Cutting tool suppliers do more than sell tools; they help you compete
by John Mitchell
Gone are the days when your competitor was down the street. In today’s fast paced global manufacturing environment our competitors are everywhere. According to China Daily the average wage in China is $6,800 per year or about CDN $3.27 per hour. Canadian machine shops will not be able to compete with that
wage. However, many companies can and do compete by reducing cycle times and improving productivity. According to a metalworking trends survey published by Techspex, the three changes that produced the most positive impact were:
• Purchasing faster equipment.
• Purchasing multi-functional machines.
• Re-organizing the shop floor.
Purchasing faster equipment is meaningless if the cutting tools are not capable of running at the elevated speeds and feeds of the faster machinery. Spending hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on new equipment must coincide with upgrading the cutting tools.
One area often overlooked is milling. Many machine shops today are still running the old 45° lead cutters they have had in their shops for years. These face milling tools typically run at 30 or 40 ipm. Today’s high feed milling can be run at feed rates of 200 to 300 ipm. These tools are versatile as well. They are capable of ramping, interpolating, pocket milling and of course face milling. Many innovative shops are using high feed milling to helically interpolate holes and produce holes up to six times faster than traditional indexable drills. With high feed milling tools, economies of scale may also be had by cutting tool design, such as double sided inserts, giving four or eight edges per corner.
Another milling application often over looked is end milling. Many companies are still using traditional solid carbide end mills. Indexable end mills have a screw-ijon head. Although the performance is slightly better than solid carbide, cycle time reductions are had when it comes time to change the tool. With a traditional solid carbide end mill, the adapter needs to be removed from the spindle, the end mill removed from the collet, and a new end mill put in. The new tool must then be set up using a height gauge or other tool pre-setter. With the indexable solid carbide end mill the head is simply unscrewed right on the machine and a new one is screwed in. The tight tolerance requires no tool pre-setting. This saves up to a half hour for each index.
CBN is replacing grinding because it is quicker to hard turn a part on a CNC lathe than it is to purchase and operate a grinding machine. Hard turning a part on a lathe is much more versatile than a grinding operation.
PCD is replacing uncoated polished carbide since it is capable of running at speeds four times faster.
Cermet is replacing carbide for finishing applications since it is capable of running faster and requiring less offsets. Many have tried cermet in the past and are reluctant to try it again, since earlier versions were brittle and had a tendency to chip easily. Today’s cermet has the same transverse rupture strength as many carbide grades, making it tougher than any of its predecessors.
Even traditional carbide turning inserts have been updated with new coating technologiesA that allow for much faster speeds and feeds.
Machine shop owners have to ask themselves if they have been constantly working on reducing their cycle times. Increasing productivity by reducing cycle is a necessity. However, it’s not always easy. Where does the shop owner, plant manager, shop foreman or machine operator get this information?
One way to stay on top of the latest trends in cutting tools is to rely on your cutting tool sales person. Most cutting tool sales people have extensive training and exposure to hundreds of manufacturing facilities. They are factory trained and must stay up to date with the latest developments. Cutting tool sales people should be treated as your machining consultant. Of course the cutting tool sales person must be willing to spend time at your spindle and make productivity improvements. Simply dropping off sample tools is of little benefit if the sales person isn’t present to demonstrate the productivity improvements on your spindle.
The best part is these cutting tool specialists are available at no charge. Call your cutting tool suppliers, invite them in and let them show you how they can reduce your cycle time and increase your productivity. SMT
John Mitchell is general manager of Tungaloy America based in Brantford, ON.