Machining technology has advanced to the point where any shop, no matter how large or small, can acquire equipment, components and controls that permit it to do almost any type of metalworking. And technology available now can even be retrofitted to machines, bringing sophisticated controls and equipment and the use of enhanced cutting tools.
Some producers of cutting tools in fact argue that well-designed tools can extend the life of existing machining systems by improving their effectiveness through increased cutting accuracy, productivity and economy. Recent developments show that a number of innovative tool designs are commercial. Following are some examples.
Emuge, of West Boylston, Mass., recently added a line of micrograin-carbide end mills with productivity-enhancing benefits. Called Top Cut, the end mills are for mold- and die-making applications and other milling operations. Their features include variable-helix flute designs, a new version of a high-heat TiAIN (titanium aluminum nitride) coating and through-coolant capability.
The tools are designed for both roughing and finishing, which Emuge says improves their versatility and productivity. The cutting tools work on diverse materials, including 55 HRc steel, at the upper end of the hardness range.
“We are trying to make tools that produce parts faster and have better metal-removing capabilities,” says Peter Matysiak, president of Emuge, in commenting on the Top Cut line.
Peter Matysiak, president of Emuge, says there is ongoing pressure in the machining industry for greater operational efficiency, a prerequisite to productivity and cost-effectiveness. As a result, all types of equipment are being engineered to ever-higher performance standards.
“It takes a lot of ingredients to cut metal,” Matysiak notes. By this, he means that every aspect of machining has to be working harmoniously with the whole in order for a shop to maximize quality and productivity. For shops to get more out of their machines and the personnel working on them, cutting tools such as end mills can no longer be viewed as commodities.
Among the ways that this is reflected in the Top Cut end mills is a design that reduces harmonics. This is becoming more of a requirement as part makers demand optimum performance out of their machining systems. As shops work with harder-to-machine metals, the “noise” and “chatter” of cutting tools can affect parameters from process speed to surface quality. Matysiak says Emuge uses such techniques as variable-space and asymmetrical fluting to minimize noise and increase cutting speed.
Through-coolant operation is another area that Emuge believes is vital to cutting speed, precision and throughput. The company developed a number of designs to accommodate the end mill sizes and shapes in the Top Cut range, but basically the coolant is directed down the core of the tool and released through the flutes at various angles, Matysiak says.
The cooling technique, combined with the TiAIN coating and carbide base, provides what Matysiak calls a “complete package” that meets the evolving production needs of machine shops.
Sandvik Coromant, the big Swedish company with U.S. offices in Fair Lawn, N.J., released a high-performance drill at the end of November called CoroDrill 460-XM, which can be used with a range of materials, reducing inventory and setup time, the company says.
Manufactured of micrograin carbide, with a coating that reduces friction, the CoroDrill 460-XM is described as hard and durable. Sandvik attributes the tool’s ability to machine metals of different hardness levels to cross-sectional strength and high flute volume. A 140-degree point angle, combined with good centering capabilities and low thrust-force design, meets the needs of multi-material and multiple-application drilling.
The drill also offers the option of internal or external cooling. The CoroDrill 460-XM has a diameter range of 3 to 20 mm, and lengths of 2xD to 5xD.
Another advanced design is the Prototyp Paradur Eco Plus blind hole tap from Walter USA, of Waukesha, Wis. Made of high-speed steel (HSS-E PM) and available with optional high-heat coatings and either external or internal cooling, the tool makes cuts as deep as 3xD in structural and high-tensile steel, stainless steel, abrasives, malleable cast iron, and copper/aluminum alloys, the company reports.
Importantly, the Eco Plus tap is designed with features for long life — up to 30 percent more than the company’s previous version. Walter USA says these features include enhancements to the micro-geometry of the tool and production improvements from the machining of blanks through finish grinding.
These examples show how tool manufacturers are fine-tuning their products to maximize performance, as cutting tools have sometimes been regarded as an afterthought. The properties of cutting tools are as important as those of other machining equipment, and of machining systems. Overlooking cutting tools and how they will work within an operation could create a weak link in the machining system.
As Matysiak advises shops: “Don’t compromise on any issues that affect the speed and tolerance of machining.”