Cutting Tools Users and applications should drive tool engineering

Author / Editor: Eric Culp / Jürgen Schreier

A survey – jointly conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and the Laboratory for Machine Tools at Aachen University – outlines requirements for improving cutting technologies.

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(Photo: Fraunhofer IPT)
(Photo: Fraunhofer IPT)

Manufacturers using cutting technologies are confronted every day with demands for shorter lead times and lower production costs while also maintaining or surpassing existing quality standards. This matters especially with respect to materials that are difficult to machine, since these are often key to the development of high-performance product innovations. Cutting tools for drilling, turning and milling are exposed to high thermal and mechanical loads in when used to machine high-temperature-resistant and extremely hard materials such as nickel-based and titanium alloys, titanium aluminides and powder-metallurgical steel. What results is short tool lifetimes, long processing times and the poor-quality workpiece surfaces.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT) and the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) of the RWTH Aachen jointly conducted a survey in response to this challenge. The survey asked about development trends in the toolmaking industry relating to drilling, turning and milling operations, and its results provide an overview of toolmaking from the perspective of manufacturing companies. The research institutes polled some 150 companies, most of them users of cutting technologies, tool manufacturers or coaters. Others manufactured machine tools, materials, clamping systems or other systems. With its focus on companies directly confronting the new issues relating to machining, the survey promotes future development in tool engineering from the tool user’s point of view.

Tool qualification

Selecting the most appropriate tool for each machining task is vitally important for ongoing optimisation of cutting processes. The Fraunhofer IPT and WZL survey highlights, among other things, trends in development toward tool geometries and coatings tailored to the requirements of specific machining tasks, along with the importance of innovative cutting materials.

However, most companies reported that their own approach tended to be unsystematic. The selection process is rarely conducted methodically, and employee expertise is not always utilised or even documented. This can delay process design and result in substantial costs. When long-serving employees leave the company, they take considerable knowledge away with them. Most survey respondents thus felt that the need for standardisation of process- and tool-design methods and for information regarding optimised tool geometries and coatings was enormous (see chart).