Cutting tools: Growing sharper edges
The Indian cutting tools segment is seeing an entirely new range of tools with built-in sensors and other novelties.
Companies that work three shifts are bound to use their tools for a long period of time. That means regular inspection. Most often, tools at a factory are inspected manually. And this requires machine down-time, adding to production cost. As the industry transitions to Industry 4.0, there is an expectation that such manual condition monitoring will be replaced with embedded sensors.
In order to enhance the quality and efficiency of these operations, some companies are developing cyber physical systems for machine tools alone. Embedded sensors will provide continuous streams of real-time data without requiring any stoppages.
According to a report, researchers at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) have developed an intelligent, low-cost tooling insert, embedded with smart sensors. This will deliver in-process condition monitoring that reduces machining stoppages. The aim of the project was to improve the efficiency, performance and quality of production operations, which is vital to improving the productivity of the wider economy.
New things at work
The cutting tools industry has always been a challenging one. With time, there has been an upgrade in machining technologies, changes in raw materials and high productivity demands from customers. The key is to have high productivity without breakage and damage of the tools. Often these challenges are addressed by the right mix of raw tool material grade, geometry and coating. There is a constant innovation happening in these three areas to provide the optimum tooling solutions to the customers. New tools with optimum grades and geometries, new machining techniques and digital consultation support are some of the new trends that we see in the market today.
Ulrich Magnus Oefele, director, Hoffmann India, says, “Known for our innovative approach, our Trochoidal Performance Cutting (TPC) and Parabolic Performance Cutting (PPC) are well-known smart solutions for end-milling applications in the market. These are smart machining technologies that help achieve the complex machining activity with high productivity and less cycle times.”
GARANT PPC & TPC are very good examples for such solutions which target specific type of applications only. An application consultant is always essential for customers to make the best recommendations in such cases.
Similarly, Dormer Pramet possesses a broad range of metal cutting tools ranging right from the rotating tools to the indexable tools such as turning, milling, hole making, threading etc. that are fully equipped to serve the customers in a big way. Gautam Ahuja, MD, Dormer Pramet, says, “From the indexable tools, we have launched a new series of the cutter for die & mould segment which is a high feet cutter with a square shoulder. We also introduced a new series SBN10 high feed milling range with BNGX inserts, M8330 milling grade for general machining applications in a variety of materials, and the extended Shark Line program of material specific taps.”
With the buzzwords of smart manufacturing, more customers are demanding that vendors provide them with tools that will help them take intelligent decisions. Tools must be made smarter. Atul Nagpal, MD, Ceratizit, says, “As manufacturers of machine tools, we need to cut down development time by half. In other industries, the development phase is must faster and there’s something we can learn. Today more than 40% of our products are less than five years old, but our target is 50%. Some products are so new that sometimes we face problems getting them out to the customer because they have not been fully tested and approved by us. Often, customers are ill-equipped to use the tools on their machines.”
The Indian manufacturing industry is in the midst of a new industrial revolution. The advancements are powered by smart manufacturing, robotics, embedded intelligence and IoT, leading to end-users expectations for efficiency improvement, cost benefits and reduced human exertion. Prashant Sardeshmukh, VP & director, MMC Hardmetal India, says, “The Indian cutting tools industry has seen significant growth last two decades, primarily due to rise in sectors like automotive as well as heavy and light engineering. It is these two sectors that continue to lead in terms of demand even today. In recent times there has been encouraging demand from other industries like aerospace, defence, Railways, energy and power equipment. All latest innovations by Mitsubishi are in line with the demand by industry to improve cutting efficiency and reduce machining costs. Due to strict environmental policies and to increase the resilience of the product, work materials are changing. High temperature alloys, high strength materials or composite materials are on demand.”
The company recently launched new shoulder end mills with tangential inserts named VPX series. It also introduced a new, revolutionary grooving and cutting off system – GW series. It has expanded range of heads for the iMX exchangeable head end-mill series. This is a revolutionary end-mill system which provides excellent economy and promises high efficiency and precision. This product is also powered by innovative coating technology called “SMART MIRACLE” to enhance both smoothness and sharpness of the cutting edge for a longer tool life.
For companies to grow, it’s important that they launch new products at regular intervals. Jay Shah, MD, Tungaloy India, says, “This time we focussed on high field milling. We have launched a small Dia 8 that is unprecedented in the market and comes with two pockets. Besides that, we have launched a new 880 shoulder milling cutter, and indexable gun drills. We have come with a complete range of thread milling tools that are unique to us. More Indian companies have been investing in machines, especially the automotive sector, two-wheeler segments, commercial vehicles, and aerospace.”
In January, at IMTEX 2019, Tungaloy India showcased the new AH8000 grade for turning heat resistant materials and AH3000 series grade of milling, the Nano multilayer PVD, which delivers superior coating adhesion and improved wear resistance at higher cutting parameters, besides the T9200 series turning inserts for steel machining, and an outer titanium ceramic coating, which helps in improving surface hardness. Shah says Tungslot’s six cutting-edge insert for slotting as thin a width of 4mm, gives great advantage to customer for both accelerated machining and reducing the cost per component.
The best tool is the one that gets the job done quickly, efficiently and economically, that means right selection of the cutting tool, geometry, optimum grade and cutting parameters. To do so, the customers and application engineers must work together to understand the application better. The more you understand the application, higher is the possibility of better tool selection. Understanding and knowing the machining environment is an important part of tool selection process.
L Krishnan, MD, Taegutec, says, "Interestingly, one sector that needs specialised tools is the medical equipment sector. Here equipment refers to mainly various types of implants that are imported. It's also the reason we are focusing on smart ideas to machine, where the process matters more than the product. This specialised sector need guidance on productivity, tool life and quality parameters. The medical industry also requires specialised tools that are not commonly available."
What to look out for
In all this, training finds an important place. Most companies say that right from the time of on-boarding, their application engineers go through rigorous technical product training for cutting tools along with application related demonstrations/workshops/ hands-on orientation. This empowers them to make the right decision when it comes to consulting with customers on the selection of tools.
It starts from what has to be machined and on which machine and under what circumstances – this forms the machining environment. Once the customer or application engineers have a fair knowledge of the application of the tools, they can easily use those inputs to relate to the available tools and select the optimum tool out of the product mix. Then comes the selection of optimum cutting parameters and the frequency levels at which the tool should be removed from the machine to make sure that the tool is not overused. If the tool is overused, it could result in breakage and could damage machines also. With these careful considerations in mind, engineers help customers to achieve the lowest cycle time and the best productivity, at the best price.
Ramakant Reddy, MD, LMT Tools India, says that in order for Industry 4.0 to succeed, Indian manufacturing companies must adopt reliable tools that will perform consistently. Here, it's necessary that vendors focus on improvement in cutting tool materials, coatings and geometries. There are continuous efforts by the tool manufactures to improve these areas. "The automotive and auto component industry form a major part of our customer base. To cater to them, we manufacture gear hobs and endmills in our state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Pune. As mentioned above, we focus on tools for productivity increase and tools for critical applications which helps us to tap the growing demand."
Overall, there is a lot of scope for improvement productivity in drilling and the Indian market is looking for indexable solutions that require lower set up time in drills of less than 6-7 mm diameter. Market has a need of long L by D or length to diameter ratio drills with indexable heads, and has been using outdated tools in terms of old designs.
But the latest show of IMTEX 2019 only proved that vendors are spending on R&D and coming up with tech-savvy tools that were mainly available in developed countries.