Aluminium Extrusion

The extrusion process involves heating a lump of aluminium to temperatures in the region of 500 degrees Celsius. Whilst the metal is still solid and not heated to melting point, it is forced through a steel mould or die which squeezes the metal into a cross-sectional shape or ‘profile’. The combination of heat and pressure that are exerted upon the aluminium as it is forced through the die ensure it can flow through smoothly. This results in a high quality product, precisely manufactured to high tolerances. You can only achieve such precision engineering by having top-class machinery, skilled workers and years of experience, like the company Aluminium Profiles who design and manufacture bespoke aluminium extrusions and profiles.

Aluminium profile sample isolated on black background.

The Versatility of Extruding Aluminium

The versatility of both the process and metal complement one another excellently. Aluminium and its alloys have a very high strength-to-weight ratio in relation to its ductility. With the right application of heat and pressure it can be manipulated into almost any shape or cross-sectional profile. Aluminium is an ideal material for design applications requiring maximum versatility precisely because of its versatility. There are also over 540 aluminium-alloys that can be extruded, each of which have particular properties and their own applications. Generally though the richer in aluminium the alloy is, the more malleable it is.

How Effective is Aluminium Extrusion?

Other machining or manufacturing processes do not afford designers and manufacturers the same scope for product-variety as extrusion does. Extrusion enables the production of profiles with functions such as channels, grooves or structural ‘stiffeners’ and joining details. This reduces wastage of core base materials and lowers fabrication costs, especially when compared to other metal fabrication processes. On top of this, lowe costs involved in extrusion afford companies requiring a smaller production series are free to do so.

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Recruiting in the Technology and Industrial Sectors

Specialist skills are required for many areas of the technology and industrial sectors. On some occasions, it’s possible to promote from within the company. This is in many ways an ideal situation, allowing for expertise to be accrued within the sector, building specialist knowledge, before it needs to be applied within a more senior position.

Using Agencies

Where suitable candidates aren’t available to promote from within, an agency is the advised mode of operation for those looking to fill senior roles which require industry insight. This is true for many industries, particularly machining. With a constant stream of innovation to refine and perfect processing, which we’ve seen from constant improvement and increasing sophistication in metal working fluids.

Inside Knowledge of the Industry

Inside knowledge of how these processes work best, which materials to use for whichever metal working process can be vital to staying at the front of the pack in the industry. Even if you don’t have a hands on role, having the technical knowledge to make sound judgements ought to be a minimum requirement for those in positions of leadership within the machining and metalworking industries. With productivity, precision and cost-effectiveness to be improved by pursuing a strategy based on the right application and use of metalworking fluids, along with the increasing emphasis on the environmental impact of resources used, a detailed grasp of the technical elements of fluids and their application can be enormously beneficial. Transferable and ‘soft’ skills have a value, but need to be combined with the right background. It’s okay to have a team of technicians and specialists as part of your staff, or as part of an external fluid developer, but often knowledge is required at the point where strategic decisions are being made, which is the difference.

Whilst our blog aims to provide as much of this background and insight as possible to readers, we’re no replacement to hands on time in the industry when it comes to providing the expertise of how best to use industrial lubricants, coolants and metalworking fluids in the industry. Specialist recruiters for industry and technology can advise on their own processes. In the U.S.A TechUSA are well known recruiters within the tech sector, or Thailand and South East Asia, another key technological region, Peak Recruitment are specialists both for these sectors and for the region.

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Lubricants for Hard and Soft water

Lubrication and cooling fluids for industrial processes need to function in a variety of different settings. As we’ve covered, a great deal of effort goes into developing fluids to perform at very high temperatures for example. What’s also required of such fluids is that they can fulfil their function in both hard and soft water, so here’s what’s going on with the different water types and a look at some of the problems they can cause.

Whilst some industries have centred themselves around areas with hard or soft water, such as the brewing industry or the wool industry in the 18th and 19th century, the dispersion of different industrial settings in which fluids are used means that a concentration of manufacturing or processing plants around areas with favourable water conditions hasn’t been possible. Nor is it a realistic solution to use water imported from ‘alien’ sites with preferable water, because the volume of water needed in a constant flow means that mains connection need to be used, rather than water from storage tanks.

 

What are the Issues with Hard Water?

The hardness (or indeed softness) of water, is measured in parts per million or ppm. Ideally for lubrication purposes, these will be around the 90 ppm mark. If the level of water hardness is significantly higher than this then the performance of the fluids with which they’re mixed will dip noticeably. Between 200 and 300 ppm these fluids will stop functioning effectively within the process for which they’re developed, unless of course they’re specially designed to be able to cope with these conditions. This drop in the performance of lubricating fluids is largely down to the minerals which are present in hard water to a higher degree, reacting with the emulsifying agents in the lubricating fluid, and causing instability.

These emulsifiers are used to incorporate lubricants, oil or synthetic into the flow of water. If this process doesn’t occur stably then the movement of the fluid through the machining process can’t occur successfully and the fluid doesn’t fulfil its function properly, be it lubrication or coolant.
Hard water also develops a ‘scum’ in the same way that domestic chemical products do. The levels of magnesium and calcium in hard water causes this waxy substance to form.

 

Soft Water Lubricants

Inversely however, because of the absence of these minerals in soft water, excess lathering and foaming can also reduce the impact of lubrication and coolant fluids. Because these different water conditions cause contrasting issues, different grades of fluid for hard water and soft water have needed to be developed by the industry, so ensure that the fluid that you source is suitable for the type of water that will be flowing through your system.

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How Lubricant Oils are Made

We’ve looked at some of the different types of lubrication that are made, and what specific purpose each serves. For this blog we’re going to focus in on oil lubricants and examine the basics of how these fluids are made as well as what they’re made from.

Lubricant oils are one of many derivatives of raw petroleum. Petroleum in its raw form is a liquid, which varies in colour depending on its source, but is typically somewhere in the yellow/brown/black spectrum. It is composed of hydrocarbons. These are organically existing chemical compounds which are made purely from combinations of carbon and hydrogen atoms- hence the name.

During the process of sedimentation, many immediate impurities in the oil are removed as they form a sediment, equally because of the insolubility of oil, it also separates from any water present in the sedimentation process, meaning the oil which then goes on to be processed is separated from many of the initial contaminations with which it leaves the ground.

The most valuable uses of raw petroleum are extracted by fractioning columns. Because the different hydrocarbons within the raw petroleum mix all have different properties, they cool and condense at different rates. This means that the component parts of the petroleum come of the fractional distillation tower at different heights. Petrol fuel, known as Gasoline in the US, comes of the tower the highest and is a high value product of raw petroleum.

Most of the oils used in lubricants are made using the crude oil which is filtered from lower in the tower. The crude oil is filtered to remove remaining impurities which have not been separated from the crude oil during the ‘fractioning’ or the sedimentation processes. Often the purity of the oil during this process can be viewed through sight glasses in the pipes of the filtering process, such as these.

Although the crude oil at this early stage does have many of the qualities which are required of a lubricating oil, further processing is still required to enhance the fluid, ensuring it can perform all the functions required of it. It is at this stage that additives are introduced to the crude oil. These include allowing the oil to be resistant to extreme temperatures, for example ensuring the oil won’t freeze at low temperatures.

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Industrial Lubricants – Some Common Questions

What are Industrial Fluids used for?

There are two main uses for fluids. As lubricants for industrial and cutting processes and as coolants. This is because some processes can cause damage to manufacturing equipment if temperatures are too high.

What are they made from?

The main substance of cutting or cooling fluids depends on the process that they are designed for. Materials are developed with custom specifications in mind, so the fluids themselves will vary depending on why they are produced for and by. There are three main categories. Straight Oils, Soluble Oils and Synthetic Fluids.

Why have these different types?

The easy answer is that each has its own strength. Straight oils are very effective lubricants for industrial processes. They don’t conduct heat as well as other fluids for example however, and so are not often used as coolants. Synthetic fluids are often diluted with water and are the best performing coolants. Soluble oils are a halfway house- oils which can be diluted using an emulsifier.

Why not just use water?

Water is in fact used in a number of fluids. Those diluted synthetic fluids that contain a high percentage of water are known in the industry as HWCF- high water content fluids. The real reason is that many oil based fluids are better lubricants due to their construction at a particle level. Many of the synthetic fluids contain other specially chosen chemical additives, which perform anti-rust functions which water alone could not perform.

Are there any dangers to using these fluids?

If the fluids are well researched and constructed then there ought not to be a risk. An important factor to consider in the development of fluids is the ‘Flash Point’. This is the temperature at which the fluids can begin to emit vapours. These are not only potentially harmful, but can also cause ignition which is naturally a risk.

Are there any lubricants that aren’t fluids?

Whilst some lubricants for industrial purposes aren’t fluids, the majority are. According to Shell around 3% of the lubricant market is grease rather than fluid based. Greases are much heavier and thicker. Whilst they have functions, they can’t be applied at the same rate as fluids which are applied I constant and high volume throughout a process. This constant passage of fluid over processes means that fluids carry more heat away and are thus far better suited to being coolants as well, as greases don’t carry heat away from points of contact.

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Industrial Lubricant Market Continues to Grow

We’ve seen the overall value of the industrial lubricant market steadily grow over the last few decades, as the practical advantages to using lubricants and coolants have become clearer, and as the technology used to develop these resources has resulted in improved performance of fluids. This in turn has seen industry more inclined to invest not only in fluids, but in developing custom fluids for particular purposes, which helped to grow the industry.

Research and Markets announced earlier in December that their 2024 forecast for the industrial lubricant market expects the value of the industry to grow to to around $68.41 in the next eight years. Research and markets consider that this is largely due to ‘the growth of key end-use industries’ and points out chemical manufacturing as well food processing and electronics in Asia pacific as key drivers behind this growth in the lubricant and coolant fluid market.

Also playing its part is the growing industrial productivity of economies which are still considered in the ‘emerging’ bracket, although their individual outputs vary greatly. This category includes China, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa. Whilst a few of these might be considered ‘established’ rather than ‘emerging’ economies, this increase in output is due to a transformation of economic focus, which in return has resulted in greater demand for industrial lubricants.

The research also highlights that North American demand for fluids is expected to remain both high and stable, although manufacturing and industry has remained relatively stagnant over recent years, innovation in product is most likely to be the cause of growth in this region, with an increase in demand due to sector growth less likely than in ‘emerging’ economies where manufacturing output is expected to increase. The role of lubricants in manufacturing and developing products with better emission performance is considered to be one of the most important causes of the trend of growth in China and India with resources used to refine the performance of goods becoming an area of greater focus and investment.

You can read some more about the news here, or if this has piqued your interest- have a longer read about the research from research and markets.

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Metal Cutting Fluids – What best for a coolant?

We’ve covered the basics of metal cutting fluids as well as the most important things to consider for selecting a metal cutting fluid or lubricant for your business. Today we’ll be focusing in more closely on one type of fluid- coolants.

Coolants are used, as their name suggests, to assist in controlling the temperature in a variety of industrial processes. Often, during metal cutting and machining actions, the friction caused will result in a great deal of heat being created as a side effect. In order to avoid warping of metals and machinery, to which most machines and products are more susceptible when at high temperatures, coolants are applied.

Whilst metal cutting fluids in general have a wide variety of bases depending on their purpose, most coolants used in metal cutting and machining are water soluble solutions. This means that they contain both a base mineral oil which forms an emulsion and water. This variety of fluid is the most widely used in metal cutting broadly, but is particularly useful for the purposes of cooling. This is because they are both versatile and relatively inexpensive.

Water Soluble cutting fluids are used in cooling purposes particularly because they have excellent thermal conductivity, spreading heat more quickly that either purely oil based fluids, or synthetic cutting fluids. They combine the high boiling points of oils, with the versatility of the more manufactured fluids. The latent of coolants changing state from liquid to gas can often be taken advantage of as a means of advancing the cooling capacity of a liquid further, although many fluids are also designed to keep their state during cooling processes, so this is another factor to keep in mind.

Where suitable, gases and vapours can sometimes be used as coolants. Carbon Dioxide for example, is often used for cutting tools, but doesn’t have the same lubrication qualities, and is difficult to apply to all areas of machinery, whereas as fluids can reach areas of machinery during cutting that would otherwise struggle to be as accessible.

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Choosing a Fluid For Metal Cutting

There’s lots to think about when selecting a lubricating fluid for a metal cutting process. If you’ve been using cutting lubricants previously and have had trouble then you’ll need to diagnose what the problem has been with current or previous materials, which can be more complicated that it might at first seem. To help you know what to consider for your machinery here are some of the most important factors to consider for looking at current problems with cutting fluids and considering investing in new ones.

Metal and Material

This is one of the most important considerations to make. If you’re working with harder metals, such as stainless steel, or an alloy that is geared towards strength in particular, then you will probably have more trouble selecting a metal cutting lubricant that works for you. For such instances, finding a lubricant which is engineered towards performance at really high pressures will be necessary. As such, the simpler oil based lubricants may not suffice and instead a lubricant with additives such as chlorine may be required in order to perform under the demanding conditions of working with these types of metals.

Softer metals including brass and aluminium however aren’t as demanding, and using simpler oil based fluids will suffice. You will need to ensure however, as Machinery Lubrication magazine point out, that you are not using staining fluids. Most lubricants used for this purpose will specify that they are ‘non-staining’ oils. Lubricants for the aluminium extrusion process for example, tend to be synthetic rather than oil based. Whilst aluminium as a metal is soft and workable, because it needs to be heated to very high temperatures as part of the extrusion process. This requires metal working fluids used to ease the aluminium through the extrusion process (it is driven through a die by intense pressure) the fluid has to be able to perform at very high temperatures, as described here.

Budget and Cost

This shouldn’t be your priority when choosing a fluid, but it does play a part. Whist some metal cutting fluid solutions can be very expensive, often the simpler oil based solutions that don’t require a great deal of additives or engineering can provide cost effective solutions. Our advice on this point would simply be only buy a complicated fluid if your sure you need one. Examine the metals and processes you’re working with, and see if a straightforward cutting fluid will be enough. If so, you could make a good saving.

If you prioritise cost when you ought to have invested in a better and more suitable cutting fluid should have been used, you can quite easily end up costing yourself more in the long run, in poor performing processes and damage. Use a simple fluid where you can, but don’t take a risk with cutting corners.

Environmental Regulation

Something that can be overlooked until the later stages of selecting a fluid solution are the environmental regulations that surround your work site. Look at the guidelines for drainage and water contamination around the industrial site you work on. Some chemicals that are used in the more complex lubricants aren’t permitted for use, as well as some oil based lubricants, because solvents then need to be used to mix them with water for cleaning and drainage.

It’s best to get this work out of the way at the start of the project, to make sure you don’t hit a snag later on and have to rethink your choice once you’ve invested time, effort and money into working on a solution.

Machinery Process

Different machinery processes will require different fluids. Not just the metal you’re working with, but what you’re doing with it. Again, as Machinery Lubricant magazine illustrates, a screw machine risks cross contamination between the different fluids used in the process. To solve this problem, businesses have had to develop solutions with fluids which serve two or three different purposes at once. This means that the same fluid is used in different areas of the machinery. As such, if they end up mixed, no difference is made given that it’s the same material.

If you’re using machinery that’s likely to cause contamination of fluids during its processes, its worth bearing in mind that having a specialised fluid developed that can do more than one job can solve the problem of having three different materials mixing.

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