Coolant Science

These two words aren't often used together, at least not in a lot of shops and plants around the country. One reason is, scientists haven't often looked at metalworking fluids and coolants with an eye toward discovering the things about coolants that end-users need to know.

Columns From: 5/1/1997 Modern Machine Shop, ,

These two words aren't often used together, at least not in a lot of shops and plants around the country. One reason is, scientists haven't often looked at metalworking fluids and coolants with an eye toward discovering the things about coolants that end-users need to know.

One research project, however, is moving precisely in this direction. It is being conducted by the Machining Xcellence Division of the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing Sciences, Inc. (Cincinnati, Ohio) under a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal is to develop a guide for "environmentally friendly" usage of these fluids based on scientific data about their performance. Such data will help shops select the fluid that improves productivity and reduces costs as well.

A fifty-member Industrial Advisory Group representing users (from plants of all sizes), fluid manufacturers, machine tool builders, federal and state agencies, as well as universities has been reviewing progress and suggesting direction on what needs to be done.

One thing this group asked for was a set of standard test methods for evaluating the effect of a fluid on a metal removal process. A laboratory (or users in their own plants) could conduct these tests and be able to interpret the results intelligently and consistently. To date, efforts have concentrated on developing tests that reveal the effect a fluid has on cutting force values, because these forces influence tool life, workpiece surface quality, dimensional accuracy, and so on. Milling has been studied first, but turning and grinding are soon to follow.

Eventually, these tests will help the industry rate and categorize coolant performance. Looking for a fluid that gives high lubricity? Check those grouped together based on the test results. Looking for a fluid with excellent cooling properties? Check those in that group.

Plans call for developing a similar, scientific approach to rating how a fluid impacts health and safety concerns, how easy or difficult it is to maintain, and how readily it can be disposed of safely. Today, few shops are in a position to select coolants based on these factors, or even one or two. The consequence of unscientific coolant selection is often waste, environmental harm, or reduced competitiveness.

The program is about half way through a three-year effort, but the advisory group is still taking members. Contact IAMS at (513) 948-2000 or look up their home page on the Internet at http://www.iams.org.

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