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Tool selection gets tougher.

The downsizing of corporate America leaves fewer employed engineers, each with greater responsibility. Tomorrow, an ME will be responsible for process control of a product from cradle to grave. The time he has for choosing inserts, drills, and boring bars is being squeezed.

What makes this situation even worse, reports a major toolmaker, is that too many of today's engineers may have the education, but lack the experience in nitty-gritty details of insert selection. A solution would be to simplify the selection process Toolmakers are trying, but simplification is easier said than done.

For example, here's what's happening to complicate tool selection. There will be more use of stainless steel-perhaps 50% more by 1995-and at the same time the automotive industry wants better control of chips in low-carbon steel. In all cases, the tool engineer must optimize tool geometry. To help him, each toolmaker has introduced a new line of chipbreaker grooves, shapes, bumps, grinds, and hones.

Of course, you can't isolate the chip groove from the many new carbide grades, because selection of one affects the other. On top of all this, there's a trend toward special tools designed for customers' specific workpieces. And that's only the beginning.

Yesterday, you had to pick an optimum substrate. Tomorrow, you'll have zoned substrates. Single coatings are evolving into multiple layers-some for hardness and wear resistance, some for toughness, and some for lubricity.

There are other advancements. Look for more modular tooling systems and quick-change tools. Here is where the toolmaker must listen to the machine-tool builder as well as the customer. Stronger carbides and better CVD coatings allow more use of positive-rake tools for thin workpieces, older machines with loose spindle bearings, and new machining centers that follow the trend to smaller, lightweight designs.

There will be more use of ceramics. They're tougher than you remember from your last experience-good for interrupted cuts. Cutoff tools will handle grooving, undercutting, and face grooving. Where most milling inserts have traditionally been flat, with no chipbreakers, tomorrow's tools will provide chipbreaking grooves modeled after turning inserts. Whether the same insert configuration will work for both tasks is a moot point.

Speaking of moot points, every drill manufacturer offers a special point, each one claiming to be better than the others! But if you can't figure out which one actually works best in your setup, you may want to buy a grinder that can create any point you like. One grinder entrepreneur claims that one-third of all serious holemakers "resharpen" new drills before ever using them.

There will be more PVD coatings on HSS twist drills, taps, reamers, and hobs; and these will grant longer tool life, possibly endangering the survival of the toolmaker species. On the other hand, proper coatings may alleviate the need for selecting the truly optimum tool for each job.

Engineers must also control tool storage. Tool management will be the watchword. You'll deal-with IC chips in toolholders, barcodes, and electronic devices for tool monitoring. You will have to study software for tool administration and process planning.

At the end of the line, you must see that the good parts you make are packaged for survival. It's all part of tomorrow's job.

Paul C Miller

Senior Editor
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Miller, Paul C.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:editorial
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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