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01 November 2012

Cutting credentials

ITC solid carbide cutters provide smooth finish for sign writer; Walter Tiger.tec Silver and Tiger.tec carbide inserts support forging milling; WNT tools and Tool Service cut it for progressive subcontractor. Andrew Allcock explains

ProCut CNC Machining Services specialises in machining flat sheet materials for the signmaking, point-of-sale and general manufacturing industries. Predominantly machining acrylic, wood, MDF, di-bond, aluminium and alternate non-ferrous metals, the Shoeburyness, Essex-based company must pay particular attention to quality, surface finish and the overall aesthetics for its machined parts.

Previously using cutting tools from an ITC competitor company, ProCut was sceptical about changing its cutting tool supplier, a reticence justified by the impeccable finishes required from its parts. Additionally, with Europe's only bespoke clamping CNC router for machining multiple sheets simultaneously, ProCut spent significant time developing specialised tooling to suit its production needs.

Yet despite employing tailored tooling solutions, the company spent much time hand-finishing its parts, because the cutting tools couldn't deliver the high quality surface finishes desired. ProCut trialled ITC's Clearcut range of solid carbide cutting tools (01827 304500), achieving remarkable results.

Image: ITC cutters proved just the ticket at ProCut

CLEARLY APPARENT
"As soon as we finished the first job with the ITC Clearcut range, it was apparent that the tools were more than up to the job," explains ProCut managing director Vernon Ralston. "We used to spend considerable time hand finishing our parts to remove any burrs and ensure a highly polished finish. As hand finishing is standard in the signmaking sector and is acknowledged as the only way to achieve the highly polished surfaces, we were extremely impressed when the ITC tools machined the parts to a polished finish. This eradicated any secondary hand finishing and has saved us considerable time on what was previously a labour-intensive part of every job."

Exampling some of the work undertaken using ITC cutters, Mr Ralston says: "Some of our recent work includes 50 by 10 mm illuminated logos for Rega high-end record decks and CD players. This job had to be finished to a very high standard, as the logos are illuminated. Another major job we have just undertaken was for the health lottery. Machining 6 aluminium composite plates at a time, we machined out all the lettering and forms, and cut V-grooves in the 20,000 aluminium composite sheets in three weeks."

The manufacturer used ITC's straight and spiral flute cutters to complete the two jobs to the quality standards demanded from point-of-sale and high-end electrical equipment manufacturers. The health lottery project was initially undertaken by a competitor. However, this company failed to meet the surface finish, accuracy and overall quality demands of the project. One of the key reasons for ProCut's success was down to ITC's cutters, with the Clearcut range incorporating a highly polished flute geometry that supports high quality finished surfaces, as well as good swarf clearance, a key factor in achieving high quality edges.

Independent Forgings and Alloys (IFA) is a specialist supplier of open die forgings, ring and precision bar products for a host of blue-chip customers throughout Europe and the USA, as well as Japan. It serves industry sectors such as aerospace, petro-chemical, gas and oil.

Its Ecclesfield, Sheffield, machine shop tackles the nickel alloy, Inconel and titanium forgings produced at nearby Hillsborough forging shop, using a broad spread of carbide inserts from tooling giant Walter GB (01527 839450) exclusively across all milling operations that take in cutting through black forged skin before hogging metal, using a plant list of heavyweight mills, VTLs and lathes. Inserts used are Walter's Tiger.tec Silver and Tiger.tec inserts.

Mark Crossley, machine shop manager at the machining facility, takes up the story: "We're all about efficient and effective material removal. We undertake all the rough machining on workpieces, supplying these guaranteed to size, so we welcome any new tooling that can help improve our competitive edge against not only overseas suppliers, but also some competitors that are literally on our doorstep!

"All our tooling for the past four years, or so, has been supplied via local distributor Unimerco Walmsley; a variety of Walter Tiger.tec Silver and Tiger.tec carbide inserts, which between them promise anywhere between 50 to 100% improvements in tool performance/tool life, due to improved process reliability. This is courtesy of their high resistance to flank wear, cratering and thermal cracking.

Image: IFA had a challenge that Walter GB was able to meet

FAST INSERT CHANGE
"Aside from needing milling inserts that can withstand heavy metal removal on hard-to-machine workpieces, another aspect that impacts our choice of tooling is the fact that we have frequent changeovers – we process mainly one-offs and 50 is large batch for us. Ease of insert changeover is important, and I particularly like Walter's button inserts, which we can quickly and simply index a few degrees to reveal another new cutting edge."

Tiger tec. inserts combine a mixture of aluminium oxide (Al²O³), titanium carbon nitride (TiCN) and titanium nitride (TiN) coatings on a tungsten carbide substrate, and they feature a grey (TiCN) rake face and a golden TiN finish (flank face) that aids wear identification. The inserts' aluminium oxide coating is particularly effective against tribochemical wear, and it permits higher cutting speeds and feeds to be employed, while also providing longer service life. The TiN coating simplifies wear detection and thus avoids the unnecessary waste of unused cutting edges. The grey TiCN rake face minimises negative tensile stress, and improves adhesion and toughness.

At Clitheroe Light Engineering, WNT tooling and tool management technology is supporting the company's Mori Seiki/Fastems seven-machine FMS system.

The FMS system operates 24/7, while even the stand-alone machining centres run for 16 hours per day, with up to 50% of that time unmanned operation. This places pressure on other areas of the business, including raw material supplies and cutting tools. The latter has been addressed with a long-term partnership with WNT (UK) (0800 073 2073), which has installed three of its Tool Service vending machines on site to service the 240 tool carousels on each of the Mori Seiki machines, along with the various other machine tools within the factory.

The availability of cutting tools around the clock is a valuable resource for Clitheroe Light Engineering, but the key element of the partnership with WNT is the service and advice provided by its technical sales team. "We enjoy working with WNT, as they understand the needs of small to medium sized subcontracting companies like ours," says managing director Helen Meloy. "We certainly value the knowledge that Nigel Walls, our local sales engineer, gives us. He works closely with us and goes through each application systematically to provide the best solution for our business. It is reassuring that he is an engineer first and a salesman second."

A major benefit of Tool Service for a business the size of Clitheroe Light Engineering is the reduction in administration that it brings. Tool stocks are monitored by WNT (UK), they are replenished on a weekly basis – or more frequently – if demand increases, and only a single invoice is issued for the entire cutting tool usage in a month. The Tool Service system has simplified the tool management and is able to grow alongside Clitheroe Light Engineering, with additional back office support, such as relating tool use to particular employees/machines/jobs, a level of monitoring that Ms Meloy feels is not required at this time.

First published in Machinery, August 2012

Andrew Allcock

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Supporting Information

Related Companies

Industrial Tooling Corporation Ltd
PC Abaclix
Walter GB Ltd
WNT UK Ltd

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