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Why Machine-Tool Mist Should Matter

There are a multitude of CNC machine tools on the market, and all of them have capabilities that would leave many an old-school machinist in total awe. Back in the 1980’s, I worked with some of the most skilled machinists that 3M had on staff. Their work was impeccable, but many parts took days or weeks to produce due to the many manual steps involved, from set-ups, tweaking, re-work, etc.

MistBuster 850 Compact - blue background

Today’s high-speed CNC machines are faster and safer than any of the mills and lathes from the past. These new, multi-axis machines can also make more perfect, repeated parts in an hour than it would take to merely set-up a machine back in the day. The modern machinist still has to be able to visualize in 3 dimensions, but they are greatly aided with the advances made in machine programming.

The new machines are also far safer than the manual machines from long ago. However, one area of safety too often overlooked is that of machine-tool mist. Depending on the machining process parameters, a mist, or a combination of mist and smoke may be generated from the coolant that is flooded on components during the machining process.

The fugitive mist that escapes can leave a film on exposed ceilings and walls, and can damage electrical components. In addition, the film can cause a slip-hazard on floors. More importantly, machine-tool mist is an air contaminant, and breathing in this mist can be hazardous to one’s health. The potential hazards include skin irritation, headaches and breathing problems.

Some of the ill health effects of machine-tool mist as listed by OSHA can be found at the following link: https://www.osha.gov/metalworking-fluids

Many shop owners are aware of the health hazards associated with machine-tool mist, and have added mist collectors to their CNC machines (some machines come with factory-installed mist collectors). Other shops have CNC machines that are in need of mist collectors and do not have them – and for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Some machining processes produce a very light mist that is barely noticeable.
  • Some shops cannot afford the capital expenditure.
  • Some shop owners are simply unaware of the hazards of machine-tool mist.

The ill effects of breathing in mist and other contaminants may not be felt right away, but they can be long-lasting and can end up costing the employer a lot of money in the long run.

MistBuster 850 Compact installed

There are several reasons that machine-tool mist should matter to you, but the main reasons are the health and safety of your employees. Consider also that in today’s ultra-competitive job market, where it’s becoming more difficult to fill openings for machinists, having a clean, healthy work environment can give you a leg up over the competition.