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Prosock Machine Shop Talk

October 2, 2008

The “Green” Machine

It seems that everyone is lining up to chant some sort of environmental mantra these days.  This chorus of chatter ranges from international governments to every crack and crevasse in the private sector. Is the sky falling?  Have we over reacted?  Are there sensible ways to “go green?” 

Often manufacturing sits in the crosshairs of some of the gravest concerns, and in many cases its well deserved.  As owners and managers of CNC mill and lathe shops we have to ask the question, “what is our responsibility?”  How can we take care of the planet and still turn a profit machining parts.  Should we allow our concern over our carbon footprint to step on our ability to make a profit?  At our core we want to machine quality parts and take full advantage of our mill and lathe technology, but I believe all of us want to do our part in setting up more sustainable practices for our day to day precision machining. 

It seems that there is a positive pier pressure taking hold in most neighborhoods.  A growing number of consumers are recycling and taking measures to move toward renewable energy sources.  But since consumer recycling addresses only 1%-2% of the solution, business have to understand that we carry the burden for environmental care.  We have to hold the business neighborhood to a greater accountability.  Maybe machine shops will become the poster child for 21st century global environmental responsibility.

I read a recent post by Dan Goldsmith and he makes the following suggestions:

  1. On CNC machines with that are electrically controlled with advanced drives, change the parameters in the spindle drives so that they ramp up a little more gradually, saving energy and money.
  2. Use energy-efficient T-8 fluorescent lamps with electronic ballasts to light your shop instead of the old-fashioned T-12 lamps (the bigger ones) that waste energy and money. “Every [lost] kilowatt hour translates directly into dollars of lost profit.”
  3. Recycle waste coolant and oil from CNC mill and lathe machines with companies that specialize in field. “I just spoke to a rep a couple of weeks ago about filtering our press oil into burnable fuel oil for our boilers to heat our plant.” Dan also suggests considering bio-degradable coolants.
  4. “Also what about all that scrap metal? Is it being properly recycled? This is a good area to consider renegotiating for best price.”   Scrap companies are always looking for another machine shop to work with.
  5. Recycle used carbide.
  6. Run more work during second or third shifts on off-peak energy hours.

“Going green” can be about profit and global responsibility.  Let’s choose both.


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