A guide to metalworking lubricants

While there are wide range of different types of metalworking lubricants and fluids, they all have an important role to play. Sometimes referred to as MFWs, metalworking fluids or lubricants are defined as collection of oils and other kinds of liquid that are designed to facilitate the processes in industrial operations. The fluids are designed to lubricate and cool machine parts while reducing friction and wear during many different processes including cutting, machining. and grounding to name but a few.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the types of metalworking lubricants being used, as well as some specialist solutions designed to meet different kinds of operations where metalworking process are a vital part of production.

Understanding the four main metalworking classes

Although a multitude of different additives may be included in metalworking lubricants and fluids, there are four distinct classes that they can usually be divided into. These are as follows:

Straight oils

Also known as cutting oils or neat oils, these versatile oils may be made using petroleum, animal, vegetable or even marine oils. They are never diluted and, as such, are typically used in machining processes categorised as heavy duty. Extreme pressure (EP) agents are often included in straight oils to help enhance their performance.

Synthetic fluids

No petroleum oil is present in a synthetic metalworking fluid. These lubricants are diluted with basic synthetics, inorganic and organic salts to create a completely clear solution. These fluids are used for continually dampening the workpiece as they can prevent smoke and mist during grinding processes. Over time, synthetic fluids sometimes be harsh on the tool, causing corrosion.

Semi-synthetic fluids

These oils contain between five to 30 per cent pure petroleum and are diluted with 30 to 50 per cent water. These lubricants usually contain multiple additives – for example, sulphur, chlorine and fatty acids. They work to lubricate and cool and can commonly be found used in most metal-cutting processes.

Soluble oils

Sometimes called emulsifiable oils, these oils are designed to both lubricate and cool, especially during grinding and cutting processes. They can prevent welding occurring between the workpiece and cutting tools. They also protect tools from wearing. Soluble oils typically contain between 40 to 70 per cent pure petroleum oils and emulsifiers to help the oil spread, which gives them their milky appearance.

Getting to grips with machining lubricants and their benefits

Metalworking and general machining operations must rely on machinery managing both extreme heat and pressure. As a result, they must always be efficiently lubricated.

Cutting fluids can ensure that a machine or metalworking plant can operate effectively at optimum output. As high-quality specialist lubricants, they can safeguard cutting tools that work with a wide range of different metals and provide increased productivity for a manufacturing or industrial enterprise.

Forming fluids work to optimise operational effectiveness, they can lubricate machinery designed for stamping, bending, shaping and stretching and are specifically formulated so they can protect industrial equipment, helping to reduce downtime and lower maintenance costs.

Specialist metalworking lubricants are also offered, like aluminium rolling fluids, for example. These fluids are designed for enterprises that manufacture aluminium sheets and plates that possess high-quality edges, have no defects like staining and have uniform width and thickness. Such work requires precise but durable metalworking machinery, and aluminium rolling fluids are the answer to keep them in top condition and working effectively.

Today, there are also metalworking lubricants that are entirely free from solvents and of any kind. These water-based metalworking fluids have become a game-changer for many industrial markets that must meet specific requirements.

These products include water-based ranges that provide a wide range of environmental and performance-related benefits. As well as meeting the demands of regulators, these fluids offer enhanced efficiency, cleaner machinery and equipment and reduced long-term costs for maintenance.

Working with metalworking lubricants

While these specialist solutions can help enhance the lifespan of equipment and improve workplace health and safety substantially, exposure to these fluids can potentially carry severe health risks. For example, it is widely recognised that inhalation of fumes or skin contact with metalworking fluids can lead to a variety of medical conditions. As a result, users must always adhere to the ‘Good Practice Guide for Safe Handling and Disposal or Metalworking Fluids’ established by the UK’s Lubricants Association.

Metalworking lubrication solutions for every application

An extensive array of lubricants is available for metalworking equipment that provide multiple protective benefits. Whether an operation involves sawing, turning, drilling, or milling, turning a solution exists to safeguard equipment from friction, excessive heat, pressure, undue wear, corrosion and contamination. These lubricants also offer a host of advantages to the companies that use them, including boosting productivity, extended active service life of equipment and machinery, less operational downtime and lower maintenance costs.

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