolant.
MQL and a Safer Workplace
Flood coolant creates a mess, and there is no way around it. Coolant ends up covering machines, flooring, and finished parts. Not only does it create slip and fall hazards, but continuous contact with flood coolants also has several adverse health effects for workers ranging from skin irritation or dermatitis to bronchitis and asthma.
The extreme reduction of fluid significantly reduces health hazards caused by metalworking fluid emissions both into the air and on employees’ skin. When done correctly, MQL fluids do not spread throughout the work area. This makes the whole shop cleaner and dramatically decreases worker exposure to metalworking fluids.
MQL is more process sensitive than flood-cooling. There is a “sweet spot” where MQL works well and optimal results are achieved. The good news is that this zone is often large and overlaps with the machining settings used with flood coolants.
Impact Fluids can design a fluid reduction plan, help you accurately implement MQL throughout your facility, and ensure you maintain your fluid reduction goals. MQL offers significant advantages to your business, the environment, and employees. Whether you are starting MQL from scratch or looking to improve your current MQL operations, let’s talk. Contact us today!
Impact Fluids is a merger of several companies to bring their collective knowledge and expertise together as one entity for better service to our customers. Before the founding of Impact Fluids, we were a combination of three companies: Great Lakes Industrial Service (GLIS), Curtis Fluids (CF), and Advanced Metalworking Solutions (AMS).