Not all metalworking shops deal with the same materials and applications, so it makes sense that metalworking fluid isn’t a one-size-fits-all purchase. Some shops require fluid that can meet the strict standards of specific aerospace customers; others can be more flexible with what they choose to use in their metalworking applications. What’s important to consider is how metalworking fluid affects machine performance, and the fluid you choose can either keep your machines running smoothly — or require you to constantly change the fluid and replace machine parts.

The problem with foam

Using the wrong metalworking fluid can create foam. If you have fine foam that looks like shaving cream or the head on Guinness beer, that’s caused mechanically by pumps or machines. Foam can be difficult to break up and run coolant out on the floor, creating a safety concern around the machine. The other problem caused by foam is that, if you try to cut with it, it will not carry the heat away from the tool and cause it to wear down faster.

Rusting machinery

Another problem that can arise with the wrong or low-quality metalworking fluid is that it can create rust on the machinery. Corrosion can form on chucks, vises, and ball screws the table and other surfaces in the machine and also on the metal being machined.

Sticky switches

Poor metalworking fluid can also leave residue on the machine. This can cause the plates to get sticky and gums up the switches. If it gets really bad, the residue can build up in tool holders and the tools could fall out, slowing production, breaking inserts or drill tips on the tools, and potentially injuring workers.

Foul odors

While odors aren’t strictly related to machine performance, it does affect operator performance, which in turn impacts production. The odor might be caused by the metalworking fluid itself, or from the machining lubricants leaking into the coolant. Metalworking fluids tend to start smelling bad as it ages, not maintained properly, and as workers treat sumps poorly by using it as a substitute for a trash can or spittoon. The metalworking fluid used needs to resist contamination to prevent this performance issue.

Increasing tool life with the correct metalworking fluid

What it really boils down to is choosing a metalworking fluid that increases tool life, which in turn impacts how well your machines perform. A lot of shops aren’t able to run tests to establish tool life because their runs are anything from 10 to 100 pieces. But for larger facilities that machine the same part by the thousands, tool life is something that can be tested and measured much more easily. Regardless of the size of the facility and the jobs being run, there is a difference when you’re using the right fluid.

To make sure you’re choosing the best fluid for your applications, it helps to go back to basics. Consider the machine you’re using: lathe or machining center? Grinder? Then look at the materials you’re machining, like steel, cast iron, aluminum, alloys, or other materials. What this will tell you is if the materials are very hard and brittle or soft and gummy, which will establish some requirements for the metalworking fluid you select.

Next, you’ll look at speeds and feed, and the type of machining you’re doing, like drilling or milling. These require different lubricities. For example, if you’re planning to drill a hole six inches deep in soft material, you’ll need a product with a lot of lubricity.

Finally, the last thing to look at are application guidelines from your customers. If you’re in aerospace applications, your customers may require that you use certain types of metalworking fluid to get the best results for them.

The bottom line is, if you want your machines to perform well, you need to extend tool life. The best way to do that is to ensure that you’re choosing the right metalworking fluid for the application, materials, and machines.

For more information or for help determining which fluid is best for your shop, call +1 800-537-3365 or email us at [email protected].