Cutting tool efficiency comes in stages.
There is little argument when it comes to the natural capabilities of solid carbide as the core material of choice for the creation of exceptional performance cutting tools. Taking the basic physical properties of the carbide core and turning into an efficient method of machining metallic and non-metallic materials requires an in-depth knowledge of both the carbide and the raw material as well as extensive experience of grinding complex cutting surfaces and swarf management systems (flutes). Of course, for truly exceptional performance we must also consider the various enhanced coating options available to extend tool life, reduce coolant consumption and increase material removal rates.
As one of the leading innovators in this field Kyocera SGS states there are three distinct stages when it comes to achieving the very best when applying solid carbide cutting tools.
The first stage is known as ‘bespoke tooling’ and this is where process or customer-specific modifications are applied to standard cutting tools. The changes could be as simple as a non-standard radius or chamfer preference size chosen by the customer. As you might expect the benefits and gains are important, but somewhat small as they often are at the first stage in any progressive improvement plan.
‘Special tooling’ is the second stage. Generally, this is where cutting tools are produced specifically to suit the customers’ application requirements. Advanced tool design and manufacturing processes are used to support the combination of cutting tool operations. For example, the individual tools and CNC operations required to drill, counter bore and finish ream a feature can be consolidated into a single tool. This reduces the number of tool pockets needed in the machine’s carousel, and also keeps the non-cutting time to a minimum as the spindle stays in contact with the workpiece. Efficiency gains are significant at the stage, typically above 80 per cent for the consolidated operations.
The final stage is holistic and it is where the most knowledgeable cutting tool specialist operate. Kyocera SGS call this Total Process Innovation, and it requires a team of experienced and capable engineers to look at the whole process, often from ‘outside the box’. Optimisation comes from detailed analysis of every element required, including the machine tool, fixture, toolholder and, of course, the cutting tool. The goals are to reduce time, both the set up and the machining cycle times, and improve quality and process reliability by making the whole sequence robust.
Total Process Innovation is usually driven by the customers’ requirements to meet difficult project challenges. These may be based on the materials being machined; tolerance, geometric form and surface finish required; cost savings as the result of process efficiency gains, or often a combination of all these factors. At this stage for Kyocera SGS it becomes a ‘turnkey partnership’ with the customer.