Modern-day Metalworking: Examining Cutting Tools Technology

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Metalworking has grown by leaps and bounds with the latest in manufacturing technology. Cutting tools and machining processes have evolved to the point where industrial equipment can be made faster and at lesser expense than ever before. These end products are used in every facet of life from the home to the office and in essentially every industry and market. The end result of these advances is to make the manufacturing sector competitive in the global marketplace by providing precision products at the lowest price.

New technologies focus on refining overall production processes. The best way to do so is to combine multiple process steps into one machining operation. Every time materials have to be switched between machines, there is lost time due to loading and unloading along with repositioning and workholding. New working materials and processes helps accomplish the reduction in working steps required for precision products.

Hard Turning And Milling Operations

A common bottleneck in working with hard metals was the need for intermediate working steps. For example, if the cutting tools in use were not capable of working a hard metal, that metal would have to be worked and then heat treated to its final hardness, requiring additional finishing and grinding steps afterward. For example, industrial equipment made from high hardness materials would be worked in an annealed condition and then would be heat treated, requiring further grinding and finishing.

Today's hard turning machine steps are able to avoid all of that intermediate work. Specialized cutting tools made from polycrystalline cubic boron nitride can turn and mill hardened materials without an annealing step to lower hardness. This particular metalworking breakthrough imparts a number of highly desirable properties into machine components: high toughness, chemical stability, high hardness and high thermal conductivity along with a low thermal expansion coefficient. By removing entire working steps, finished products can come off the line cheaper, faster, and with fewer flaws or off specification rejects.

Hard turning can also supplant grinding in some cases. When this applies, hard turning runs faster than grinding, again lowering both run times and costs.

High Speed Cutting Tools

Many high speed processes were reserved for softer metals as well, such as aluminum. The same issue with annealing and heat treatment also applied for this type of metalworking. But just like turning, new high speed cutting tools can handle harder metals without the intermediate process steps. Again, today's technology is focused on reducing the per unit cost of all types of industrial equipment.

It might seem counterintuitive, but speeding up metalworking processes actually generates high precision products. Each new step introduces a chance for error, either in part due to human mistakes, improper workholding, machines working outside of specifications, and over working. The ability to cut out intermediate work has a noticeable impact on quality control.

Safety And Reliability - Dry Machining

The polycrystalline cubic boron nitride material's properties also preclude the need for cooling fluids. This is accomplished due to the ability of the polycrystalline cubic boron nitride to withstand high temperatures and thermal loads. Hence, dry machining can be used and is highly preferable to the alternative.

By eliminating the need for cooling fluids, there is a significantly reduced chance of thermal shock and breakage. When hot industrial equipment comes into contact with cooling liquids, the sudden change in temperature can crack or break components. Dry processes are also safer for operators since cooling fluids are toxic upon human exposure. In the end, dry processing is less expensive and safer.

Integrating Chemistry With Diamond Like Coatings

Diamond tipped blades have seen steady use in manufacturing. The latest evolution of this technology is diamond-like coatings. In effect, these coatings simulate the properties of a diamond and can be applied to cutting tools. Tooling components can utilize these coatings to gain tremendous wear resistance, extra hardness, and reduced coefficient of friction. There have even been some instances of type 304 stainless steel industrial equipment going from a one week service life to lasting for 85 years.

This achievement is based in atomically modified coatings. From a chemical standpoint, these coatings are just simple carbon atoms. However, they are arranged and applied in such a matter so that the atoms form a diamond-like surface. It is the manipulation of the underlying atomic structure that creates the wear resistance properties vital for precise and efficient machine work.

In the end, manufacturing technology strives to push the industry ever forward. Innovations lead to higher outputs of quality industrial equipment at a lower cost.
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Greg Palmer has 1 articles online


Greg Palmer is an author for Reid Supply, an industrial distribution company with a 60 year history supplying customers in all 50 states and over 40 countries with industrial equipment such as cutting tools and more.

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Modern-day Metalworking: Examining Cutting Tools Technology

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This article was published on 2011/02/17