"Green machining" has a double meaning at Ford Motor Company's Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich. Recently installed MQL (minimum quantity lubrication) machining systems from MAG Powertrain are paying both cost and environmental dividends. The systems netted green savings of seven figures in initial cost, and the machines are producing parts at lower variable cost. Plant air quality is improved compared to conventional wet machining, too. More importantly, the quality level achieved with MQL is equal to, or better than, comparable wet machining operations. This spring, Van Dyke Transmission finished first in Ford's 2008 North American Powertrain Environmental Performance Awards. In addition, the plant was awarded Quality Magazine's 2008 Quality Plant of the year Award. Plant manager Alexandria Maciag accepted the award and will be speaking at this year's International Manufacturing Trade Show in Chicago on Tuesday, September 9.

 

Van Dyke Transmission currently uses more than 120 MAG CNC machines equipped with MQL or a hybrid system combining CNC and special machines. MQL is a nearly dry machining process that uses a through-tool oil mist, tailored to provide just the right volume for ideal lubricity at the interface of tool and work surface. The amount of lubricity is controlled for the particular machining operation and tool, such as tapping or face milling. MQL reduces metalworking fluid flow from gallons per minute (in traditional wet machining) to milliliters per hour.

 

The plant's most recent green-machine installation in early 2008 included 52 MAG SPECHT horizontal machining systems configured for 4- and 5-axis work to produce aluminum parts for the 6F mid-range FWD transmission. The high-speed machines complement MQL with a proprietary real-time temperature compensation system that constantly monitors the machine, the part and ambient air to ensure consistently precise work. The steeply angled interior of the machine, coupled with a Handte chip evacuation system, eliminates the need for chip-flushing coolant and the resulting cost for pumps, filter media, and chip drying. The machining envelope is kept under negative air pressure, with chips and oil mist being pulled out in an airstream, then through a centrifuge and filter system. Dry chips collect in a hopper, and clean air is returned to the plant or back to the machine enclosure. A study, conducted by Van Dyke Transmission, showed that the filtered air from the chip evacuation system is as clean as typical office air, contributing to an improvement in overall plant air quality.

 

"The metalworking industry consumes several hundred million gallons of fluids each year," said Ron Quaile, vice president proposal, estimating & marketing for MAG Powertrain North America. "The investment, operation, and maintenance costs of traditional coolant systems can easily reach 15 percent of the life-cycle cost of a machining system. A machine that uses conventional coolants requires a more costly plant infrastructure, costs more to install, and is more difficult and costly to relocate. Coolant mist almost always fouls the plant air and equipment. There's a cascade of cost savings when you take flood coolant out of machining, and this plant has proven these benefits."