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By Lauren Duensing

Precision lubrication ensures productive equipment and a safer shop, says Unist Inc. Territory Sales Manager Kyle Billin

FFJ 0417 face leadQ: Why is it important for metalforming operations to implement a consistent, precise system for lubrication?

Kyle Billin: Inconsistency in lubricant application can make it very difficult to expect any type of reliability or repeatability in the forming process. Downtime can be very expensive for metalformers, so implementing a system that increases productivity, provides better die life and eliminates material splits caused by inconsistent lubricant application is extremely important. Over-applying lubricant is both messy and imprecise, and the cost mounts up over time. 

Q: How can metalformers evaluate their lubrication methods and pinpoint ways to improve them?

Billin: It is best if the lubricant is applied in a consistent film that carries into the full length of the tooling. This provides protection throughout the entire forming process. If the material has some areas that are dry and others that are overly saturated, your current method can be improved. Inadequate lube coverage will cause adhesive galling, as well as consistent splits in the parts during the forming process. 

Metalformers should consider how effectively they are applying lubricant to the bottom side of the stock. Although it’s often overlooked, it is very important to apply a film of lubricant to the bottom of the stock to extend tooling life. Finally, if there is a great deal of excess lubricant ending up on the press bolster or on the floor, companies should find a better method of application to reduce this waste.  

Q: How can imprecise lubricant application affect downstream processes and the work environment?

Billin: Imprecise lubrication systems often result in excess lubrication on parts. This excess lube can create issues in part washing systems and the storage of parts or dies. Excess lubrication on parts can create issues in secondary processes, such as welding. Messy fluid application systems cause an unsafe and hazardous work environment. Not only is it expensive to pump excess lube out of press pits and waste this lubricant, but stagnant lube odor is very unpleasant. By using a precise fluid application system, you eliminate excess fluid and keep the press area much cleaner, leading to a safer work environment. 

Q: What characteristics does an effective stock lubrication system have?

Billin: A lubricant application system should apply the exact amount of lubricant needed for each job and minimize overspray or wasted lubricant. The lubricant should be applied to both the top and the bottom of stock in a very clean and consistent manner. An effective lubrication system should give metalformers the ability to tailor lube application settings to each job they run in the press. It should then save those jobs to memory in a PLC fluid controller. The system should also be interactive and user-friendly to make the job easier on operators. A press line should not experience downtime due to inadequacies in lubricant application. 

Q: Can you provide an example that illustrates the effectiveness of a sophisticated lubrication system and the cost savings it can provide? 

Billin: A sophisticated system allows a user to customize the lube application to the exact needs of the job being run. The lubricant is applied in a consistent film to the top and bottom of the stock, without any overspray. Typically this is best done through an internally fed roll coater system. That same system should be able to apply secondary lube application further into the die, which is best achieved with precise spray nozzles. A system with the capabilities to control all this from one PLC controller is easier on the operator. Using this technology, metalformers can often reduce lubricant consumption by more than 50 percent. They will spend less to remove excess lubricant, have more hits between die sharpening, spend less time and money on cleaning, and increase output. This results in a rather quick return on investment and enhanced profitability. In addition, operators will appreciate a cleaner and safer work environment. FFJ

Kyle Billin is Territory Sales Manager for the eastern U.S. and Canada at Unist Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan. He helps Unist’s metalforming customers save money and improve production efficiency through the consistent application of fluids.

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