Minimum quantity lubrication improves Ford quality and processing cost

Nearly dry MQL machining cuts major costs related to unneeded coolant tanks and high-pressure supply systems, while also reducing operating costs and improving plant air quality.


Ford Motor Co. claims that its use of MQL (minimum quantity lubrication) machining systems from MAG Powertrain at the company’s Van Dyke Transmission plant in Sterling Heights, MI, has produced measurable environmental and costs benefits. To begin with, the MQL systems saved the company significantly (Ford would only say that it saved “seven figures”) in initial cost compared to conventional wet machining, and the machines have been producing parts at lower variable cost compared to previous machining systems used at the plant.
Van Dyke Transmission currently uses more than 120 MAG CNC machines equipped with MQL or a hybrid system combining CNC and special machines. MQL is a nearly dry machining process that uses a through-tool oil mist, tailored to provide the right volume for required lubricity at the interface of tool and work surface. The amount of lubricity is controlled for the particular machining operation and tool, such as tapping or face milling. MQL reduces metalworking fluid flow from gallons per minute (in traditional wet machining) to milliliters per hour.
The plant's most recent green-machine installation in 2008 included 52 MAG Specht horizontal machining systems configured for 4- and 5-axis work to produce aluminum parts for the

MAG Specht horizontal machining system

Machining a Ford transmission case

MAG Powertrain horizontal machining centers, equipped for MQL machining (top), produce a family of valve bodies and transmission cases for Ford (bottom).

6F mid-range FWD transmission. The high-speed machines complement MQL with a proprietary real-time temperature compensation system that constantly monitors the machine, the part and ambient air to ensure consistently precise work. The steeply angled interior of the machine, coupled with a Handte chip evacuation system, eliminates the need for chip-flushing coolant and the resulting cost for pumps, filter media, and chip drying. The machining envelope is kept under negative air pressure, with chips and oil mist pulled out in an airstream, then through a centrifuge and filter system. Dry chips collect in a hopper, and clean air is returned to the plant or back to the machine enclosure. A study conducted by Van Dyke Transmission showed that the filtered air from the chip evacuation system is as clean as typical office air, contributing to an improvement in overall plant air quality.
"The metalworking industry consumes several hundred million gallons of fluids each year," said Ron Quaile, vice president proposal, estimating & marketing for MAG Powertrain North America. "The investment, operation, and maintenance costs of traditional coolant systems can easily reach 15% of the life-cycle cost of a machining system. A machine that uses conventional coolants requires a more costly plant infrastructure, costs more to install, and is more difficult and costly to relocate. Coolant mist almost always fouls the plant air and equipment. There's a cascade of cost savings when you take flood coolant out of machining, and Ford Van Dyke has proven these benefits."

– Edited by David Greenfield , editorial director

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