Sustainability in Machining - dummies

Sustainability in Machining

By Kip Hanson

Everyone’s concerned about the environment. After all, an ice cube the size of Delaware fell into the ocean, and the planet just had the hottest June on record — for the third year in a row. Whether you believe in global warming or not, few would argue that pollution and wastefulness are bad, and that lowering our collective carbon footprint is a worthy goal.

An increasing number of machine tool builders think so. Not only are their products becoming more energy efficient, but so are their factories — a few of them have been built from the ground up recently with the environment in mind. To shops that are focusing their energies on getting parts out the door, the energy consumed by their CNC machines is probably a distant concern; who cares how many kilowatt-hours were used making them?

Still, electricity costs add up, especially for shops with dozens of machine tools running around the clock. And if the shop maintains a constant air temperature and humidity level at all times (something all machine shops should do), the monthly bill is likely to give even the most profligate shop owner indigestion. Perhaps you don’t have the cash right now to replace the shop’s old energy hogs with more efficient versions, but you might think about adding solar — there’s a lot of room up there on the top of the building. At the very least, keep those machines running in tip-top condition.

Going green means looking past the power meter, though. Cutting fluids should be maintained regularly, minimizing what is sent to the recycler or down the drain (yes, many municipalities still allow PH-neutral, water-soluble metalworking fluids to be disposed of in this manner). Chips should remain segregated between jobs, keeping the aluminum out of the steel and the steel out of the titanium, then spun dry and compacted prior to recycling. Finally, use vegetable-based oil where cutting oil is called for (Swiss-machines and broaching operations, for example), rather than one with sulfur and chlorine. Your grandchildren will thank you.