The management of cutting fluids should not be considered as a ‘necessary evil’ by manufacturing companies, especially those working in high added value areas, with exotic (expensive) materials being cut. Steve Coull, Managing Director of Jemtech (UK) explains why good housekeeping is essential to performance, HSE, productivity and profitability.

Good management of cutting fluids benefits every department within a business. Production gains from increased tool life, reduced machine downtime and reduced scrap and rework. Purchasing will see reductions in consumable budgets whilst health, environmental and safety procedures will be enhanced. However, many businesses do not recognise the potential of good quality fluid management, with some ignoring it all together. In truth, no fluid management is better than poor management. At least it gives you a baseline, whereas poor management can be moving you further away from where you need to be, without you even knowing it!

Through our partnership with Blaser Swisslube we have many years of experience in cutting fluid technology and the correct management of it. And what we see when correct management is in place are increased fluid life (reducing usage by 15 – 20 per cent), significantly increased tool life (typically 10-20 per cent), especially when machining exotic materials, and improved process security, which in turn leads to reductions in scrap and rework. Also of significance is the lowering of waste volume of around 25 per cent. With disposal costs running at £500/2000 litres and a typical user producing 20 000 to 30 000 litres of waste per year from cutting fluids, the cost and environmental advantages are plain to see.

To achieve these results cutting fluid housekeeping needs to be undertaken in a positive manner, by factory-trained technicians, either in-house employees or provided by suppliers such as Jemtech. Throughout the process there are many pitfalls that can so easily be avoided. For instance, poor fluid management will inevitably lead to the concentration of the coolant being inconsistent. The weakening of the strength of the fluid leads to much lower lubricity and the risk of tool breakage. Going in the opposite direction and increasing the volume of concentrate above the recommended levels is simply wasting money as there is no perceivable production benefit of doing so.

Another area that may affect the quality/performance of cutting fluid is a drive from purchasing to reduce costs. As has already been highlighted, these cost savings can be achieved through good fluid management, but if the decision is taken to reduce purchasing costs by buying cheaper in an attempt to deliver the same results this can lead to significant issues in production.

If we take a typical machine tool for high value, precision aerospace components costing around £350,000 including the machine purchase, training, tooling package, software and installation, this is a major investment in anyone’s terms. The coolant tank on a machine of this type would hold 1000 litres, requiring 80 litres of concentrate. The cost to fill this tank using Blaser Swisslube products would typically be £400 or £5/litre. By switching to a product at, say, £2/litre you would save £160 on a £350,000 investment! However, by using a low cost product you are restricting the use of the machine tools full potential.

The question that needs to be asked, especially in the aerospace sector is: Can you justify the potential cost of a tap breaking in a component manufactured from expensive (limited availability) material, which has had many hours of machined value added to it for the sake of saving £240 on cutting fluid?

This is why management of cutting fluids is so vital to the well being of a production environment. Users must look at value rather than purely price and ensure that they are achieving the maximum they can from their cutting fluid, in terms of tool life, fluid life, waste reduction and finally cost benefits. The complete control of cutting fluids is vital to the production and financial performance of any business involved in metalcutting. It is control that will deliver consistently high quality components, on time, and profitably.

At Jemtech this is a service that we feel is central to our business and is the reason why we offer it as part of our bespoke service packages.