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Up to 60 percent less wear using cryogenic machining at Sonaca

The Walloon company Sonaca in Gosselies designs and manufactures structural assemblies for the aviation industry. Sonaca researched the extent to which cryogenic cooling could provide added value when machining titanium parts for one of its products.


Conventional machining uses a cooling oil emulsion to remove the heat when machining. The high temperatures obtained during the process are one of the main sources of tool wear. The tools absorb the heat especially when processing heat-resistant materials such as titanium, which results in accelerated wear and high tool costs. 

Feasibility study

Sonaca, Sirris and Air Liquide researched the options and challenges of cryogenic processing in a feasibility study. Cryogenic processing uses a gas such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen that has a very low temperature when pressurised. Upon expansion, the temperature of carbon dioxide is drops to -78 °C and nitrogen is liquid at approximately -196 °C. This extremely high-cooling capacity has its advantages when cooling machining processes especially when processing heat-resistant materials such as titanium. 


The results of this study were promising. The wear of the tools was remarkably lower (up to 60%) and yet productivity remained at the same level. The product finishing (roughening of the surface) also improved because the temperatures could be controlled better and the swarf did not adhere to the tools.