Why would an oil company or major distributor want to manufacture its own water based metalworking fluids?

Blending industrial neat oils or engine oils is fairly straight forward, but water based metalworking fluids have their own unique set of problems derived from trying to blend water based components with oil based components and hoping they will stay as a homogeneous mixture for the shelf life of the product.

Of course there are other problems as well. The formulations (which regularly need changing to meet current trends or legislation) are often complex involving the stocking of numerous raw materials which need blending in the right order and with extreme accuracy.

Realistically a dedicated tank or two are needed and a chemist employed who is experienced in the correction and development of these complex and unusual products. If a blend fails it will need coaxing back to specification with additions and will then have to be tested for both concentrate and emulsion stability. This is a recipe for ‘tying up’ blending vessels and slowing down production.

Emulsion stability? Of course there are plenty of laboratory tests to complete when working with water based fluids. Everything from pH, concentration by various methods, titrations, bacterial counts, Cnomo foam tests, IP corrosion testing and many more.

Two tests that come to mind are the subjective tests of ‘odour’ and ‘emulsion appearance’. Odour is often described as ‘bland’ which for an emulsion that is 5% concentrate and 95% water covers many chemistries, unless a reodorant is used. Regarding emulsion appearance, we know that this can be transient depending on the water hardness and the time elapsed since it was mixed.

Why are these subjective tests important for water based metalworking fluids? Because these lubricants are in a unique category where a machine operator has direct contact with the fluid on a daily basis. This contact can be by hand or it might be by breathing in any mist generated. To a machine operative the odour and to a certain extent the appearance of the emulsion can be what makes a trial a success or a failure.

Another unique factor with water based metalworking fluids is that they are supplied in concentrate form to the end user. We are expecting and hoping that the customer mixes the fluid in the correct way, at the correct concentration, with good quality water. It is a leap of faith to expect these actions to be undertaken day after day in end user accounts all over the world, but somehow it is usually OK, not perfect, but good enough so that a good quality product can survive.

It is inevitable that there will be more potential problems with a water based emulsion mixed at a customer site and used in an open system which is contaminated on a daily basis from metallic swarf, slideway oil, leaking hydraulic systems and more. This is complete contrast to a gearbox oil used as supplied and put into the cosy sealed environment of a gearbox. As long as the gearbox is not overloaded there is a good predictive life to the lubricant.

At Delta Fluid Technology we thrive in the challenge of water based chemistry. The four directors have in excess of 100 years of joint experience of developing, specifying, testing, supporting and problem solving water based metalworking fluids. What to many are problematic products to develop, manufacture and support are exactly what Delta specialise in.

Whilst water based metalworking fluids are the main focus of our company we also specialise in water based and neat metal forming and stamping fluids including vanishing oils and polymer based synthetic fluids, neat metalworking fluids, rust preventatives and EDM fluids. Our flexible manufacturing facility in Leeds now supplies fluids all over the world with over 50% of our output being to export markets.

If you need a single product or a range of products using either Delta technology or working with your existing formulations, Delta are ready to help and to support.