Conducting an Effective Fluid Trial

Fluid Testing Basics

Posted by Chemtool Team | 07/02/2019

Previously, we recommended trialing new metalworking fluids and listed reasons to request a trial. But what’s the best way to conduct one?This post covers best practices for a metalworking fluid (MWF) trial, and can be used as a guide by distributors or shop management. Let’s go step-by-step.

Gather and Consider Information

The shop leadership and the distributor should ensure they are on the same page as to what is being evaluated and how. Ideally, everything in this section should be accomplished before the distributor makes a product recommendation and the trial is scheduled.

At a minimum, you should know:

  • The exact machining processes and materials being machined
  • How the product is introduced into the system (makeup frequency, central system, or standalone, etc.)
  • Details of the current monitoring process. What is being measured and with what methods?

If the trial involves an MWF that is mixed with water, such as a semi-synthetic, it’s important to test the water quality. Test for hardness, calcium content, and chloride levels. These tests will help determine what product recommendation is made, because some MWF products are more susceptible to water quality issues than others.

Lastly, decide on the metrics you’ll use to measure the trial’s results. There’s more on this below.

The Trial Period

If possible, the trial should be a side-by-side, apples-to-apples comparison under typical conditions. Measure the performance of the incumbent product and the recommended product as they do the same work in the same machines.

Both machines should be thoroughly cleaned with a sump cleaner and rinse. This not only ensures the trial fluid won’t be contaminated, it ensures the comparison is fresh fluid vs. fresh fluid. Follow the same cleaning process for both systems, then charge them.

The best length for a trial is one to three months. During this period, both the shop team and the distributor should monitor usage rates and make note of any issues—from biological growth to corrosion—that occur with either fluid.

Final Assessment

When the trial period ends, revisit the measure you determined for success. Make sure the assessment focuses on actual measured data as opposed to speculation and personal opinions from the operators. While the opinions of operators are valuable, they are completely subjective; this decision can affect the shop’s bottom line for years and should be made from objective facts.

What are good measures to use? You may choose something related directly to a problem experienced with the incumbent fluid (such as carryout); simply measure usage, or choose a metric tied to the specific machining process. An example of this latter approach is measuring how many tool inserts are used in each machine during the trial.

Using multiple metrics is best, just make sure they’re easily comparable and closely related to day-to-day use.

One metric used in any good trial is cost of use, determined by multiplying the amount of product used by its cost. Note that if one product is more expensive per gallon, there will be cost savings if the usage rates are lower and/or performance is better.

Continued Monitoring

A fluid trial is a golden opportunity to implement or improve a routine fluid testing program. A robust monitoring program will create a baseline for each individual machine. Trending data points over time allows the shop leadership to notice patterns and allows for proactive action to be taken by the maintenance or chemical management team.

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