Cutting Tool Trends and Observations

At Ingersoll Cutting Tool’s annual Die and Mold Seminar, there were many new and different products to learn about, but as important was hearing the trends in cutting technology.

 

At Ingersoll Cutting Tools annual Die and Mold Seminar, there were many new and different products to learn about, but as important was hearing the trends in cutting technology. The company had a full house with a relevant program to match. Attendees learned about new and advanced cutting tools, cutting strategies and tool steels. There were guest speakers from compressed-air dynamics company Silvent, Autodesk, Inc. and Bohler-Uddeholm Corporation. Participants were also treated to a tour of Ingersoll’s manufacturing facility and live demonstrations of several cutting-tool products in the company’s tech center. I wanted to share a few trends and observations from the event.

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  1. Seminar Benefits More than just Molds and Dies

One thing I noticed early in the seminar is that there were about eight die and mold shops represented with the balance of the audience made up of machining companies for automotive, aerospace, etc. I asked Bill Fiorenza, Ingersoll’s product manager for die and mold, about this, and he said, “There were quite a few other companies there, and we do find that more of those industries, especially over the last seven years, are attending this event.”

Fiorenza told me he’s always had the opinion that if you can machine it in the die and mold industries you can do it anywhere because our industry deals with different cutting forces that are being put on the tools they are using every day. For example, think about consumer products and all the different kinds of 3D parts that are made today. They are very free-flowing, complex and ornate, and they make you wonder how they machine them. “In a die and mold shop, they subject cutters to unique tool paths and full surface engagements. They are becoming experts when they machine their cavities, cores and features and they don’t even realize it because it’s like second nature for them. It develops over years and years—more so for them than some other industries. Aerospace is pretty good at it, too. I think it’s why we draw participants from industries outside of mold and die. They know mold and die makers encounter very complicated geometries, so from a technical standpoint there’s an appreciation there.

“This is one of our more detailed and educational seminars where we talk more about programming and show different technologies that can help cutting tools perform better,” Fiorenza adds. “Case in point, is Silvent Technologies, which talked about the Pro One cold air gun. We have one in our tech center and I think that it can help our solid carbide tooling, and others, run better. I don’t think it’s investigated enough and I think it could be a nice add for companies that are getting more into the peel milling and trochoidal milling, which seems to be the huge trend for the last five to seven years.”

Patricia Miller from Bohler-Uddehold addressed various types of tool steels for dies and molds, including the PI-FM Holder, which she said is a non-stainless version of the company’s popular RoyAlloy and a good alternative to its Holder Steel (4140), and developed for the tooling industry. The Buderus Thurhard Supreme provides higher hardness and thermal conductivity, improved weldability and polishability up to 600 grit. It is ideal for injection and compression molds, especially in applications requiring very large dimensions. A new product Miller showed was Uddeholm Formvar, which she said is tougher than H13 and H11. “We’re moving towards developing materials that have both greater wear resistance and high ductility,” she said.

Autodesk’s Andy Bergstrom told attendees that customization and automation is “where the rubber hits the road” when it comes to CAM software and getting the most out of it. “Most of a job is tied up in machining and finishing, so make sure you’re running a software package that is capable of doing some learning on its own,” he said. He suggested capturing best practices and putting them into macros and templates to speed production. “Know your machine limits and plan ahead with cutter paths,” he said. “Start using what you’ve got.”

  1. Growing Trends in Machining

Fiorenza also said he’s seeing more of these cutting trends in the mold and die industries. “From what I’ve seen, a lot of the CAM systems out there are pushing new algorithms or modifying their old peel milling and trochoidal algorithms, to be even more efficient and manage radial engagement and chip load. I think it’s catching on more and more, especially in solid carbide tooling.” Part of that trend, he said, is because customers are also buying smaller machines, or smaller-spindle machines, like CAT 40s, HSK 63s – smaller spindles, better, faster and nimbler. When you do that, he said, you sometimes sacrifice horsepower or rigidity but you gain the speed. “They go with these smaller tools and these new algorithms that they’re coming out with and they still can create these great material removal rates.”

Other growing trends he sees include high-feed milling with indexables—smaller IC size, indexable mills, to also address the trend in smaller machines that feature linear ways instead of box ways, high-speed spindles with ceramic bearings, and so forth.

Modular tooling, like Ingersoll’s Chip Surfer line, a solid carbide line coupled with steel shanks and solid carbide shanks to offer cutting flexibility, is also a continuing trend, Fiorenza says. He also believes there’s an upward trend with companies looking for more cutting tool options, especially when it comes to addressing different tool lengths. “It’s especially important in tool and die shops because oftentimes, you have to hang a tool out at extreme length-to-diameter ratios to be able to reach in where you need to machine. You compromise rigidity when you do that, so we’re coming out with more options that will allow for those extended reach applications while also maintaining the best possible rigidity when hanging out at 5-to-1, 8-to-1, 10-to-1, even 18-to-1 length-to-diameter ratios.”

I encourage more companies to take advantage of educational events like this one. Not only to do you hear about the latest trends but you can see, up close, how companies like Ingersoll Cutting Tools are working to anticipate customers’ needs so they can stay on top of those trends.

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