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Academic secures funding to optimise industrial lubrication

A fluid dynamics specialist, Professor Crua of Bristol University’s Advanced Engineering Centre, has secured almost £200,000 in funding to pursue research that will hopefully lead to enhanced machine lubrication and will reduce the impact that some industrial machining processes have on the environment.

Aging machinery that requires cutting areas to be flooded with coolant is still common in many UK businesses, so Innovate UK has set up a £1.35 million consortium project to investigate how minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) could be used more in manufacturing. By just delivering a small amount of oil to the cutting area, coolant requirements can be slashed by up to 99%. Recent research at the University of Sheffield has also revealed other benefits, such as lower running costs and energy use, along with reduced health risks for operators.

Crua said in a statement that his university would work on a new lubricator that would use techniques like imaging and laser measurement to confirm droplet size requirements and the performance of spray against flow rate. He also explained the benefits of this:

“A finer oil mist with precisely controlled droplet sizes and flow rate will deliver a much more reliable machining lubrication system. This will be achieved using ultrasonic technology, normally found in research grade atomisers, which can be precisely tuned to produce highly repeatable droplets.”

In its effort to develop the UltraMLQ system for retrofitting to existing machinery, Brighton University will collaborate with lubricant firm Quaker Houghton, Internet-of-Things firm Bloc Digital and Kugel Rotary, which specialises in precision machinery.

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