Colonial tool Click image to enlargeby Mackenzie Froats

Why customized indexable tooling may be a good option for your machine shop


If you could lower your cost per part through improved throughput, higher quality, fewer and faster tooling changeovers and longer tool life, would you consider investing in the type of tooling that could accomplish this?

While off-the-shelf tooling solutions exist, customized tooling may be a good option for your machining operations, especially if the machining problems you’re trying to solve are for unique applications that demand a unique and innovative solution.

One of the key advantages of customized tooling is that it’s an open book. You can create innovative solutions that combine a series of cutting tools designed to work together as a complete cutting solution. For instance, a tooling system could include boring tools, milling tools, actuated tooling, valve seat tool and hardware components associated with these tools that can help to improve you machining efficiencies. And improving machining efficiencies means lower cyle times, less machine down time, higher quality finishes and lower cost per part, ultimately making your shop a more competitive one.

If you’re considering implementing customized tooling in your shop, here are a few factors to take into account:

  • Low Volume/High Mix Production Environment
    If you have frequent changeovers for multiple products and small runs, your customized tooling needs to optimize the process so you can achieve fast and repeatable changeovers.
  • High Volume/Low Mix Production Environment
    If your shop is running large batches of the same product, you want to ensure you have tooling that allows you to work at faster cutting speeds and feeds and offers longer tool life to minimize machine downtime.

Don’t fall for false savings
When budgets are tight, it’s tempting to opt for the cheapest tooling solution you can find. Unfortunately, it’s never that simple, and these upfront savings often don’t pan out over the long term. The time you’ll spend replacing worn-out substandard tools and the scrap you’ll make with non-conforming parts can quickly eat up any initial savings you saw.

For industrial applications, the name of the game is cutting speed and accuracy, two things that are difficult to guarantee with standard, off-the-shelf tooling and inserts. There are many ways in which choosing a custom tooling system will save you time, energy and money:

A tool designed for your job will last longer. Standard tools aren’t optimized for your materials, speeds, approach angles and required surface finishes. In some cases, they can be made to work, but they will always wear out faster than if the tool and tool system has been created for your exact conditions and to give a specific result. Tools that wear out fast also create more scrap at the end of their life.

A custom tooling system will require less setup time. With every tooling or product changeover, there is setup time. It can’t be avoided. But when you use a custom tooling system, you can reduce that time to a minimum. Typically, a customized tooling supplier will test your materials and products to ensure the solution they’ve recommended is the optimized one for your shop.

You’ll reduce downtime. On jobs with multiple tools or when you have long cycle times, having to stop for a tool change is frustrating and time consuming. An optimized tool system means more uptime and higher productivity.

Real savings are calculated over months and years, not days. Consider a long term approach to improved quality and return on investment with a customized tooling system. Every machine shop’s goal is to produce a higher volume of quality parts in less time, so equip yourself to succeed. 

Mackenzie Froats is a sales engineer with Colonial Tool Group

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