New Bio-based lubricants cut friction and lead to less waste in manufacturing.

Since the advent of the industrial age, machinists have been seeking improved lubricants for moving parts. In many machines, metal on metal contact may occur hundreds of times per minute, either through cutting, stamping, punching or interaction of machine parts, such as rotating gears.

The rapid and continuous metal on metal contact inherently creates friction between the parts. Basic physics then comes into play. The friction build up creates increased heat, often enough to warp or damage vital machine parts. Cutting blades and dies may become dull, necessitating additional sharpening and premature replacement of cutting blades and dies. If metal is the object to be cut, heat damage can lead to ragged edges and products that fail to fit properly.

For those reasons, lubrication has been a key manufacturing process to reduce heat and friction. In the past, petroleum based lubricants have been the standard friction reducers in machinery. But petroleum based products have drawbacks. Many products are saturated or “quenched” with lubricant to provide sufficient thermal protection.

When this process is used, the product requires special cleaning with caustic chemicals before painting or powder coating. The cleaning chemicals are an environmental hazard and special care must be taken in discarding it. These chemicals can also create toxic fumes. In addition, the cutting oil itself is considered a non-biodegradable substance and must be disposed through strict EPA standards. In addition, the volume of oil based lubricants can cause spillage into the worker area, creating an unsafe area for walking and standing.

Some lube oil system manufacturers are now making the switch to biodegradable lubricants. Modern bio lubricants are made from animal fats and have demonstrated outstanding thermal protection and lubricity. In some cases, lubricity can be 300 times greater than normal petroleum based oils on an ounce per ounce comparison.

Because of the greater lubricity, less of the product is used for the same job. And when less of the substance is used, less clean up on the final product is required. In addition, there is less waste and less of the product to be disposed. In fact, with some bio based lubricants, nearly all lubricant is consumed during the cutting process. As an added bonus, animal fat based lubricants are biodegradable and are not treated as hazardous substances. For the little used lubricant to be disposed, there are less restrictions on disposal.