Sustainable lubrication without compromising on performance
Sustainability is high on the global agenda right now. Reflecting the central role of industrial lubricants in machining operations, it’s key for manufacturers to know how to choose sustainable metalworking fluids, while doing so makes not only environmental but also financial sense, says Songul Facey
Given the vital role of industrial lubricants in machining operations, choosing more environmentally-friendly metalworking fluids (MWFs) can be an important step towards creating a more sustainable full product lifecycle. Understandably, there may be concerns around whether the pursuit of sustainability goals will result in productivity being sacrificed. Thankfully the answer is no: sustainable MWF products are coming to market that are capable of delivering superior performance to meet today’s requirements, reducing the use of harmful chemicals while increasing process efficiency. The key for manufacturers is knowing how to choose products that contain the least possible hazardous components and have a comparatively lower toxicity; understanding why using more sustainable MWFs makes commercial as well as environmental sense; and recognising the continued importance of good system design and maintenance.
Make sustainable choices and avoid pictograms
When seeking to identify the optimum product, look closely at the base oils and additives that the product contains and assess whether, and to what extent, these ingredients could be harmful to the health and safety of workers handling them or working nearby, and to the wider environment. To put it simply, manufacturers should look specifically for products that do not have any precautionary statements or hazard pictograms, which will easily be seen on the product packaging label and Safety Data Sheet.. And as a general rule, avoid anything that contains nitrites, sodium nitrate, alkanol amines, secondary amines, PAHs, PTBBA and chlorinated paraffin, phenols, boron or formaldehyde-releasing biocides. It’s also important to be sure that the biocide that is used complies with current regulations and is used in the right proportion. If it exceeds limits, there is a risk it could cause skin irritation or more severe dermatological problems among workers. Flammability, resistance to evaporation and liability to microbiological formations occurring are key considerations too. Fire risk is particularly high in pure-cutting and solvent-containing products, although soluble lubricants are not risk-free either. Products with a high oil content tend to have a high incidence of water evaporation as well, and this can result in permanent health damage, increase consumption of lubricants and create grease and dirt in the workshop environment.