Latest in cutting tools Cutting-edge technology from Europe

From Alexander Stark

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Precision tools are a speciality of the European market. Their quality allows manufacturers around the world to produce high-technology parts and components for sophisticated applications. The innovative spirit of the industry is the trump card for the emerging recovery after the Corona crisis. We present some of the highlights recently launched by international toolmakers.

The solid carbide replaceable heads of Mapal's new reaming programme are specifically adapted to individual diameters and geometries.
The solid carbide replaceable heads of Mapal's new reaming programme are specifically adapted to individual diameters and geometries.
(Source: Mapal)

In a recent statement, Ecta President Markus Horn highlighted the importance of European cutting tool manufacturers on the common market. 60 % of cutting tool exports from the 27 EU member states do not leave Europe, Horn pointed out. Another 13 % of total deliveries go to the other European countries. This means that Europe is the sales market for almost three quarters of our European tools. After Brexit, exports to the UK also declined by 28 %, while the deliveries from the UK fell even more sharply, by 29 %. Italy also reported very sharp declines in orders — of around a quarter in the first nine months of 2020 — due to the imposed company closures. But at the end of the year, production in the automotive industry in Italy picked up again strongly, giving cause for hope.

60% of cutting tool exports from the 27 EU ​
member states do not leave Europe.

Markus Horn

France also recorded a very negative development. Here, the effects of the pandemic were even more drastic, with declines of 35 % in the French market for cutting tools and as much as 50 % for clamping devices, summarizes Horn. In Spain, the downturn was also rather severe. The Spanish market is heavily dependent on the automotive industry whose production was also restricted. Here, the recovery has now begun, albeit still somewhat subdued.

In the following article we are presenting some of the new solutions developed by toolmakers in the recent past. Delivering on precision, efficiency and productivity are a common goal all of them have in common.

Hard materials for demanding tasks

The design of the Smart Damper heads shortens the distance from the damping mechanism to the cutting edge.
The design of the Smart Damper heads shortens the distance from the damping mechanism to the cutting edge.
(Source: Big Kaiser)

When highly demanding projects must comply with very tight tolerances on unique components manufactured from hard-to-machine materials such as Inconel, a tool needs industry-leading reliability. High-precision tooling products have enabled the Italian technical-sales company Covis to meet the tough requirements of its customers. Founded in 1994, Covis designs and produces tailor-made solutions to strict deadlines and quality standards, managing and certifying the entire production cycle at its three operating sites in Italy. The company specializes in precision mechanical machining and welding, including machining of exotic and treated materials such as steel, Inconel, Duplex and Super Duplex and other special alloys.

Covis uses a variety of tools from Big Kaiser, including boring heads, roughing heads and the modular vibration dampening system Smart Damper. The Smart Damper bars have enabled deep boring with high precision finishes on valves with Inconel, with substantially better results than were possible using solutions from other suppliers. All the machining centres in the workshop are also equipped with the Big-Plus spindle system, the only system in the world to guarantee double simultaneous cone-flange contact between the spindle and the machine. This is another important step that gives more rigidity to the machine and keeps vibrations under control.

The design of the Smart Damper heads shortens the distance from the damping mechanism to the cutting edge, i.e. the source of vibration. This significantly improves vibration damping performance at the tool assembly, minimizing chatter and vibration, thus making it ideal for critical applications requiring very long tools, for example in the automotive, energy and aerospace industries. The modular CK/CKB system is compatible with most major spindle interfaces and enables versatility in tooling combination lengths up to a maximum of ten times diameter. All tools have a coolant-through design and offer three different insert holder options per head size.

New geometry for finishing grooves available

Horn offers the geometry for a variety of systems for external and internal grooving.
Horn offers the geometry for a variety of systems for external and internal grooving.
(Source: Horn/ Sauermann)

By standardising the special cutting geometry of finishing grooves, Horn is also responding to users’ requests for even better surface quality on the flanks and at the base of a groove or recess. The new geometry of these finish grooves has already been in use successfully for some time as a special solution for producing grooves for sealing rings and shaft seals. High surface quality is possible without any problems in the finishing process, even when the conditions are unstable. Horn offers the geometry for a variety of systems for external and internal grooving. The geometry is available as a standard tool for the 224, 229, S34T, 315 and 64T systems for precision machining of external grooves. For internal machining, it is available for the 105, 108, 111, 114 and 216 systems. Further insert types are available as special tools and can be delivered quickly via the Greenline system, whereby it is possible to deliver up to 50 customised inserts, depending on the design, within five working days after approval of the drawing by the customer.

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Economical reaming in cast iron and steel in high quantities

Mapal is launching a new, particularly economical system of replaceable head reamers — the Press-to-Size-Reamer (PSR) — for customers who manufacture in large series. The new development reduces the costs per bore massively, the company claims. The solid carbide replaceable heads of the new reaming programme launched by Mapal are specifically adapted to individual diameters and geometries. The replaceable head system for the diameter range 10 to 25 mm consists of a robust holder, the solid carbide replaceable head and a coolant distribution element. The connection is highly accurate. This means that the heads can be changed by the customer’s employee on site without any adjustment or logistics effort, a big plus in terms of cost-effectiveness. The replaceable head is merely exchanged and disposed of. There is no provision for reconditioning the replaceable heads. By eliminating the logistics cycle, the new replaceable head system significantly improves the economic efficiency of reaming operations in large-scale production. This effect is even reinforced by the fact that, in contrast to carbide-tipped reaming tools, the solid carbide replaceable heads can be designed with a CVD coating — with correspondingly positive effects on tool life.

New thread of productivity

Walter also focusses on productivity by extending their concept of their multiple-row thread milling cutters for producing shorter threads. Thanks to small spaces between insert rows, the T2710 has been specially designed for highly productive processing of thread depths up to 1.5 x D, the company says. It adds that even with short thread depths, the simultaneous machining of several thread sections by the new T2710 Series reduces machining time. Productivity is further amplified by the highly wear-resistant thread milling inserts of the Walter WSM37S Tiger-tec Silver grade.

Increased productivity for short threads Suitable for universal use, the rigid tool body incorporates multiple rows of indexable inserts developed specifically for thread milling. The tool body design has been optimised with minimum spaces between the insert rows to increase productivity levels when creating short threads. The tool body and inserts are suitable for threads with a nominal diameter that starts from 20 mm and upwards with a thread pitch range from 1.5 to 6 mm and for Imperial threads a TPI of 18 to 6. This gives the new Walter T2710 Series complete flexibility for threading both metric and Imperial threads regardless of pitch and angle. 47088726 To meet the complete needs of industry, Walter has introduced several new inserts for threads from M125 to UN 5 inch, inserts with a pitch range from 6 to 10 mm and 4 TPI as well as inserts with a 55° flank angle for BSP threads. The new additions add to the already available standard insert range that includes M24 to M125, UNC1 to UN5 and G1 to G3 1/2''. The 3-edge inserts incorporate a chip breaker groove and edge geometry that ensure a smooth cutting action with minimal cutting forces. This is said to permit high cutting speeds and feeds per tooth while simultaneously reducing the radius corrections. For unfavourable conditions, Walter offers the thread milling inserts with a D61 geometry that provides an “anti-vibration land”.

How a contract manufacturer slashes programming times by 80 %

Modern machining relies on 5-axis technology. BAM uses the Hypermill CAM system to generate suitable NC programs – in some cases even fully automatically.
Modern machining relies on 5-axis technology. BAM uses the Hypermill CAM system to generate suitable NC programs – in some cases even fully automatically.
(Source: Open Mind)

Productivity is also in the centre of Open Mind’s CAM solution. Bavarian contract manufacturer BAM is going all in with digital processes in an effort to further reduce costs and project times in contract manufacturing. With the support of Open Mind, the company has used Hypermill Automation Center to streamline and markedly speed up CAM programming.

At BAM, CAM programming represents the final digital step in the transition from the customer design to the finished workpiece. Automation has helped reduce CAM programming times in Hypermill by 70 to 80 %. Thanks to the powerful 2.5D, 3D and 5 axis cycles of the solution, the contract manufacturer has succeeded in reducing setup and programming times at the machining centers, resulting in increased efficiency and higher capacity utilization. Stefan Bauer, Head of Manufacturing at BAM explains that with its feature technology, macro databases and associated process, Hypermill would also provide a solid basis to automate programming and significantly reduce time expenditure by reusing pre-existing programming know-how. The automation center is built on feature and macro technology, allowing any user to standardize machining steps and automatically apply them to new workpieces. Open Mind honed and optimized the process for use at BAM. To handle a wide variety of orders and workpieces, the CAD/CAM manufacturer integrated an interactive user guide which uses a few parameters to control automated programming. For Marco Bauer, Managing Director of BAM, one of the key factors for us was that Open Mind develops their software in-house. As a result, the customer was able to obtain customized functions for their automation projects very rapidly, which — according to Bauer — has helped the company improve leaps and bounds.

Efficient manufacturing of turned parts

The Schunk Rota THW3 chuck with quick-change jaws and patented sealing ensures consistent clamping forces, long maintenance intervals and high reliability.
The Schunk Rota THW3 chuck with quick-change jaws and patented sealing ensures consistent clamping forces, long maintenance intervals and high reliability.
(Source: Schunk)

If operators want to manufacture turned parts more efficiently, low-maintenance and fail-safe precision clamping devices are required. These can be quickly and easily converted, and, if necessary, can also be used for automatic loading. The Schunk Rota THW3 jaw quick-change chuck and patented sealing of the chuck mechanism has been designed with this in mind. Equipped with a jaw quick-change system, the Rota THW3 can be quickly converted for a new range of parts on CNC lathes, pick-up lathes and turn/mill centers, and has an excellent jaw repeat accuracy of up to < 0.02 mm. This means that previously turned out sets of jaws can be repeatedly used, even for applications where the tolerances are challenging. The jaw stroke of the straight-serrated base jaws amounts to 6.7 mm to 10.5 mm — depending on the jaw size. A ring piston transmits the force directly and therefore ensures a high degree of efficiency: The clamping force of the smallest size, the Rota THW3 200 is 64 kN; and as of size 400, the chuck achieves a clamping force of 240 kN.

The chuck's base body is hardened and extremely rigid, and even in case of heavy-duty machining precise and reliable machining results can be achieved. Due to the optimized outside contour, the chuck is perfectly designed for milling tasks. Versatile use of the chuck is ensured: it has a large through-hole of 52 mm (size 200) up to 165 mm (size 630), center sleeves that can be exchanged from the front, and the option of I.D. and O.D. clamping. Furthermore, the power lathe chuck can also be complemented with an adjustable workpiece stop. Searching for the matching chuck jaws for the Schunk Rota THW3 is simplified by the jaw quickfinder: It takes just four clicks to get to chuck manufacturer, chuck type, chuck size and product details. The user receives a list of all machtching chuck jaws from over 1200 jaw types of the world's largest standard chuck jaw program from the manufacturer. The matching chuck jaws can be directly selected within the quickfinder and ordered in the online shop.

Versatile cutting tools for small part machining

The ST-Cut series from Vargus presents a solution for small part turning applications.
The ST-Cut series from Vargus presents a solution for small part turning applications.
(Source: Vargus)

Vargus has introduced its new ST-Cut line of cutting tools for small part machining. Developed specifically for the turning of small components on Swiss-type sliding head-turning machines, the ST-Cut line presents a solution for virtually every small part turning application.

The ST-Cut series features a unique insert replacement system that provides fast and easy changeovers of inserts from both sides of the tool. This is particularly suitable for manufacturers running sliding head turning centres where space is often limited inside the working envelope. Also, the innovative clamping system demonstrates high repeatability and excellent rigidity for manufacturers aiming to part-off components with a maximum part-off diameter of 17 mm. The ST-Cut Series encompasses everything from parting-off, groove-turn, square grooving, round grooving, threading, front and back-turning as well as face grooving. From the parting off-line, the ST-Cuts series incorporates both left and right-hand inserts with a cutting width from 0.5 to 2 mm with a range of cutting depths, geometries and insert grades. Similarly, the square grooving/turn and round grooving line offers left and right-hand variants with insert widths from 0.5 to 3 mm with the round groove inserts offering a choice of radii from 0.2, 0.5, 0.75, 1, 1.25 and 1.5 mm. From a threading perspective, the left and right-hand inserts are supplied with a 55 ° and 60 ° profile option with a maximum insert width of up to 3.2 mm.

The inserts are available in two grades, this includes the Altin PVD coated VPG grade for achieving medium to high cutting speeds on alloy steel, stainless and titanium alloys. Alongside this, the uncoated VS020 sub-micro grade is recommended for medium to low cutting speeds. The VS020 is uncoated to ensure a sharper cutting edge that is crucial for very small components where accuracy is paramount. To cater for the diverse demands of small part turning companies, Vargus has introduced the ST-Cut Series with a choice of tool holders that include square shank tool holders, step square shank tool holders and square shanks with 90 ° tools. The square shank tools are available in both left and right-hand variants with an adjusting screw, key and torque limiting adapter. The tool shanks that accommodate the various insert geometries are available as an 8 by 10 mm variant as well as a 10, 12, 16 and 20 mm square shank with an overall length of either 110 mm or 120 mm. Alongside the square shank, tools are the stepped square shank tool holders. Also available in 8 by 10 mm, 10, 12 and 16 mm square shanks, the stepped tool holders offer a step of 30 or 40 mm to provide the end-user with additional reach when cutting features in intricate parts or attaining access to difficult to reach areas. Completing the line-up of tool holders is the square shank 90 ° right-hand tool body. Vargus provides the 90 ° tool body with the option of a 10 mm or 12 mm square shank that is 110 and 120 mm long for the respective tool widths. As well as the ST-Cut Series, Vargus UK can also offer its VG-Cut series of parting off solutions with chip formers and high-pressure coolant, its Microscope range for small boring applications and the Groovical series for precision grooving.

Tool management on the shop floor made simple

ITC introduced the new Smart Drawer Vending Solution.
ITC introduced the new Smart Drawer Vending Solution.
(Source: ITC)

No matter what applications the cutting tools are needed to, it's always important to have them readily at hand and neatly organized. To this end, the manufacturer and supplier of solid carbide and indexable cutting tools, Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC), has introduced the new Smart Drawer vending solution.

The solution supports inventory management and helps to cut costs on the shop floor. Using smart technology to dispense single or multiple items, the configurable drawer system ensures that important tools are always available. The Smart Drawer makes secure storage and dispensing simple and delivers reliable, accurate and monitored control of cutting tool inventory. The system comprises individually locked compartments that are controlled by an easy-to-use touchscreen interface and operation is fully customisable to provide staff with self-serve access to cutting tools and equipment on demand. With a high storage capacity and a small footprint, the Smart Drawer makes storing, tracking and dispensing products quick and easy, without compromising reliability.

Some of the key features include a touchscreen interface for quick product selection, intuitive administration functions for simple stock control, enhanced rapid refill functionality for speedy and accurate restocking, customisable storage configuration for single or multiple items, a range of drawer sizes to fit the users' stock list and Wi-fi network connection capability. All of this provides manufacturers with complete control and transparency of the supply chain with full audit trails to see which colleague uses what specific cutting tools — providing a complete insight of when, where and why that product was taken from a storage solution that is secured for 24/7 access whenever you need it.

The system available from ITC communicates with the cloud-based Supply Pro Intelligent Software solution that can be configured to meet your business demands. Working with the supplier and their technical partners at Tooling Intelligence, end users can choose from a range of options to optimise their vending software by adding a VIM (Virtual Inventory Module). This allows inventory to controlled away from the vending machine. These could include fixtures, oils, and basically anything that cannot be stored in the vending machine. A barcode reader can be added to the system, so anything vended can be allocated to a works order. This gives an accurate tooling cost for each works order. A major bonus when quantifying costs of tooling in a production environment. As a fully reconfigurable system, the Smart Drawer can be adapted over time as the inventory requirements of your business evolve with the facility for auxiliary units to be added to increase the storage capacity.