Near-dry machining, also known as minimum quantity lubrication or MQL, is a process that lubricates cutting tools with a fine spray of oil exactly when and where it is needed. In comparison, conventional wet machining floods the part with metal-working fluids, requiring large amounts of fluid to cool and lubricate the tools used to make engines and transmissions.
For a typical production line, MQL can save more than 280,000 gallons of water per year, Ford says. The automaker’s Cologne Engine Plant in Germany decreased water use per engine by 50 percent from 2011 to 2012 by switching to the MQL process.
MQL also reduces the amount of oil needed to machine an engine or transmission 80 percent or more, to approximately 100 milliliters. Without the need for a coolant system across most engine production lines, MQL also helps to reduce energy use. While conventional wet machining produces an airborne mist, MQL eliminates that mist, improving air quality in the plant.
Plants that have switched to the MQL process include:
- Changan Ford Engine Plant (China)
- Craiova Engine Plant (Romania)
- Cologne Engine Plant (Germany)
- Livonia Transmission Plant (Michigan)
- Romeo Engine Plant (Michigan)
- Van Dyke Transmission Plant (Michigan)
The MQL expansion brings Ford closer to its goal of cutting water use 30 percent per vehicle by 2015, the automaker says. Between 2000 and 2012, Ford reduced global water use by 62 percent — about 10 billion gallons — according to its most recent sustainability report.