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The Future of

Metalworking Fluid

e res p o n d to the
t h e U .S . a n d Europ l a t ion.
u l a to rs i n m e n t re g u
- t i g h te n i n g g overn
challenge of e


as complex as metalworking fluids (MWF) themselves.
While MWF formulators face many of the same cost/
benefit challenges of other lubricant developers, they
have additional issues that stem from the close regula-
tory scrutiny of MWFs in the workplace.
STLE member Alan Eckard, vice president of tech-
nology for Monroe Fluid Technology, explains, “The
GHS1 (Globally Harmonized System) regulations, which
will be in full force by mid-2015, will have significant
impact due to compliance difficulties and end-user
pushback on new hazard warnings that in many cases
look more onerous than they have in the past. In addi-
tion, REACh2 registration requirements in Europe will
effectively preclude shipment of most MWF additives
from outside the Euro-zone unless the supplier already
has substantial volumes either coming in or produced
in the EU, which would justify registration.”
Eckard concludes, “The cost of participation in the
consortia is very high. Many additive suppliers outside
(and a significant number inside) the EU do not realize



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that even if a substance is registered or
preregistered by others, anyone making COMPARATIVE LIFECYCLE ASSESSMENT OF GAS-BASED AND
the additive or importing it needs to WATER-BASED MWF SYSTEMS4
participate in the appropriate consor-
tium and pay their share of the registra- In the move toward sustainable manufacturing, informed MWF selection is not possible
tion costs.” without systematically considering lifecycle impacts of alternative system approaches.
In order to work well in an array of To that end, researchers at the University of Michigan, University of Virginia and Purdue
metalworking applications, MWFs usu- University created a lifecycle assessment (LCA) model of MWF emissions that included
ally contain more additives than other the material production phase, use phase and disposal phase for four metalworking flu-
lubricants. MWFs provide lubrication ids: a semisynthetic microemulsion of petroleum oil in water, a semisynthetic microemul-
and cooling but also facilitate chip re- sion of rapeseed (canola) oil in water, a petroleum oil in air MQL spray and a rapeseed oil
moval. Many metalworking processes in CO2 MQL spray.
create fresh surfaces. If these freshly The model was designed to capture variations in MWF delivery—recognizing that MWF
generated surfaces are not covered by usage varies significantly by operation and by operator preference. The functional unit
a lubricant immediately, welding be- for the study was the amount of MWF required to run one stand-alone machine tool for
tween the workpiece and tool (stick- one year; additional impacts from centralized MWF systems were not considered. Also the
ing) occurs. MWFs play a critical role impacts of tool production were not included.
in protecting both the workpiece and Results showed that tradeoffs exist across the impact factors although there is one
the tool. clear trend: The environmental impacts of the gas-based lubricant systems are gener-
While dry machining is adequate ally lower than the water-based lubricant systems. Although the gas-based systems are
in some operations, most often the ab- somewhat higher in global warming potential (GWP), the total greenhouse gas emissions
sence of MWF cooling and lubricating from all MWF systems was relatively small, at most about a fifth of the GWP emitted from
properties would result in faster tool the tailpipe of an average automobile per year.
wear, residual stress and workpiece de-
fects. For today’s demanding machining
challenges, such as milling ultra-high-
strength steels, the use of metalwork- COMMON MWF ADDITIVES ary area between the air and the fluid
ing fluids is critical. Ultimately MWFs The 12 common MWF additive catego- exposed. The goal for formulators is to
prolong tool life, improve workpiece ries include: ensure that the antifoam agent will re-
quality and expedite manufacturing. main compatible with a particular met-
There are four basic classes of 1. Sulphurized or chlorinated alworking fluid formulation and retain
MWFs: compounds its properties for a long time. This is
2. Corrosion inhibitors difficult to achieve because antifoam
1. Straight oils. Composed of min-
3. Extreme pressure additive additives tend to deplete quickly—ne-
eral, animal, marine, vegetable
4. Antimist agents cessitating an additional antifoam addi-
or synthetic oils. Straight oils are
5. Emulsifiers tive while the MWF is in use.
not diluted with water, but other
6. Alkanolamines
additives may be present. ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH
7. Biocides
2. Soluble oils. Containing any- 8. Stabilizers EFFECTS OF MWF ADDITIVES
where from 30-85 percent ultra- 9. Dispersants Several additives have been eliminated
refined mineral oils and emulsi- 10. Antifoamers from use in MWFs, including nitrites
fiers to dissolve the oil in water. 11. Colorants/dyes and short-chain chlorinated paraffins.
3. Semisynthetic fluids. Containing 12. Fragrances. There is a growing pressure to further
5-30 percent ultra-refined3 min- eliminate additives that may be harm-
eral oils, 30-50 percent water In some cases, more than one ad- ful to the worker or the environment.
and the remainder additives. ditive of a category is required—for Other additives such as medium-chain
example, two different biocides in the chlorinated paraffins are under scru-
4. Synthetic fluids. Containing no
same formula. tiny; some experts believe they may
mineral oil.
One of the most difficult to formu- be banned soon, but Dover Chemical
Semisynthetic fluid is difficult to late additives is the antifoam agent. is not one of them. The company’s of-
formulate because it contains high per- These additives operate on the bound- ficial stance states, “Chlorinated paraf-
centages of both mineral oil and water. ary between the air and the fluid and fins (CPs) have been under review for
This creates a multitude of solubility often will either rise to the top of the several years now with no restrictions
and compatibility issues between the fluid or sink to the bottom, or they will implemented on medium-chain CPs
base oil and additives. become too soluble leaving the bound- thus far. Further review of chlorinated

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paraffins will continue into 2015 and THE ENVIRONMENT DISPOSAL
possibly beyond.” AND REGULATIONS The primary disposal options for plants
A typical water-based MWF will In the STLE textbook Metalworking Flu- are contract hauling or treatment for
contain water, oil, surfactants and ids, Eugene M. White writes; “MWFs are sewer disposal. What precipitates dis-
about 10 other additives. These MWFs difficult to classify and regulate due to posal is a combination of biological
require maintenance technologies such their chemical diversity and proprietary growth, property changes of the MWF
as depth filtration, centrifugation and compositions. Chemical regulations are in use and contaminants such as metal
biocide application to delay deteriora- usually applicable to pure chemical sub- (cobalt and lead). Disposal of decidedly
stances or defined compounds that can eco-unfriendly additives and metal-lad-
be sampled and analyzed by scientifically en MWFs is usually both difficult and
validated methods. Another barrier to the expensive.
Ultimately MWFs prolong regulation of MWFs is that, during nor- MWFs released directly into waste-
tool life, improve mal usage, they undergo physical, chemi- water can overload sewage treatment
cal and biological changes. Thus, it is not systems and may contain components
workpiece quality and always clear whether regulations address that ordinary treatment systems cannot
issues caused by the inherent properties handle. Facilities that discharge waste-
expedite manufacturing. of unused fluids, changes that occur in water to municipal sewage treatment
used fluids or extrinsic conditions in the systems are required to pre-treat MWFs
fluid/machining environment.”7 until levels of key characteristics are
tion. This deterioration leads to mi- It’s difficult to regulate MWF base below specified limits, which are gener-
crobial growth and health risks, and oils and additives that are either non- ally set by municipalities operating the
eventual disposal.5 The deterioration of toxic or are low toxic in their nature sewage treatment plants and subject to
these MWFs arises from many sources state. local, state and federal laws.
such as: Craig Mott, vice president of Co- In some instances, MWFs must be
lonial Specialty Chemical, says, “Bio- handled as hazardous waste—either be-
• The fundamental incompatibil- cides—formaldehyde-release chemis- cause of materials present in the fluid
ity of oil and water try, CPs (chlorinated paraffins), boric as purchased or because of materials
• The susceptibility of emulsions acid-based products, NPEs—basically that become mixed with the fluid dur-
to microbial growth anything currently on the TSCA Chem- ing the machining process. Since man-
icals of Concern List, anything that has aging hazardous waste is expensive and
• The evaporation of water been given a TSCA New Use Rule and labor-intensive, avoiding the hazardous
• Hard water ions that destabilize anything that shows up on the TSCA classification in the first place is the
emulsions Work Plan for Chemical Assessments best compliance option.
will be affected by environmental reg- A viable alternative to conventional
• The susceptibility of surfactants
to foam when mechanically ulations. Moly-based products were MWFs (and their additives) are envi-
just added in 2014 to the Work Plan ronmentally adapted lubricants. EALs
List, which means they could be under are highly biodegradable and have
heavy scrutiny next.” comparatively low toxicity. Important-
As these factors also facilitate mi-
croorganisms, protecting the machin-
ery also protects worker health and
ultimately the environment. Improv- BEST PRACTICES FOR PREVENTING HAZARDOUS WASTE8
ing the eco-friendliness of water-based
MWFs depends on:
The following considerations may help minimize the quantity of waste MWFs needing
1. Selecting an environmen-
tally benign (bio-based) MWF • When choosing which fluids to use for a particular application, look at entire
chemical formulation. In lifecycle costs, including fluid lifetime and treatment and disposal costs.
addition to protecting worker • Establish a maintenance schedule that includes checks on fluid chemistry and
health, bio-based MWFs will concentration, contamination levels (including dirt, tramp oils and biological
reduce waste treatment costs. growth) and odors.
2. Instituting an appropriate • When fluid is to be diluted with water, use good quality water. An ion exchange
control system for the formula- system or reverse osmosis unit may be a worthwhile investment for prolonging
tion that maximizes the MWF fluid life.

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ly, in order to receive that designation,
they must perform equal to or better MWF ADDITIVES AFFECTED BY NEW REGULATIONS
than conventional alternatives. About
5 percent of all lubricants in the EU According to John Nussbaumer, Dover Chemical’s technical service manager for metal-
are now being sold as EAL oil-in-water working, future regulations regarding MWFs will most likely affect the area of chlorinated
emulsions, primarily as vegetable-based paraffins (CPs). Chlorinated paraffins, which are a staple of the metalworking fluid indus-
formulations, and their market share is try, work in a wide range of metalworking applications in both water-based and oil-based
growing. formulations. There are currently four classifications of CPs:
Minimum quantity lubrication • Short-chain. Those with a carbon chain distribution <14
(MQL) techniques represent another
growing class of EALs. MQL typical- • Mid-chain. Those with a carbon chain distribution of 14-17
ly involves sprays of compressed air • Long-chain. Those with a carbon chain distribution of 18-20
and a small amount of oil to provide • Very long-chain. Those with a carbon chain distribution that is >20 (this is a
the function of an MWF without the new classification).
large amount of waste. The limita-
tion of MQL systems is that they don’t “We have already seen short-chain CPs eliminated from use in MWFs,” Nussbaumer
cool well, so they are only suitable for says. “Currently the mid- and long-chain CPs are under review. However, it does not
low-speed, low-impact machining op- appear that any action will be taken on either classification in the near to midterm. The
erations that do not require significant main focus on mid-chain CPs likely will center on the amount of short-chain olefin that
heat removal. Current research is fo- is present in C-14 alpha olefin when it is produced. The content of short-chain olefin is
cused on developing new approaches already typically <1 percent. Very long-chain CPs will be reviewed at a later date, but it
that extend the applicability of MQL to does appear that no action will be taken on very long-chain CPs.”
more demanding machining processes.9

MWFs are vulnerable to microorganism Inhalation of MWF mist or aerosol on the adverse effects of long-term in-
contamination. This can create direct may cause lung, nose and throat irri- halation exposure to a commercially
health risks for workers from infection, tation. In general respiratory irritation available fluid will no doubt lead to
inhalation of bio-aerosols and indirect involves some type of chemical interac- further questions about metalworker
risks from skin contact with biocides tion between the MWF and the human health associated with inhalation ex-
used to control the microorganisms. respiratory system. Exposure to MWFs posure to cutting fluids. It will also
Some 1.2 million workers in machine has also been associated with asthma. be interesting to see what short- to
finishing, machine tooling and other Work-related asthma is one of today’s medium-term impact the recently an-
metalworking and metal-forming op- most prevalent occupational disorders, nounced changes to chemical control
erations are potentially exposed at any leading to significant costs in health- legislation in Taiwan and Korea will
time.10 care and workers compensation.13 have on the Asia-Pacific region.”
Skin and airborne exposures to Studies that may not be relevant
MWFs have been implicated in irrita- today have suggested an association THE PARTICULAR PROBLEM OF
tion of the skin, lungs, eyes, nose and between working with MWF chem- BIOCIDES AND CHLORINE
throat. Conditions such as dermatitis, istry and practices that were phased Without biocides, water-based MWFs
acne, asthma, hypersensitivity pneu- out decades ago and certain cancers.14 would be breeding grounds for bacterial
monitis, irritation of the upper-respi- Because of a demonstrated latency pe- and fungal organisms. These organisms
ratory tract and a variety of cancers riod, these studies have relied on health would lead to metabolic destruction
have been associated with exposure to reports of workers exposed decades of some active ingredients and reduce
MWFs.11 The severity of health prob- earlier when airborne concentrations MWF performance. While ordinary
lems is dependent on factors such as of MWFs were much higher than they microbes pose little infection risk for
the kind of fluid, the degree and type of are today. The composition of MWFs workers, particularly hazardous species
contamination and the level and dura- also has changed dramatically over the have caused worker illness. Thus, water-
tion of the exposure.12 years—with many chemicals (i.e., ni- based MWFs require biocides to curb
Two types of skin diseases associ- trite) since removed because of health these organisms. No one would argue
ated with MWF exposure are acne and concerns.15,16 that biocides are effective. The goal is
contact dermatitis. People working Mick Wragg, senior global product to minimize biocides because excessive
with water-based, synthetic and semi- steward for The Lubrizol Corp., says, concentrations carry their own health
synthetic MWFs are most at risk for “The recent publication in the U.S. by risks, ranging from acute dermatitis to
developing contact dermatitis. The National Toxicology Program17 more severe conditions.


Heat pasteurization and ultraviolet
irradiation would be viable alternatives AN INTERVIEW WITH LOU HONARY ON BIO-BASED MWFs
to biocide use if these processes were
not significantly more expensive. Mem- Lou Honary is chairman and president of Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing, Inc., in
brane filtration is another alternative. Grundy Center, Iowa, and a recognized expert on bio-based fuels and lubricants.
One of the key factors in effectiveness
is having an embedded sensor to de- Are there special considerations regarding bacterial growth in bio-based MWFs?
tect microorganisms when they begin The working of biocides in bio-based metalworking fluids is different than those of
to form. conventional metalworking fluids. In the case of bio-based MWFs, if the base oil is veg-
Fluids that contain biocides are etable oil, then the base oil itself could act as food for bacteria and would require more
regulated under federal rules that ap- diligent monitoring. But the extra effort to maintain the bio-based MWF pays off with the
ply to a number of substances, includ- improved performance and significant cost savings.
ing pesticides. Triazine-based biocides
used in metalworking fluids are mem- But what about the health effects of biocides?
bers of a larger class of antimicrobials
prepared by reacting an amino alcohol Our experience has been that excessive use of biocides impact the end-user negatively
with formaldehyde. regardless of whether the base oil is bio-based or mineral oil-based. It will be important
As a result of many years of proven to see how the evolution of bio-based metalworking technology affects the end-user in
use, triazines have been shown to be the future.
highly effective, cost-effective chemi-
cal compounds. Recently the efficacy How well do additives perform in bio-based MWFs?
of using triazine-based and similar In my experience, many of the same additives used for mineral oil-based MWFs work for
antimicrobials has come into question bio-based products as well. The vegetable oil-based versions of bio-based MWFs can also
because of concerns about their ability benefit from the experiences of the food industry, which is mature in handling foodstuffs
to control a particular organism (my- and protecting them from bacteria by adding a large number of natural chemicals. I
cobacterium). Certain species of my- believe that as the market for bio-based MWFs grows, more of the natural food preserva-
cobacteria are thought to be causative tives and biocides will migrate from the food industry into metalworking applications.
agents of—or at least strongly associ- We have no reservations about the field performance of bio-based MWFs with current
ated with—hypersensitivity pneumo- biocides and chemical additives.
nitis in workers exposed to MWFs in
certain working conditions.18 Anything else that you would like to add?
“The alkylphenol ethoxylates are
I believe ultimately, the success of bio-based MWFs and their additives will depend on the
largely being phased out of MWFs and
current manufacturers and marketers of MWFs and MWF additives—when they accept that
several alternatives are available based
there is great opportunity in selling these products along with conventional MWFs.
on alcohol ethoxylates,” Eckard says.
“There is particular concern about
formaldehyde-releasing biocides and in-
creased concern with borate-type chem- most successful chlorinated alkane al- has the broadest operating temperature
istry. Avoiding formaldehyde releasers is ternatives have been commercial for of all EP additives. This broad operat-
troublesome, but alternative materials over 20 years. This development was ing temperature is one of the properties
that cost more to use are available. Bo- driven primarily by customers who that allow chlorinated paraffins to be
rate chemistry is very cost effective and wish to formulate away from CPs. Such so versatile. Chlorinated paraffin alter-
multifunctional so replacement is just additives are based on polyolesters, sul- natives can be used in a multitude of
going to increase cost.” fur, phosphorous, sulfurized overbased applications. Many times, the results
Extreme pressure (EP) additives sulphonates and nitrogen. Chlorinated when using chlorinated paraffin alter-
typically contain organic sulfur, phos- esters and fatty acids also work very natives are equal to or better than the
phorus or chlorine compounds, in- well as CP alternatives as they are bio- results when using only CPs. The main
cluding sulfur-phosphorus and sulfur- degradable but still contain chlorine issue when using chlorinated paraffin
phosphorus-boron compounds, which within their backbone.” alternatives is that they don’t cover the
chemically react with the metal surface He continues, “While we have been wide variety of applications that CPs
under high-pressure conditions. And successful in replacing chlorine in spe- alone can cover. This means that an
CPs are under close scrutiny. cific operations, we have found that end-user may have multiple formula-
John Nussbaumer, Dover Chemi- alternative chemistries are not neces- tions when using CP alternatives as op-
cal’s technical service manager for sarily drop-in replacements across the posed to one formulation when using
metalworking, explains, “Some of our board for CPs. Chlorine is unique as it CPs only.”

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Nussbaumer concludes, “Another and downstream users as a result of them so benign that most label warnings
issue with CP alternatives is appear- classification and labeling legislation, and most health hazards are gone leaves
ance. The vast majority of CPs are very especially in the European market. Spe- a relatively ineffective product.”
light in color. Most of the CP alterna- cifically there are two types of chemistry Nussbaumer says, “Right now at
tives have an ASTM color that is darker. included in this: formaldehyde-releasing Dover Chemical we are focusing on
This becomes an issue when the end- biocides where the concern is associ- synergies. When we talk about syner-
user needs to see what is happening at ated with the carcinogenic potential gies, we are looking at the combina-
the tool/workpiece interface. Another of released formaldehyde and boron- tion of additives to enhance the per-
area where CPs are more effective than containing ionic compounds where the formance of a fluid. We do not see the
their alternatives is cost. There is cur- concern is associated with the alleged use of mid-chain chlorinated paraffins
rently no cost-effective CP alternative reproductive hazard of boric acid.” being affected by regulations in the
offered to the market.” near to mid-term. We see the use of
Mott agrees, “In many cases the al- WHAT IS TO COME long and very long-chain chlorinated
ternative chemistries are not as effec- FOR MWF ADDITIVES? paraffins continuing for the foreseeable
tive and/or are higher cost and can be Government regulation of MWFs future. Prior to any new regulations
much more difficult to formulate with. (particularly their additives) is almost restricting their usage, additional re-
The industry has long struggled with certain to tighten. This creates a co- search and evaluation will be required
chlorine replacement technologies, nundrum for formulators who need to determine whether such regulation
which simply cannot perform as well to produce fluids that perform well for is necessary.”
as chlorinated paraffins on certain al- extended periods and also protect the
loys and applications. Chlorine replace- machinery, workpiece, environment Jeanna Van Rensselar heads her
ments are almost always more expen- and most of all the workers. And these own communication/public
sive on a treat-rate basis and cannot MWFs need to do all this at a cost that relations firm, Smart PR
replace chlorine in all applications.” is palatable in the marketplace. Communications, in Naperville,
Wragg adds, “Increasingly, we are Eckard concludes, “There are op- Ill. You can reach her at
seeing certain classes of metalworking tions, but cost is the real issue. Especial- jeanna@smartprcommunica-
chemistry being targeted by regulators ly with antimicrobial materials, making

1. The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) is designed to replace 11. Ibid.
classification and labeling standards used in different countries 12. From
with consistent criteria for classification and labeling on a global
level. 13. From Metalworking Fluids, Centers for Disease Control and Preven-
tion. Taken from
2. Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemi-
cals (REACh) is a European Union regulation that addresses the 14. From Metalworking Fluids: Safety and Health Best Practices Manual,
production and use of chemical substances and their potential U.S. Department of Labor. Taken from
impacts on both human health and the environment. workingfluids/metalworkingfluids_manual.html#e.

3. Usually hydro-treated. 15. NIOSH 1998a.

4. From Current Advances in Sustainable Metalworking Fluids Research 16. ILMA rebuttal: From Comments of the Independent Lubricant Manu-
by Steven J. Skerlos, et al. Taken from facturers Association (ILMA) on “Metalworking Fluids: Summary of
afc7r/pubs/Sustainable%20Metalworking%20Fluids%20FINAL.pdf. Nomination for Review: NTP 12th Report on Carcinogens, September
2003 Submitted by Report on Carcinogens Group, NIEHS.” Taken
5. Ibid. from
6. Ibid. 17. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is an inter-agency pro-
7. From Chp. 17: Regulatory Aspects of Metalworking Fluids, Metal- gram run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to
working Fluids, 2nd edition, edited by Jerry P. Byers, p. 400. coordinate, evaluate and report on toxicology within public agen-
8. From Metalworking Fluids, TERC. Taken from cies.
pages/metalworking.cfm. 18. From Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis: Is There an Association with
9. From Current Advances in Sustainable Metalworking Fluids Research Triazine Biocides and Mycobacteria in Metalworking Fluids? A White
by Steven J. Skerlos, et al. Taken from Paper Produced by the Safety, Health, Environmental Regulatory
~afc7r/pubs/Sustainable%20Metalworking%20Fluids%20FINAL.pdf. Affairs Committee of the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers
Association (ILMA). Taken from
10. From Metalworking Fluids, Centers for Disease Control and Pre-
vention. Taken from

A wolf’s jaw has a crushing pressure of nearly 1,500 psi compared with about 750 psi for a large dog. 45