In machining, a cutting tool is an element of a technological system that shapes a part by material removal. The system comprises a machine tool, a workholding fixture and a tool holding device. Shaping a part is performed by various machining processes that use different cutting strategies. The progress made in machining tools resulted in modern machines that enable combined and whole process operations; processes that were separated in the past. Moreover, advanced machine tool capabilities assure applying progressive machining strategies to achieve maximum performance.
The metalworking industry must deal with different engineering materials. Progress in material science and metallurgy not only brought in new exotic materials but also provided technologies to create materials with pre-defined properties. Producing components from such materials has significantly improved the working parameters of the parts, but machining has become more difficult. In many cases, the root of successful machining was connected only with cutting tool limitations.
A cutting tool, the smallest element of the technological system, connects the part directly and is the link between the machine and material. For realizing advantages of high-tech machine tools and productive machining strategies, the cutting tool must meet appropriate requirements. Finding a decent answer to these requirements to respond to ever-growing demands of modern metalworking is a base for new developments in the cutting tool field.
The metalworking industry has been through a rough time with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected the world economy and has inevitably led to a decline in economic indicators in the industry. Many bright prospects before the coronavirus were replaced by modest hopes, while on the other hand, this has been a time for deeper analysis of industrial trends, a look into tomorrow, forecasts, and future planning. Progress has not stopped. Metalworking is at the door of serious changes, and the manufacturer should be ready to adopt them. The forthcoming changes cannot bypass cutting tool production - one of the more important links in the metalworking chain. Therefore, to have a clear understanding of the direction of industrial progress and the results of new requirements for the cutting tools of tomorrow is a cornerstone to success for a tool manufacturer. This is the key to new tool developments and the demand for a wide range of products.
There are different directions for the development of cutting tools. The "traditional" way is to make the tools stronger, more productive and cost-effective, a reflection on the natural requirement of the customer to a consumed product. Other directions of development are related to advanced manufacturing technologies that have deeply ingrained the metalworking industry; whereby available tooling solutions still leave a broad field for improvement.
The Course of Nature
The traditional direction of development considers improving tool performance by introducing innovative cutting geometry, advanced tool material grades, progressive tool body designs to ensure higher rigidity and durability, etc. It may seem that this direction has almost depleted its resources and does not promise true revolutionary changes, however, cutting tool manufacturers have managed to surprise the metalworking world with substantially new products that provide significant benefits despite the traditional approach to the product design. An important success factor was the significant growth in scientific and technological levels of tool production, new achievements in powder metallurgy and coating technology, and the introduction of modern systems for inspection and quality control. The considerably increased capabilities of tool design itself, CAD/CAM systems, and 3D modeling, gave noticeable impetus to the realization of challenging innovative ideas.
Technological developments have evolved new machining methods which require tools to meet new stringent demands. These tools have the ability to cut hard metals while eliminating the need for grinding operations. In milling, these new age tools are able to contend with extremely high feeds per tooth (HFM) at high machining speeds (HSM) and are able to perform trochoidal milling with the use of high-pressure coolant (HPC).
The design of such tools differs from general-duty tools as they require specific features that characterize the above-mentioned methods and strategies.
Advancements in machine tool engineering have pushed the metalworking industry closer to living out a dream of every manufacturer, owning a complete one-setup production. Impressive capabilities of the latest multi-axis- and multi-tasking machine tools and hybrid manufacturing systems, which combine material removal and 3D printing technologies, give evidence of a quantum leap toward one-setup production. A driven-tool option features more and more turning centers expanding their capabilities. Understandably, this progress has built other requirements for cutting tools multifunctionality, tool life, and time-to-failure characteristics.
The attempts to find a cost-effective alternative to solid carbide tools gave a new impulse to designs with exchangeable carbide heads. Moreover, some of these designs even provided a substantial advantage for high repeatability of the head overhang with respect to the tool. As a result, there is no need for additional adjustment after replacing a worn head, which can be quickly changed without removing the tool from a machine spindle. The "no-setup" benefit opened a source for diminishing machine downtime, and in combination with distinct economic advantages, ensured promising prospects for the exchangeable solid-head concept as a direction of cutting tool development.
The metalworking industry has tightened its requirements for the versatility and maintainability of cutting tools. These changes have led to a good response from the tool manufacturer. For example, a typical cutter with indexable inserts features inner channels for coolant supply through the cutter body. Such a body design is a sort of unwritten tool standard now. Another example today is the cutting tool manufacturer not only strictly specifies the necessary torque for tightening insert clamping screws, but also supplies dynamometric keys to ensure necessary torque value.
Emerging Trends and New Challenges
In the metalworking industry, there are enduring trends that place the cutting tool manufacturer before new challenges.
The significantly increased use of composites and sintered materials now requires specific cutters, which are customized in many cases.
Precise metal forming and 3D printing trends upward, leading to the growth of workpieces that are produced very close to the final shape of a part. This causes a considerable reduction of stock, removed by machining operations. Therefore, productive and accurate low power cutting on high-power machine tools is rising substantially. Advanced multi-axis machines are capable of precisely generating complicated shapes by cutting methods. Hence, the metalworking industry is interested in reasonable, effective solutions from the cutting tool manufacturer.
Machining difficult-to-cut ISO S materials, especially β- and near- β- titanium grades and high-temperature superalloys (HTSA) features low cutting speeds. Growing demands for the components from these materials require the respective increase in output by speeding up machining operations. As it turns out, the smallest element of the technological system – the cutting tool - becomes a main obstacle to the productivity growth.
It is no small task to give an appropriate reply on these and other burning issues that have been raised by industry trends. It seems that the search for an answer is connected mainly with design, manufacturing, etc. In one way or another, these belong more or less to a traditional and familiar sphere.
At the same time, the changes taking place in the industry have presented the toolmaker with tasks of a completely different kind.
Confident steps of Industry 4.0 and digitizing manufacturing have turned the tool manufacturer to the virtual world. They have demanded to supplement the cutting tool – a material product - with a corresponding digital twin and a developed set of information services. This will be a necessary pass to the smart factory of tomorrow. Without the pass, the tool manufacturer will remain at the factory gate.
The tomorrow customer is waiting for active virtual design options that are needed for process modelling, tool assembly integration, concept design of customized tools, and more.
Online marketing will play a core role in this urging change. COVID-19 has accelerated the influence of online marketing, and the growing demand for online pre-sales services and post-sales support will be expected as a whole spectrum of services by the tool manufacturer.
Consequently, an "All-in-One" digital system for online marketing, tool data, access to various information, generating twin models, engineering and economic calculations, tool life analysis, immediate service, advice, knowledge, competency, etc. will all be an integral part of the product range for the cutting tool manufacturer.
Looking for the Right Answer
Of course, the tool manufacturer cannot just sit around and wait for things to change, they must be proactive. ISCAR is a good example of how a leading toolmaking company seeks to meet new industry demands and prepares itself for forthcoming changes. In recent years, ISCAR introduced many new innovative product lines through its LOGIQ product campaign to provide solutions in the spirit of the industrial trends.
ISCAR's turning product line was enriched with a versatile assembled system comprising of an anti-vibration bar and exchangeable heads carrying various inserts. New inserts from polycrystalline CBN tips were designed to improve performance in turning hard materials.
A lead-edge parting system with multi-pocket adapters and robust reinforced tool blocks opens new horizons for increasing productivity.
ISCAR significantly expanded its milling line with a range of tools for HFM and HSM. For machining difficult-to-cut aerospace materials, ISCAR specifically developed new carbide grades for indexable inserts and ceramic endmills. Also, newly introduced extended flute cutters with HPC option significantly increased metal removal rates in rough milling titanium.
ISCAR’s line of drills with replaceable carbide heads was replenished by a newly designed three-flute head that ensures considerably increased productivity. New solid drills with polycrystalline diamond nibs and wafers provide efficient solutions for drilling composite materials.
The information segment of ISCAR's product program has undergone major changes. Digital tool twins in accordance with standard ISO 13399, virtual assembly options, an optimal tool selection software, a cutting material grade optimizer, various sources of constantly updated information, online purchasing, rich mobile phone applications and many other new functions break ground on a totally different level of a tool product portfolio.
The logic of industrial development demands from the tool manufacturer new high-performance cutters with a developed informational integrant. Such an organic whole and balance between material and virtual worlds will be recognized very soon in the cutting tool industry and define the IQ of a cutting tool and its incorporation into advanced manufacturing systems.
Turning instead of grinding: fine turning hard steel part with the use of a tool carrying a PCBN-tipped insert.
High-feed milling remains to be an efficient method for rough machining both on plane and complex surfaces.
ISCAR's drills with three-flute replaceable heads ensure significantly increased productivity and considerably reduce set-up time.
ISCAR WORLD app, a virtual “one stop shop”, which now embraces all ISCAR online apps, interfaces, and product catalogs on a mobile phone.