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The incredible shrinking cutting-tool market.

The cutting-tool market is shrinking fast. In fact, in constant terms it has contracted to a 1968 level (see graph). Cutting-tool technology is improving productivity and expanding applications; however, these same factors are reducing use of carbide tools from 5 percent to 20 percent, both in dollars and units.

Kevin E Carey, VP, Indumar Inc (an industrial marketing consulting firm), Cincinnati, OH, remarks, "Factors impacting the potential market include tool-material innovations, such as coatings, ceramics, and CBN, and clever tool geometries. Then there are new generation coolants and synthetic additives, which further enhance tool life.

"In addition, machine sensors now compensate for tool wear and mitigate the havoc of potential breakage. Near-net shape workpieces, free machining work materials, and increasing use of plastic parts requiring no machining also are factors.

"We did a limited survey of 53 randomly-selected cutting-tool users and suppliers, and found that, on average, they had little more than three exposures to new metalcutting technology; only 27 percent had four or more exposures." He cautions that this isn't statistically conclusive, but is an indication of problems and opportunities facing carbide-tool suppliers.

Some 94 percent of the polled users had experience with carbide improvements, about 56 percent with new tool materials, and 44 percent with smaller or near-net-shape workpieces. Another 44 percent had used machine sensors, 38 percent were aware of new work materials, and only 31 percent were familiar with new generation coolants. The figure dropped to 13 percent for those working with parts not requiring machining.

For suppliers, 78 percent had experience with smaller or near-net-shape workpieces, 67 percent with new work materials, and 44 percent with carbide improvements, new tool materials, and new coolants. Only 13 percent knew about the intricacies of sensor technology.

"We found that few respondents, whether end user or supplier, had systematic testing and evaluation programs," Carey notes. "Thus, they weren't able to provide detailed information on productivity improvements. Nevertheless, those that do have organized programs report higher productivity, longer tool life, and less machine downtime because of tool wear and breakage. Moreover, they have lower tool costs and total cost per produced piece."

The study concludes that the shrinking carbide-tool market is impacted by more sophisticated and costly product, increased tool life, and inflation resulting in higher prices, i.e., the industry is selling less of a higher price, more productive product. This is likely to continue as cutting-tool technology improves, more users systematically address tooling options, and suppliers upgrade consultive problem-solving selling.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Mar 1, 1985
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