The days when your sole competitor lived just down the lane are gone. A global manufacturing environment means that our competitors are everywhere. According to China Daily the average wage in China is $6,800 per year or about CDN $3.27 per hour. Canadian machine shops will not be able to compete with that wage. However, there are many that do compete by reducing cycle times and/or improving productivity.
According to Techspex, three changes that produced the most positive impact were:
• Purchasing faster equipment.
• Purchasing multi-functional machines.
• Re-organizing the shop floor.
However, purchasing faster equipment can prove to be futile if the cutting tools are incapable of running at high speeds and is in line with the demands of faster machinery. In a nutshell, spending hundreds of thousands of rupees on new equipment must be done in tandem with upgrading your cutting tools.
Here are a few concise examples to determine whether your cutting tools are competitive or not,
Milling: This is an area that is often overlooked. Many machine shops still run the old 45° lead cutters they purchased years back. These face milling tools typically run at 30 or 40 ipm. Today’s high feed milling can be run at feed rates of 200 to 300 ipm. These new tools are versatile as well-they are capable of ramping, interpolating, pocket milling and milling.
Many new age shops are adopting high feed milling to helically interpolate holes and produce holes up to six times faster than traditional indexable drills. With high feed milling tools, scales can be greatly economised with the help of cutting tool design. For example, double sided inserts, giving four or eight edges per corner and so on.
End Milling: This is another application of milling. There are many companies that still haven’t let go of their traditional solid carbide end mills. Indexable end mills have a screw-ijon head. Although the performance is slightly better than solid carbide, cycle time reductions only happen when it is time to change the tool. With the help of an indexable solid carbide end mill the head can be simply unscrewed right on the machine and a new one screwed in. The tight tolerance requires no tool pre-setting. This allows you to save up to a half an hour for each index.
CBN: It is known in manufacturing circles that CBN is replacing grinding. Why is that? It is because of the little time it takes to hard turn a part on a CNC lathe than the time, effort and money it requires to purchase and operate a grinding machine. Hard turning a part on a lathe is much easier than a grinding operation.
PCD: If you use uncoated polished carbide, there’s some news for you. It is time to switch to PCD. It is capable of running at four times the speed of uncoated polished carbide, making it the better and more economical option.
Cerment: Cermet is fast replacing carbide for finishing applications since it can run faster and requires less offsets. The earlier versions of cermet were brittle and tended to chip quite easily, which has left people hesitant to try it again. However, the cermet available today has the transverse rupture strength that can be matched by many carbide grades which makes it tougher that the earlier versions.
As evident from our discussion, even traditional carbide turning inserts have been updated with new coating technologies that run at faster speeds and feeds.
Manufacturers and machine shop owners have to ask themselves if they have been at their best game by working on reducing their cycle times. Increasing productivity by reducing cycle is a necessity. However, it’s not always easy.
For example, one of the ways to stay on top of the latest trends in cutting tools is to hire cutting tool sales person. Most cutting tool sales people have extensive training and exposure to hundreds of manufacturing facilities. They are factory trained and must stay up to date with the latest developments. Cutting tool sales people come with such expertise that they can be treated as your own machine tools consultant.
The examples mentioned are just one of the few ways to check whether your cutting tools are competitive or not. If you are lagging behind, always remember: it is never too late! Go ahead and upgrade today to stay ahead in the future.
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