Kugel Rotary leads ultrasound research for environmentally friendly machining
A new research collaboration is developing a lubrication system for environmentally friendly machining that uses innovative ultrasonic technology to precisely deliver a tiny amount of oil to the cutting area.
Manufacturers will be able to adapt the new system to their current machining platforms, allowing small businesses to reduce costs and environmental impact without having to invest in new machinery.
The £ 1.35million UltraMQL project is led by Derbyshire-based machining specialist Kugel Rotary Services and funded by Innovate UK through its Smart Grant program.
Research partners include international machining fluid supplier Quaker Houghton, Derby-based digital visualization and immersive technologies specialist, Bloc Digital, the University of Sheffield’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Center and the Advanced Engineering Center from the University of Brighton.
“Lubrication is a critical factor for successful chip formation during metal cutting processes,” says Stuart Vere, Managing Director of Kugel Rotary Services. “Insufficient lubricant as well as excessive lubricant can have a detrimental effect on quality, cost and time and have a negative impact on the environment. Just like other flexible variables such as speeds and feeds, l Lubrication application should also be optimized to ensure the best results while minimizing overall oil contamination.
“The introduction of UltraMQL will significantly reduce overall oil volumes and at the same time allow this important additional element of control, thus alleviating the challenges encountered when using and maintaining alternative lubrication methods.”
The three-year project builds on established Minimum Quantity Lubricant (MQL) techniques which, instead of flooding the cutting area with coolant, delivers a tiny amount of oil to the cutting area – typically less than a milliliter per minute. Recent research by the Nuclear CDMA has shown that MQL can reduce operating costs by up to half and energy consumption by a fifth. It can also avoid the need to clean the component after machining and reduce health risks to machine operators.
The effective administration of such a small amount of lubricant is not straightforward. Current systems generally use a simple mechanical device called a Venturi tube to transform liquid oil into an aerosol. Their performance can suffer from any change in viscosity or temperature of the oil, resulting in poor surface finish or contamination of the machined component.
The UltraMQL collaboration focuses on using ultrasonic vibrations to create the aerosol, reducing the size of oil droplets by an order of magnitude. This will avoid the effects of oil viscosity, allowing systems to be used with a much wider range of oils, with rapid change between machining tasks.
“The University of Brighton will develop a new high precision ultrasonic lubricator and apply laser and imaging measurement techniques to verify spray performance against flow rate and droplet size requirements,” said Professor Cyril Crua of the Advanced Engineering Center at the University of Brighton.
“A finer oil mist with precisely controlled droplet sizes and flow rate will provide a much more reliable machining lubrication system. This will be achieved using ultrasonic technology, normally found in research grade atomizers, which can be fine-tuned to produce highly reproducible oil droplets. “
The proposed technology will create an electrostatic charge in the droplets, which will prevent their fusion and help them adhere to the part.
The system will also use smart sensors, including acoustic and visual monitoring, allowing the machine operator to remotely monitor key process parameters in real time and activate a digital twin of the machining platform. .
“Bloc Digital is excited to bring advanced digital twin and industrial Internet of Things data visualization technologies to the UltraMQL team,” said Dr. Frank McQuade, Capabilities Director at Bloc Digital.
“Creating these next-generation virtual representations of the plant offers benefits in terms of increased productivity, improved quality and reduced risk in manufacturing processes and production management. Remote monitoring, real-time interventions, and the predictive benefits of digital twin technologies enable managers and engineers to apply best practices to improve and manage assets in real time without physical modeling or costly production downtime. “
After the development and testing of different parts of the project, all innovative technologies will be integrated into a prototype system for testing at the Kugel Rotary factory.
“We need to bring together expertise in multiple areas for integration to be successful,” says Dr Agostino Maurotto, Technical Officer at AMRC Nuclear. “The UltraMQL consortium is made up of technology leaders who have overlapping knowledge and experience in each other’s fields. The synergy of skills will be critical to the successful development of a working prototype.”
Kugel Rotary Services