• External Contributor

A Cut in Time

Turning and milling tools have Come of age. The pandemic is bringing out the best in tool manufacturers.

Making the most of what is available will be the new way of life. For long, the manufacturing industry has always been known to demand materials and tools that would last long and one that did not need frequent changing. Vendors, on their part, would go that extra mile to spend on R&D and also train their customers to use tools the right way so that it can be stretched to its full life span.

However, the global pandemic has thrown a new kind of spanner in the works. Jay Shah, MD, Tungaloy India, says, “One thing which everyone will definitely do is maximum utilisation of available resources. There will be more focus on productivity. The industry will try to optimise cutting parameters, depending on the machine and component being machined. When we focus on productivity, we will optimise the resources and it will have a positive impact on overall profitability of the plant. Customers will also look at better managing their inventory. The days of big budgets for tooling will not be seen for some time. The accountability of establishing the tool performance, maintaining stock and servicing the customers’ needs on time, all of these would be rated more.”

The term “New Normal” or “New Reality” means that as long as the pandemic continues, we have to adopt a new behaviour, in personal life as well as business. Ramakant Reddy, MD, LMT Tools India, says, “In business, this means that our visits to the customers are and will be restricted. In the precision tool industry, putting specialists and application engineers on site are important so that they can study and prove the efficacy of the application and tool. The use of online video conferencing platforms can still keep one connected to the customer. And this will surely be used beyond the pandemic.”

There is a heightened sense of awareness that while customers would want the best, vendors need to adopt new ways of dealing with them. L Krishnan, MD, TaeguTec India, says, “The pandemic has certainly changed the way the cutting tool industry and the manufacturing industry is operating today. Traditionally, the methods of customer engagement in the industrial consumables/manufacturing industry have been about face-to-face interactions.

This is expected to change to a need-based engagement in the future due to restrictions on travel and safety concerns. We also have to acknowledge that the industrial consumables/engineering industries have hitherto used digital platforms far less optimally than other consumer industries. This is a big paradigm shift for our industry, and we are quickly adapting various ways to engage with customers without sacrificing the efficiency of the interaction. In order to achieve this, organisations will have to re-train all sales and marketing personnel in the various digital platform options available, and how to use them to serve customers.”

Helping out Companies are also working out ways to control inventory for their customers. For instance, in support of the new normal, Tungaloy’s new products are based on building as many different tool diameters on the same insert size. “Tungaloy also offers solutions for advanced inventory management. It helps customers reduce their inventory, manage cost per component and is a smart solution for stock management. This Industry 4.0 compliant solutions can be useful for tool management,” says Shah.

It offers single insert dispensing unit (TOOLPORT), meant for the user on the machine shop and a completely flexible cabinet for keeping all kinds of tools (MATRIX Mini and MAXI), which is for the tool room with controlled access. LMT Tools India would like more of the customer’s tooling personnel to be involved. Reddy says, “Cutting tool manufacturers will have to do more in-house testing before trials at the customer end. Intelligent tooling requirement will go up as it reduces dependency on the operator and help in physical distancing. I also think that online shops will become even more important in the future and the cutting tool industry will adapt to this channel of distribution.”

During the pandemic, when there had to be imposed a cap on the number of employees in attendance at any point in time in the factory so as to ensure social distancing, TaeguTec India admitted on priority only those physically operating the machines, and few supervisors.

All other functions – in varying degrees of support – were deployed remotely, so that the number of people required in the factory premises was only 50%. “And that’s the learning we have – the attendance of the actual machine operators is critical, and that all other functions must be equipped to perform remotely. This pandemic revealed to us that we are not geared enough for that, and it is a switch we can work on,” he adds.

Make them special The need for machining the super alloys has gone up with aerospace, medical and oil & gas components. It also requires a special design consideration from the tool point of view as the geometry and grade need to be special. Shah says, “We launched some new grades and specific geometries for such applications and received tremendous response. Our newly launched AH8015 is very popular in such applications. To machine super alloys, since they generate a lot of heat – coolant plays an important role. We designed and launched tool holders, TungTurnJet, which directs the coolant to the cutting zone thereby increasing tool life. We also launched CBN grade, BX815 for super alloys which can run at 250m/min which is unimaginable.”

Its high feed milling solutions have helical cutting edges to reduce machining load which is helpful for using these tools on low powered machines also. Shah adds, “Our recently launched Turn Ten has 10 cutting edges and we have been able to run these tools at very high feed rates of 2mm rev, using the same inserts on a different holder can give up to 7mm depth of cut.”

In milling, LMT Tools India has developed tools for new milling strategies such as radial milling and trochoidal milling. Reddy says, “For both strategies, we now have a complete tool programme. Radial milling – RMC cutters in solid carbide; Trochoidal Milling – CARBLoop solid carbide cutters for ISO-P and ISOM (NEW 2020). With both tool families, the customer can save machining time.”

Indexable tools for turning and milling and all other kinds of applications have broadly evolved. Krishnan says, “Several advancements have taken place in material technologies and coating treatments are aimed at enabling the customer to improve productivity or reduce operating cost. The ability to design and manufacture complex geometries, insets and tools enable design and application teams to solve complex machining problems. More and more precision machining across industries takes place on 5-axis CNC machines and that has opened more opportunities for the design/application teams to come up with innovative and newer solutions.”

Facts to Know There are some factors that need to be kept in mind when developing tools. Shah says, “Aerospace is mainly super alloys and aluminium, which requires special geometry and grades. Oil & gas requires special processes like deep hole BTA drilling, which we offer customers. Also, it requires long overhang and L/D ratios. This needs special anti-vibration holding system, Boremeister which we offer. Heavy Engineering is generally done on high-powered machines, the depth of cut requirements are higher. We need to design the tools accordingly.”

The work in certain industries are challenging. Reddy says, “In heavy engineering the large component sizes need good tool life to ensure that job is completed in one go. The most important thing for high productivity are: The right machine; the right tool; and the right strategy (NC-programme). Only then does it make sense to develop and use high performance cutting materials and coatings.”

The primary objective that drives design and development of tooling solutions is the need to solve some existing productivity or quality problem of the customer, or to improve upon some factor related to cost or process. Krishnan says, “Once we understand that, we keep in mind the following factors: Material used for machining; heat treatment of job; strength/hardness of material; type of machine used in producing the part; and quality parameters central to the operation.”

One more factor is related to the rigidity of the tools. Shah says, “We always strive to ensure that the clamping of inserts stay strong, so that the inserts perform even on the most tough machining conditions. If you look at our designs, we have features like dovetail shaped pocket to have the best locking of inserts.”