Published 01-10-2020
| Article appears in October 2020 Issue

How Sharpe Engineering keeps their coolant clean


Demand for Australian-made metal components is increasing.

 This is a positive development that builds on our strong local skill base, quality workmanship and cutting-edge technology.

 But scaling production also means using more coolant.

 Industrial coolants, widely used in metalworking and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) cutting processes, are a major expense.

Their unique chemical composition makes them prone to contamination and degradation.

 Replacing them is a messy and time-consuming task.

 Disposal costs are high and expected to rise further in the face of today’s environmental regulations.

 But dirty coolants are also linked to other, less obvious costs. For example, fine metal shavings in coolant can lead to increased tool wear.

 Oil in coolants causes bacteria to proliferate.

 Bacterial growth in collection tanks does not only deteriorate the coolant, but produces a distinctive foul odour which is a WHS issue for metal manufacturing industry workers. 

 Tramp oil also contributes to quality problems later during processing (e.g. painting), and can trigger skin irritations.

 Some companies use skimmers and filters in an effort to prolong the life of coolant and cutting fluids.

 These technologies are quite basic and cannot remove tramp oil and fine metal shavings due to their small particle size.

 A better way to clean your coolant;

 Family-owned business Sharpe Engineering has been providing quality engineering and manufacturing solutions in Queensland since 1995.

 The company’s clients include operators, contractors and service providers across Australia’s significant resource and energy sectors.

 As the business expanded across its three workshops, equipment was getting bigger and with that, coolant volumes were increasing.

 Currently, Sharpe’s biggest machine requires a 1,700 litres coolant tank, while the other units are attached to 600 – 700 litre tanks.

 In Brisbane the company operates 12 machines alone.

 Jon Sharpe, General Manager at Sharpe Engineering, explains why coolant treatment is a problem.

 “Particles enter the coolant system, and these fine metal shavings affect the quality of the coolant fluids over time.”

 “We had to dispose of our coolant every year to keep it at a good consistency.”

 Sharpe Engineering is currently paying almost $1 per litre with a specialised waste disposal company.

 Due to rising cost, it made perfect sense to investigate the Alfa Laval Alfie 500 separator as a superior and extremely cost-effective technology to clean the coolant.

 “The Alfie 500 was simple to install and is easy to run and clean.”

 “Alfa Laval sent one of their local service technicians to install and explain the different parts of the separator. It made all the difference to have Brisbane based technical support,” Jon Sharpe said.

 Now that the company’s operators have been trained to use the Alfie, it’s running non-stop.

 “The Alfie rips all the oils and particles from the coolant.”

 “We expect a rapid return on investment from savings on disposal cost.” 

 “And the right coolant treatment has a great effect on the quality of work and staff morale,” Jon Sharpe added.

 Centrifugal separation removes even the tiniest particles

 Centrifugation works with G-force to achieve solid-liquid separation faster and more efficiently than filtration, skimmers, and lamella separators.

 Centrifuges can remove sub-micron particles down to 2-3 microns whereas filters are limited to 8-10 microns. 

 The coolant is pumped up from the tank and centrifuged in the separator bowl at speeds of 6,000–10,000 rpm.

 Centrifugal force pushes the solid particles out to the periphery of the disc stack.

 There they become trapped on the inner surface of the separator bowl, while the lighter oil is forced toward the centre, where it can then be drawn off.

 Due to its high rotation speed, the centrifugal separator cleans up to 10,000 times more effectively than equipment based on gravity alone.

 Since Alfa Laval Alfie centrifugal separator is installed in a bypass flow, cleaning can proceed both during production and when the equipment is idle.

 Centrifugal separation dramatically reduces the volume of waste coolant to be sent to disposal and waste management facilities.

 You need only top off the tank with fresh coolant to compensate for evaporation and normal carry out on the end product.

 Under normal circumstances, a centrifugal separator will be able to use your coolant at least 3 - 5 times longer.

 Learn more about the Alfie 500

 Find out more how Alfa Laval, the global leader in separation technology, can help your business save on coolant treatment. Google ‘Alfa Laval Alfie 500’ or visit our website.



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