Engineering at the University of Brighton

profile picture of Professor Cyril Crua

Grant to boost engineering industry sustainability

Professor Cyril Crua has received an Innovate UK grant of nearly £200,000 for a project that could slash the environmental impact of many industrial machining processes.

Professor Crua is a leading expert in fluid dynamics within the University of Brighton’s internationally-acclaimed Advanced Engineering Centre. He will be part of £1.35 million consortium project investigating Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL) in precision manufacturing, which is being funded by Innovate UK.

Engineering machinery

Many UK businesses continue to rely on ageing machinery that uses an excess of costly, environmentally damaging and machine degrading coolant. The upcoming green revolution will put a spotlight on machining practices at the heart of several UK industry sectors including energy, automotive and aerospace.

Instead of flooding a cutting area with coolant, MQL delivers a tiny quantity of oil to the cutting zone. This reduces the amount of coolant required by up to 99%, while recent research by University of Sheffield’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (one of the other project collaborators) has shown that MQL can reduce running costs by up to half and energy use by a fifth. It can also avoid the need to clean the component after machining, and reduce health risks to machine operators.

Brighton’s Advanced Engineering Centre will help develop a cost-effective Ultrasonic Minimum Quantity Lubrication (UltraMQL) system to retrofit to existing machining equipment. This will enable small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to take advantage of previously unaffordable technologies, and upgrade for incoming regulations under green revolution and Net Zero targets.

Professor Crua said: The University of Brighton will develop a new high-precision lubricator, and apply laser and imaging measurement techniques to verify the spray performance against flow rate and droplet size requirements. 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.

The UltraMQL project will be led by precision machining specialists Kugel Rotary, and will see the University of Brighton collaborating with Quaker Houghton (lubricants) and Bloc Digital (IoT), as well as University of Sheffield’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

Stuart Vere, Managing Director of Kugel Rotary Services, said: “Lubrication is a critical factor during metal cutting processes. Insufficient lubricant as well as excessive lubricant can have a detrimental effect on quality, cost and time and have an adverse impact on the environment. Just like other flexible variables such as speeds and feeds, the application of lubrication should also be optimised to ensure the best results whilst keeping overall oil contamination to a minimum.

Laura Ruby • August 17, 2021

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