Rise Of Dry Machining Threatens Metalworking Fluids Industry

An alarming trend gaining traction in the metalworking fluids (MWF) industry is a shift towards minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) and dry machining. John Burke, an STLE Fellow and global expert in MWF, outlined this “seemingly growing technology” during a presentation at F+L Week 2017 on “Five Key Trends Leaders Needs To Know About The Future Of Metalworking Fluids.”

Driving this trend, Burke says, are escalating concerns over the environmental impact of lubricants, and success in dry machining at higher temperatures of up to 1800 degrees F.

Dry machining refers to machining without the use of any cutting fluid. Proponents of this approach appreciate the cleaner, hassle free working environment. While metalworking lubricants, coolants and fluids continue to play a vital role in metalworking, but the usual “flood application” of fluids for metal removal, cooling, interim corrosive resistance and protection of tools is being replaced with vacuum to remove chips and air to clean fixtures. New advanced tooling such as ceramic and diamond, and cubic boron nitride – supports this zero lubrication approach with minimal wear.

Burke, who is the global director of Engineering at Houghton International, advises that dry machining is “a trend you should pay close attention to.” It could, he says, prove disastrous for manufacturers and suppliers of MWF.

However, a recent discovery at a forging operation in California may provide some respite for manufacturers and suppliers of MWF. The presence of a highly toxic, carcinogenic by-product – hexavalent chrome – was discovered during dry grinding at extremely high heat. Owing to this discovery, Burke believes we may see a reversal in the shift towards dry machining. A soon to be published paper, demonstrating the ease at which hexavalent chrome can be produced during dry grinding, will have ramifications for the MWF industry, he says.