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What is MQL?

An introduction to Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL).

Machining & Metal Cutting Lubrication

At Unist, our mission is to help improve manufacturing operations. For machining and metal cutting operations, we believe there is a better alternative to flood coolant for cooling and lubricating the machining process. That better way is Minimum Quantity Lubrication or "MQL." MQL replaces the gallons of coolant machinists typically use with only a few ounces of naturally renewable lubricant. MQL not only reduces fluid use and saves money, but improves tool life, promotes cleaner shops, eliminates the need for fluid circulation, treatment and disposal, and more - all while utilizing an environmentally friendly product that's safe for your workers.

What is MQL?

Cutting tool/work piece interface

Metal cutting processes generate heat in two ways. First, the shearing action of the material causes heat buildup as the material deforms and eventually flies away as a chip. Second, the sliding friction between the workpiece and the cutting tool generates heat as the tool plunges into the material. Flood coolant typically is used to quench the heat. MQL works to reduce the heat.

By applying minute amounts of high-quality lubricant directly to the cutting tool/work piece interface, MQL works to reduce the amount of friction and therefore lowers the amount of heat generated in the process. Heat generated by material deformation flows away as the chips break off from the cut. In most configurations, lubricant is carried in an air atomized form to the cutting zone.


machining with MQL
Machining clean with MQL - Reduce friction and avoid heat - neatly apply ounces of lubricant per shift with no fluid cleanup or disposal
machining with flood coolant
Machining with coolant - Cool down hot tools and work - flood with gallons of coolant - recirculate/treat fluid, clean up fluid mess, pay for disposal.


Benefits of MQL

benefits to your businessBusiness

  • Lower manufacturing costs
  • Lower fluid costs
  • Reduced cleaning costs
  • Increased tool life
  • Increased part quality
  • Better scrap value
benefits to your employeesEmployees

  • Safe, non-toxic fluids
  • Less safety hazards
benefits to the environmentEnvironment

  • 100% biodegradable fluid
  • Less energy consumed in process
  • Use ounces of fluid vs. gallons


Unist MQL systems

MQL Applicators

Unist’s family of products for Machining and Metal Cutting Lubrication are configurable to fit any process. Between CNC’s, manual machines, saws, and custom machines, Unist can provide you with the right system for your needs. This includes the number of outputs and nozzles required to deliver the lubricant and the level of control, integration, and automation required for your process.

In all of our products, consistent, reliable, and precise amounts of lubrication are dispensed to the cutting process. This is achieved with the use of a positive displacement pump. Control over both the flow rate of oil and the flow rate of air allow users to find the optimal settings for the process.

MQL Applicator Parts


Main System

Inside view of Unist MQL systemThe main system is comprised of the reservoir, pumps, and valves that are used to dispense lubricant and air to its point of use. It may also include a protective enclosure. Reservoirs are available in several sizes to match your application’s needs and pumps can be selected to deliver the correct amount of output for the type of fluid being used. The main system can be configured with one or multiple pumps to provide fluid for one or multiple points of use. Unist MQL applicators feature a lifetime warranty on their positive-displacement pumps when Unist Coolube® lubricant is used exclusively.




co-axial vs. single-line tubing

From the main system, the air and oil travel through tubing to the MQL Nozzle where they are delivered to the point of application in the form of an atomized spray. Tubing can be either dual-channel, also known as co-axial (air and oil remain separated from the main system to the point of application) or single-line (air and oil are mixed from the main system to the point of application). Each method has its strengths and Unist can help you determine which is best for you.

MQL Nozzles

Whether your application involves a drill, saw, or turning tool, Unist has a nozzle designed for your process. Sometimes existing machine routing can be used as is the case in through-turret or through-spindle MQL on lathes and mills. Learn more about MQL Nozzles


Control Actuation

control/actuation options

Unist puts the control of your MQL applicator in your hands with a variety of actuation options. Unist can build a system to your specs, from simple, manual on/off control with manual rate adjustment, to air pilot valve control, to solenoid control for varied voltages. We also build systems featuring fully automated and integrated digital control. Get in touch and a Unist will help determine the right control actuation for your needs.


Want to learn more? Contact us to talk about your process.