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Various examples of swarf, including a block of compressed swarf

Swarf, also known as turnings, chips, or filings, are shavings and chippings of metal — the debris or waste resulting from metalworking operations. It can usually be recycled, and this is the preferred method of disposal due to the environmental concerns regarding potential contamination with cutting fluid or tramp oil. The ideal way to remove these liquids is by the use of a centrifuge which will separate the fluids from the metal, allowing both to be reclaimed and prepared for further treatment.

The chips can be extremely sharp, and this creates a safety problem, as they can cause severe injuries if not handled correctly. Depending on the composition of the material, it can persist in the environment for a long time before degrading. This, combined with the small size of some chips (e.g. those of brass or bronze), allows them to disperse widely by piggy-backing on soft materials and also to penetrate the skin as deep splinters.

Disposing of swarf is a tedious but necessary task. For ease of transport and handling, swarf may be compressed into bricks, which greatly reduces associated problems with storing and cost; it also improves material handling for all concerned with its reclamation and recycling.

Optimum cutting efficiencies often generate continuous, spring-like, swarf. This is hard to deal with as it is bulky and can clog the nozzle of a shop-vac. Clean-up and disposal of this continuous-cutting swarf is made simpler by using a cutting tool with a chip-breaker. This results in denser, more manageable waste.

Swarf may also be an archaic term for waste oil or grease, see swarfega.


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