2016.04.04 Biocides and biostats

5 things to think about - biocide-free metalworking fluid

This is a guest post by Anders Hultgren, Regional Sales Manager Nordics at Houghton International. Anders has been working with metalworking fluids for over 25 years in positions including Head of R&D at Shell. To contact Anders, send a mail to Anders.Hultgren [at] houghtonintl.com or a message via LinkedIn.

A metalworking fluid's contents – or rather what it does not contain – has always been an important parameter when selecting metalworking fluid. In view of the individual properties of several of the integral components, this is perhaps not particularly strange when what we are endeavouring to achieve is a good work environment with health risks that are as low as possible.

Today's discussion largely concerns the presence of biocides in the products that are used – should we retain them, and if so, which type?

In this contribution I would like to take the opportunity to share what I regard as the most important factors to take into account when you are considering the issue.

#1 How far do you want to go?

Is your aim to operate entirely biocide-free or is it a specific type of biocide that you want to avoid? Today's discussion often confuses ”biocide-free” with ”free from formaldehyde releasers”, however, the biocide category encompasses a large group of active components with the principal function of minimising the growth of microorganisms. Purely in terms of function, satisfactory products are available today, regardless of how far you want go, but in all likelihood it will have an impact on the metalworking fluid's price.

#2 The metalworking fluid system's design and function

Do you have a central system or machines with separate tanks? Is the circulation good? Do you have equipment that helps to separate impurities, such as solid particles and tramp oil? Clearly, a metalworking fluid’s function get better if the system has a good circulation and if it is kept as pure as possible. The better the conditions, the greater the chance that you will succeed when changing metalworking fluid.

#3 Maintenance and handling

Regardless of how good the conditions are, it is extremely important that you maintain your metalworking fluid well, with a beneficial, uniform concentration being the absolutely most important factor. Another important thing to think about is to schedule the changes & cleaning, and also to have clear procedures for how they are to be implemented. To some extent it concerns prevention before you get problems with microorganisms. Appoint one or a couple of people to take responsibility for maintaining the metalworking fluid. Make it an additional task and ensure that they receive regular training from your metalworking fluid supplier within the framework of the company's skills development programme.

#4 Alternatives to biocides

Biocides are used as a chemical way to combat microorganisms together with what are known as biostatic components. However, there are many other methods to rely on. Trials has have been conducted with pasteurising (heating) of the metalworking fluid and having the mix pass through special metal filters. However, UV-technology is the method which has proven to work best and which is also starting to become increasingly common.

#5 Choice of supplier

Obviously, I would like to advocate the company that I represent, but if we are going to take a hard-nosed view, then what is most important is that you select a supplier that you regard as competent and that engages in product development, and that has a representative who you trust. Supplying metalworking fluid is not just about selling, but also about being a collaborative partner in order to create a safer and more cost-effective production process.


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