If you’ve recently started cutting steel with a CNC or any other machine that utilises coolants, it’s best to be aware of any bacteria that may be contaminating your coolant tanks. An issue simply developed from poor upkeep, coolant tanks can develop solids and swarfs, soon becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and contamination. How does this effect your machine? Essentially, contaminated coolants can degrade your tank and will result in poorer cut quality—costing you time and money.
Here are some quick tips on how to prevent this happening to your machinery from our mates at Addler Metalworking.
Quick Tips To Prolong Your Coolant
1. Clean The Tank Before Adding Coolant
Cleanliness is a critical step in any practice to ensure bacteria doesn’t develop and cause harm to (in this case) your machinery. If cutting fluid has been left to sit in your tank, there’s a good chance your tank has now become a breeding ground for bacteria, suitable enough for any grade 8 science project. On top of that, Tramp oils (such as hydraulic and gearbox oils) sometimes find their way into the coolant tanks too, these eventually form pools on top of the coolant solution, causing bacteria growth. Also if you haven’t already, learning how to use a refractometer is an essential step in maintaining your machinery.
Here’s why Addler recommends cleaning your tank to be a great first step:
“Bacteria can be hard to eradicate, as it will flow with the coolant and lodge into small hard to reach areas where the coolant splashes. Often users make the mistake of just simply adding new coolant over the top of the existing bacteria infested coolant. This will infect the new coolant. Eradicating the bacteria isn’t difficult.”
2. Regularly Maintain & Check Your Coolant Tanks
A simple yet effective tip is to get ahead of the problem and regularly check your coolant tanks. Making sure to get rid of any build-up of solids and swarfs is a great preventative procedure that will maximise your coolant life and efficiency.
3. Prevent Contamination of Coolant
Surprisingly, how your coolant is stored and mixed is a common cause of contamination. Making sure to check any lids are properly closed will prevent debris and unwanted liquids from mixing with your coolant. As always, prevention is better than cure.
4. Emulsifying your Coolant
When emulsifying your coolant, Addler notes that it’s essential that you add the soluble coolant to the water and NOT fall into the trap of doing the reverse. When water is added to the coolant, after reverse mixing, what you get is a strong, concentrated mixture of fluid that won’t keep emulsifying.
Here, Addler recommends being aware of a large percentage neat water, which will cause rust spots and seizing of moving components. Neat water has the potential to separate the water and coolant over time, allowing for easier conditions for bacteria to grow. Although, if correctly mixed, and the coolant solution is added to the water, your resulting mix is guaranteed to be consistent, ensuring there is no potential for rust or contamination.
5. Avoid ‘Topping Up’ Incorrectly
Many fall into the habit of ‘topping up’ the tank with more water. Essentially, this is the same effect as wrongly emulsifying your coolant. Addler outlines there is no guarantee that adding water will emulsify your coolant and if anything, it’s more likely to cause rust spots in your tank. Instead, the correct method to top up coolant is to have pre-mixed coolant solution prepared, ideally in a sealed drum that can be added as required. Another great tip is to use deionized water instead of tap water when topping up to avoid adding, even more, contaminants to your coolant.
If you’re looking for more information on how to ensure your coolant tank is clean and running at an ideal, check out this short video from HASS, which provides a wealth of knowledge on coolant tank maintenance.