Metal Working Lubricants – A History of Industrial Lubrication

Lubricants, fluids and coolants regularly used in the metal working industry are highly specialised and designed to perform specific tasks. In addition to metal forming, metal working includes a fairly broad range of tasks – including polishing, cutting, embossing and grinding.

Metal working lubricants are used for several reasons. While one of the primary functions is to increase lubrication, they can also reduce thermal deformation, improve the overall finish of a metal surface and help to effectively remove loose metal chips from the cutting area.

Lubricants can be used to carry abrasive powders, when used for polishing or lapping of metals. They are effective in acting as a cooling agent when used in grinding applications and they also prevent certain materials from sticking to surfaces. Lubricants can help reduce the effects of corrosion and rust.

And perhaps most importantly, the correct use of metal working lubricants will help to reduce wear and tear, prolong the life of tools and other moving parts, reduce the time spent on maintenance – and of course ultimately ensure a company’s profitability over the long term.

Different lubricants possess different properties and features. Features that might be important when choosing a lubricant include resistance to heat, oxidation inhibiting ability and biodegradable ability. Flash point is also an important consideration – the flash point is the lowest temperature at which liquid can emit enough vapours to cause an ignition.

Metal working lubricants come in three types: greases, fluids and solid lubricants. Each has different properties and can be used most effectively in different industrial applications. Which lubricant to use will depend on several factors – the characteristics of any die used, the temperature and the overall processing conditions.

Solid lubricants are chemical compounds such as Boron Nitride Gasket and often have such qualities as being able to keep out moisture, reduce friction and generally reduce wear and tear.

Some industries need specialised lubricants – the transportation, aerospace and automotive industries are some of the biggest users. The steel forging industry commonly uses graphite based lubricants which is often graphite immersed in oil or water. This type of lubricant also has the advantage of having no fumes and is able to keep the steel forge and surrounding area clean.

Lubricants used in metalwork vary widely in their chemical composition as well as their uses. Lubricants may contain such varied ingredients as mineral or petroleum oils, natural oils, waxes or paraffin.

Some lubricants contain a high percentage of water and are generally known in the industry as HWCF – high water content fluids. Synthetic fluids generally provide an effective resistance to heat as well as excellent cooling abilities; they don’t contain a petroleum or mineral oil base.

They may not be the most glamorous part of the metal working industry – but without a doubt, the indispensable lubricant is certainly one of the most important.

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