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Frequently Asked Questions About Metalworking Fluids

Q. What are metalworking fluids?

Metalworking Fluids (MWF) are oils and water-based liquids used to cool and lubricate metal parts when they are being bored, stamped, ground, cut etc. These processes generate lots of heat that needs to be reduced to ensure optimum productivity and better quality parts. The cooling effect from a MWF prolongs the life of a cutting tool and helps to prevent smoking and burning.

Q. Are there different types of MWF and what are they?

There are 4 major types of MWF’s used. These are:

  • Straight Oils – Also known as cutting or neat oils. They have an oily appearance and are not diluted with water and usually contain chlorinated and sulphonated additives.
  • Soluble Oils – They contain up to 85% refined mineral oils as well as emulsifiers and their dilution in water are milky.
  • Semi-Synthetic – These contain a much lower amount of well refined base oil and are similar to soluble oils. Their dilution in water appears translucent.
  • Synthetic – They do not contain any petroleum oil and are the cleanest of the MWF range. They also provide the best heat reduction, prolonged sump life and are transparent when diluted in water.

Q. What are the functions of MWF’s?

  • Cooling – to reduce heat build-up when cutting etc.
  • Lubrication – It helps to reduce friction between the tool and the metal chips that are being removed
  • Corrosion Protection – A good MWF, such as MetPro’s SyntheCut FS should be able to protect the tool and machine from rusting.

Q. Can one MWF be used on top of another?
Unless the products are in the same category, it is not advised to top up with a different type of MWF. A cleaning and dumping procedure will need to be carried out firstly.

Q. How can one tell if a fluid is no longer suitable for use?
There are various signs that a fluid is no longer safe to use. If one or more of the following occur, the fluid should be evaluated and possible replaced

  • Rancid smell
  • Excessive foaming
  • Change in colour of fluid
  • Low sump level
  • Floating objects, such as dirt and/or grid on the fluid
  • Dirty machines
  • Skin irritation of workers
  • Tool failure
  • Bacterial growth
  • Stained metal or tool

Q. What are the factors to be considered when selecting a MWF?

  • Toxicity of the fluid component – Avoid carcinogenic components such as PAH-containing oils, chlorinated paraffins, secondary amines, nitrites and biocides that release formaldehyde. MetPro’s SyntheCut and SyntheCool are fully synthetic and non-hazardous.
  • Flammability – Straight oils usually contains mineral oils which are solvent refined and hence pose a fire risk.

Q. What are the health concerns involved when working with MWF’s?
Dermatitis is the most common health concerns with people working with MWF’s through skin and airborne exposures. Others include asthma, irritation of the respiratory tract, pneumontitis, hypersensitivity and even cancer. These are possible if health and safety regulations by the manufacturer and workers aren’t adhered to. Our Synthe Range is safe to use and hence environmentally friendly.

Q. What work controls need to be in place to reduce the employee exposure?

  • Personal hygiene – This is very important in preventing skin disorders. Data sheets should be adhered to.
  • Barrier creams – They help to prevent contact with harmful agents from the MWF. Creams should be selected based on the characteristics of the fluid used
  • Housekeeping
  • Periodic inspection and maintenance
  • Supervision