A question of utility
Manufacturing companies want makers of cutting tools to prolong the life of tools
by Jayashree Mendes
As with all work, there’s a right tool for every job. In the world of manufacturing, it is essential that the shop floor can only manage successful machining if they utilise sharp, well-maintained tools that give them precision and speed. On an average, tooling costs account for about 4-6% of the production costs in a modern manufacturing environment. Smart manufacturers understand that in today’s competitive market, controlling manufacturing costs is a must. So if they can extend the life of their cutting tools, they could reduce some of the costs.
Guruling Jangam, assistant general manager, plant engineering, operations, hydraulics group – India, Eaton, says, “We have a strong focus on reducing wastage and ensuring efficient processes. Wherever possible, worn-out tools are re-grinded and sharpened and made fit for reuse. Some tools such as grinding wheels can be re-conditioned for use for a considerable stretch. Using a rebuilt Cubic Boron Nitride (CBN) grinding wheel is one of the most successful methods we adopted. This eliminates waste and ensures considerable cost savings.”
In addition, tool life monitoring is an inbuilt facility provided with all our high-end CNC machines. This helps timely replacement, re-conditioning and re-sharpening, always keeping the performance and life of the tool at optimum level, says Shriram Date, deputy general manager, business excellence, hydraulics group – India, Eaton.
Cutting tool manufacturers also understand this and much of the R&D in cutting tools and recent developments are all about extending the life of a cutting tool. Brajesh Kumar, MD, Walter Tools India, says, “With the rapid and continuous technological development in machines and materials to be machined and customers’ dynamic objectives, it is imperative for cutting tool suppliers to continuously offer cutting-edge solutions supported with best services to satisfy customers objectives. We do this in the form of lower cost per component, increased productivity, latest innovation and technology.”
Gautam Ahuja, MD, Dormer Tools (I) Pvt Ltd, says, “The ideal cutting tool material would be something which is a combination of both – highest hardness and extreme toughness, and as hard as diamond while being as tough as HSS. All research is towards finding such a material. There are some incremental steps being taken each year by developing new coatings, which are more wear resistant than the previous ones, with the core of carbide still being quite tough.”
Other emerging technologies are to find efficient ways to machine heat resistant alloys, the use of which are increasing fast, he adds. The challenges are to have a keen cutting edge which needs a tough core to avoid chip off, while the coating has to be highly wear-resistant. Pramet has recently launched M6330 grade in milling for machining applications with unstable conditions and fragile components.
The manufacturing industry is, for the most part, ripe for transformation. The major change that the industry is coming into contact with right now is the Internet of Things (IoT), driving the fourth industrial revolution. Today, process reliability, precision and productivity are more important than ever – because cost pressure is continuously rising and also competition. It is for this reason that manufacturers are looking for improvements in cutting tools that can ensure the finest precision and superior finish. Sagar Inamdar, VP, projects, Bharat Forge, says, “We look for three types of improvements in cutting tools. One is the optimisation of cutting time which deals directly with the cycle time of the product line and the machining lifecycle. Second is the life that the tool delivers to us during the cutting cycle and third is the optimisation of the cost of the tool. These three aspects matters most to manufacturers while machining components.”
Speaking about optimising the use of cutting tools, Swadhin Patnaik, manager, projects, RSB Transmissions, says that cutting tool consumption optimisation can be achieved by following the principles of the 3Rs: Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Stressing on each of them, he says, “Consumption can be reduced by improving the life either by optimising cutting parameters or by optimising the cutting media concentration. Reuse is by introducing re-sharpening, and recycling can be done with disposing of the tool to authorised dealers.”
Although manufacturers do their best to use tools of the highest quality at the plant, higher cutting parameters in tools are always encouraged as they help reduce cycle time. In addition, companies prefer thoe tools that offer better chip breakage and a hard coating on cutting edges. Jangam of Eaton says, “In terms of materials, carbides are preferred in cutting tools, while CBN or aluminium oxide and ceramic or CBN are preferred for grinding wheel and inserts.”
Speaking of the advantages of advanced tools and the need to introduce new products in the market regularly, Chirag Shah, senior deputy GM, marketing, Seco Tools India, says, “By choosing Seco, our customers get more than just a comprehensive portfolio of advanced metal cutting solutions and expert services. One area that is growing in importance is what we call DCR, Documented Cost Reductions, to show the savings we can help our customers with.”
The key word here is savings. One of the ways that manufacturers achieve this is cinching that processes undergo continuous improvement through the actions of dedicated teams thus making work more efficient, safe and sustainable.
This has also led to discover novel ways to minimum wastage of cutting tools. However, one of the best ways to minimise wastage is to focus on enhancing the life of the tools and utilise them in the best way possible. “Best practices start with selecting the right tool for the right job. Operating the machine and tools optimally is also vital. Using the correct tool path (gentle entry and exit), keeping tool deflection under control, monitoring the speed and feed through standardisation and investing in training staff and associates well on these practices is indispensable to efficient use. Finally, complementing the tools with the right environment and technology is very important,” says Date of Eaton.
More often than not, manufacturers also need to adopt a few more practices. Some of them are surface coating of tools and using good quality coolants with sufficient flow, variable frequency drives or servo control, hydro-grip tool holding system for better run-out and clamping force, judicious use of sensors and electronics at appropriate places, and ensuring overall electrical infrastructural stability and robustness. All the above measures will go a long way in improving tool life and minimise wastage.
Inamdar of Bharat Forge says the company talks to its vendor to develop tools that have a longer life. “It is one way to eliminate the need to re-sharpen the tool as that usually does not work well. We work with expensive components and re-sharpening the tool may damage some of the parameters or geometries. It is also the reason why manufacturers define the cutting parameters of the CNC machine,” he adds.
Kumar says, “Walter anticipates the market requirements and in order to meet this we have introduced ‘Walter Multiply’ – a service brand to provide not only the tools but also the service to reduce the cost of machining. Machining solutions, logistics and software solutions are part of the Walter Multiply service which aims to reduce the machining cost and improve productivity.”
Cutting tools makers have been instrumental in developing new machining processes and strategies for railway, energy, aerospace, and automotive and general engineering industries thus enabling customers achieve higher productivity and lower manufacturing cost without comprising on quality. Such steps can help manufacturers compete in the global market.