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"Why aren't more machine shops using natural biodegradable oils? Is it the cost, availability or marketing? Don't they outperform the others? I am confused why more machinists don't use them."
Much of the reason for this may be due to old practices and mindsets. If your mineral oil worked for you yesterday, why would you want to change to a vegetable-based oil today and take a chance that the new product won't perform as well?
People often fall into a routine, and unless something upsets that routine, the current practices tend to stay the same. It's usually not until an event like a discharge, government agency involvement or new personnel entering the facility that old practices are questioned and new ideas are considered.
Many machinists may not even be aware of the other products on the market. In today's economy, it seems as if no one wears just one hat on the job anymore. The pressing issues at hand must be addressed, so the thought of looking for new products frequently gets pushed aside. Of course, there are those who are constantly looking for the best-performing products on the market and taking proactive steps to save the environment.
The other issue is that biodegradable oils usually have a higher cost than mineral oils. This hinders smaller shops from changing to environmentally friendly lubricants. The cost not only involves the oils but also ensuring that all equipment is cleaned out completely before making the switch, since most vegetable oils and mineral oils don't mix well.
Changing to biodegradable oils can be costly and take time away from production. Obviously, additional costs and downtime are two things most plants never want to hear and will be put off until absolutely necessary unless financial justification can be made.
Biodegradable oils have many advantages over mineral-based oils. Anyone working in a machine shop knows of the dreaded oil mist. This mist consists of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can cause dermatitis. With biodegradable oils, the oil misting is lessened, which means fewer VOCs entering the air and minimal skin-related issues. Using a vegetable oil may also improve lubricity.
When deciding which lubricant is right for you, consider the application as well as your company values. Some industries may have sticker policies on environmental impacts or be forced to adhere to government regulations. The process might even demand a biodegradable fluid. Whatever the case, be sure to evaluate all of your options.