EcoCooling: A dry, clean and environmentally friendly method developed to lubricate metal workpieces

Finnish company claims metalcutting technology breakthrough that eliminates need for metalworking fluids ready for broader application.

Dry cooling method to replace polluting metalworking fluids.

Expensive metalworking fluids are no longer needed to cool and lubricate workpieces and cutting tools in the machine tool industry. Instead, there is now a proven green and clean method, EcoCooling, that uses only ionised and cooled air and has none of the environmental hazards and costs related to oil-based fluids.

The same team that developed the technology behind Amazon’s ground-breaking family of front-lit Kindle devices has developed EcoCooling, a dry, clean and environmentally friendly method to lubricate metal workpieces with ionised and cooled air, avoiding the need for metalworking fluids, it is claimed.

The elimination of metalworking fluid costs, easier swarf recycling, smaller machine tools, reduced maintenance, higher productivity and the avoidance of toxic waste plus fumes and vapours are all claimed benefits.

The extremely compact and maintenance-free EcoCooling air-cooling unit makes it possible to build smaller and cheaper metalworking machines. The technology, based on ionised, cooled air, makes metalworking fluids redundant and has proved to prolong the lifetime of the cutting tools significantly. The unit can also be easily retrofitted onto existing machine tools and tool-parks worldwide

The group behind this latest development includes scientists, engineers and experienced businesspeople from various disciplines, with some three decades of research and application now placing EcoCooling ready for wider application. Says Leo Hatjasalo, co-founder and CEO of Finnish company EcoCooling: “Workshops have wanted to get rid of fluids and many have tried to find a solution to the problem, but with poor results. Now we have the answer to this demand, since EcoCooling can be used even with the hardest known metals, like chrome, titanium and tungsten carbides.”

“EcoCooling is based on the fact that ionised air penetrates the cutting zone and forms a dry lubricant that decreases cutting friction and generated heat, at the same time speeding up the oxide layer formation. The process is patented on all continents, and at the moment we are validating it to include all types of machine tools.”

While reduced metalworking fluid costs are an obvious benefit, there is also the promise of improved productivity through higher cutting speeds, reduced cutting tool wear and reduced maintenance costs, the Finnish company says.

The global market for metalworking fluids’ value is estimated at about $12 billion this year. It is growing steadily, with estimates that the global market for machine tools is expected to grow from
$120 billion to $150 billion in five years’ time. The growth is driven, for example, by the accelerating need for components in the aerospace, automotive and transport sectors.

And since metal chips are not contaminated by any fluids, they can be recycled without the need for cleaning, while toxic fluid waste and fumes are eliminated, in addition to minimising CO2 emissions, since no oil is used, the company further adds. Furthermore, since the EcoCooling unit is compact, smaller and cheaper metalworking machines are also another outcome.

Confirms Hatjasalo: “The unit does not need any service and it has proved to prolong the lifetime of the cutting tools significantly. The system can also be easily retrofitted to older machine tools.”

EcoCooling has been successfully trialled in numerous commercial tests in demanding surroundings internationally in recent years. Now that the process has been proven, the aim is to create a versatile EcoCooling product family that includes all machine tools in addition to just turning machines.

Says Hatjasalo: “We are also planning to integrate the system to suit different CNC machine tools and to create optimal solutions for all machine tools and workshop environments. However, for that purpose we need more funding than we can raise on our own. Therefore, the next step is to find an industrial partner to help us to commercialise EcoCooling globally and to develop the ways the technology can be used.”