More Dry Machining for Ford

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Ford Motor Co.s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., will complete installation of a second MAG Powertrain-built minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) machining system by the end of 2007, a move that is expected to cut costs and improve the plants environment.

This is the third MAG Powertrain-built MQL system to be installed at a Ford North American facility. MAG-built systems are in place at Van Dyke and at Fords Livonia Transmission Plant in Livonia, Mich.

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Ford first explored MQL technology with a pilot program in Germany in the late 1990s. Those early attempts began on manual transmission cases at the companys Cologne, Germany, plant, Richard Furness, a manager at Ford Motor Co.s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Development Center in Livonia, Mich., said. Initially, it was associated with cost, he said. Enhancing health, safety and quality, while getting rid of coolants, were all challenges we wanted to address.

Coolant costs are not trivial. According to Furness, research at several powertrain plants within Ford identified annual coolant usage in excess of five million gallons, at a cost of several million dollars. A study among several global automotive companies further revealed that, within their powertrain operations, coolant costs take a significant bite – in the range of 10 to 17 percent – of the total mechanical manufacturing costs.

The new MQL system at Van Dyke will eliminate wet machining operations for the auto giant in processes that manufacture vehicle transmission components including aluminum transmission cases, converter housings and valve bodies for six speed transmissions. It is being designed for medium to high volume application.

The MQL system is also being installed to enhance the work environment with cleaner machines and floors. With less airborne particulate, the company hopes employee health will be safeguarded from skin irritations and respiratory problems that may result from exposure to fluid mists and fluids.

In dry or near dry machining, a fine oil mist – created by a valve that mixes oil with an air stream – replaces the traditional flood coolant that is used to lubricate and cool the cutting tool and flush away chips. Dry chips are then expelled through the use of an integrated chip handling system.

Each MQL machining process has its own lubricity level as opposed to a centralized coolant system where the mix of lubricant and other fluids is the same for all operations. Milling, for example, requires minimal to no lubricity, whereas tapping processes typically need more.

Headquartered in Dearborn, Mich., Ford Motor Co. has approximately 200 MQL machines at its production facilities worldwide.

MAG Powertrain, formerly Cross Huller Ex-Cell-O Lamb, is a business unit of MAG Industrial Automation Systems. The Sterling Heights, Mich.-based machine tool builder designs and constructs manufacturing systems for the automotive, diesel and heavy industrial machining industries.

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