Automatic coolant management: The last link in the autonomous manufacturing chain

Share This Post
Automatic coolant management systems such the Will-Fill Premium Controller can manage every aspect of coolant use. PHOTO courtesy Jorgensen. 

This TECH TIP is provided by Jorgensen Conveyors and Filtration Systems

The worldwide growth of autonomic and connective technology affects every aspect of modern life, from automobiles and package delivery to refrigerators and vacuum cleaners. However, despite manufacturing’s continual drive to boost productivity through the use of advanced technology, one aspect of shop-floor operation has seen only halting steps toward full autonomy.

The missing element is integrated metalcutting coolant management and maintenance. That is until now with the development of automated systems that provide the last link in the fully autonomous manufacturing chain.

One such system is the Will-Fill Premium Coolant Controller that manages every aspect of coolant use. It automatically carries out multiple tasks including measuring and analyzing a machine’s coolant mix, determining coolant tank level and refilling it if necessary with the proper coolant concentration, and conditioning the coolant before adding it to the machine’s tank.

The system then manages and records the accumulated data that is available to users to download. It also provides digital connectivity via a cloud interface that allows users to view all measurement data and analysis online and route specific information to relevant parties.

In addition to eliminating nearly all manual steps in the coolant management process, Will-Fill enables users to take action proactively before coolant problems occur. Even when a machine isn’t running, the system monitors coolant characteristics including tank level, PH, oil/water mix concentration, water hardness (EC), temperature, and oil and water usage.

Using that data, the system performs automatic topping up and refilling and adjusts the coolant mix to the desired concentration. An automatic proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controller adjusts the oil dosing process. Based on coolant condition data that may vary depending on the shop temperature, for example, the system will mix an emulsion that best supports the particular metal cutting operation and workpiece material machining characteristics at hand.

Developed by Dierickx Tools, a manufacturer of fully automatic coolant monitoring and managing systems, the Will-Fill unit is engineered to be a robust, reliable monitor of coolant condition. To ensure that, the company put strong emphasis on minimizing the vulnerability of sensors to coolant residue that can affect sensor accuracy. As a result, the system is able to perform between 400 and 1,000 measurements before manual cleaning of the sensors may be necessary.

The physical design of the Will-Fill system is also aimed at efficiency. When water and oil are added in combination, the system mixes them before they are added to the coolant tank to ensure the emulsion is homogeneous. This same circulation and mixing unit is also used for regular conditioning of the coolant. By moving the coolant around, it has no time to settle and anaerobe bacteria cannot grow, resulting in drastic increase in lifetime of the coolant.

The Will-Fill system unit is mounted on the top of a machine tool coolant tank. Mounting requires a 180 mm opening on the coolant tank, and the unit itself is 200 mm x 200 mm x 500 mm (LxWxH) in size. Eight different Will-Fill models detect level fluctuations from 120 mm to 820 mm, depending on the depth of the machine’s sump. Mixing capacity is +/- 800 liters/hour.

The setup assures that proportions of oil and coolant are added independently of each other before mixing them with existing coolant. This is critical, especially when cutting materials like titanium, where the water tends to evaporate faster, making the coolant replacement required to reach desired concentration consisting largely of water.

Implementation of the Will-Fill system requires a water source. Another hose from the unit feeds a shop’s standard coolant from a barrel located near the machine.

Regarding connectivity, Will-Fill has both Wi-Fi and LAN connections. With those, it provides real-time information and fulfills customer needs for traceability. The data is routed to a cloud server for storage or for presentation on a graphical dashboard for online monitoring. This includes collected data on actual water and oil consumption because many shops have only vague knowledge of their actual water consumption, which can become a significant business cost factor that will rise in importance as water becomes a scarcer resource.

Will-Fill’s automation and connectivity facilitate implementation of productivity strategies such as lights-out machining. Automatic monitoring of the factors in coolant application are accompanied by instant cloud notifications of anomalies that can interrupt untended production. Additionally, because Will-Fill data management is a cloud solution, users can send emails immediately to appropriate staff members when unexpected events like a dirty sensor, an empty oil barrel, or an unexpectedly closed water tap occur.

Automated coolant management also enables use of supplementary coolant-related systems including the PermaClean filtration system from Will-Fill’s partner and U.S distributor Jorgensen Conveyors and Filtration Systems. Jorgensen’s PermaClean eliminates tank sludge, reducing the labor required for frequent tank cleaning. Plus, when combined with the cyclonic filtration option and a Will-Fill, the system is fully automated and nearly maintenance free.

Until recently, most Will-Fill installations have been on existing machines. To simplify the installation process, the system’s analysis is independent of a machine tool’s data.

As an additional benefit, Will-Fill enables a shop to reduce health risks associated with coolant handling and to apply its labor force more efficiently. If coolant maintenance tasks for a machine require three employee hours a week, for instance, that is time an operator will not be machining parts. Adding up the hours of manual labor saved, improvements in machine efficiency and reduction in scrap parts, a Will-Fill system can pay for itself in a 12 to 18 months of operation, it is claimed, depending on specific machining situations.  

As more companies strive for autonomous manufacturing, automated coolant management systems like Will-Fill are generating interest in industries including aerospace/aviation and semiconductors, where tolerances are tight, cleanliness of the machined parts is paramount, and traceability is required. Other industries with similar requirements include medical, defense and automotive manufacturing.

Share This Post


Recent Articles

Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial

Enjoy this post? Share with your network