Clever little things

1 min read

Linear development of technology, in terms of metalcutting machines and tools, tends towards faster, more accurate and increasingly better price-performance ratios. The departure from linear development occurs occasionally, such as with the hexapods (six-legged machines) at the turn of the century, although that didn’t lead anywhere substantial. Not quite such radical departures are the cutting tool and related strategies that are the subject of our cover feature this issue (see link at bottom of article).

I like developments such as these because they are clever twists on established technology. Not major technology leaps, they are more tweaks that, for one, are easy to understand and appreciate in simple mechanical terms, and which additionally just make you say ‘yes, of course, how clever’. For the most part, those covered this issue do depend also on CADCAM or CNC developments, but that isn’t always the case.

The productivity gains are quite stunning: a 90% reduction in machining time in the case of conical barrel milling cutters and similarly for Vandurit’s Rollfeed turning technology. That may not be mere coincidence: both make use of circle segment cutting edge profiles to do their work.

But if I am to declare a favourite, it would have to be Sandvik Coromant’s Y-axis parting-off strategy, because it is mechanically the simplest trick pulled here, and therefore the one that has probably been staring us in the face for longest, if we could but have seen it.

This technique does require new cutting tool holders and matching inserts, so a cutting tool manufacturer had to come up with it, but it makes use of what has been around for many years – Y-axis capability on CNC lathes. By adjusting the direction of approach, the technique simply turns parting-off cutting forces through 90° to send them along, and not across, the parting-off blade. The improvement in rigidity is large, so both productivity and surface finish are beneficiaries.

The driver to originate such new cutting techniques is, of course, the never-ending quest to reduce costs and boost productivity, and also to meet the challenge that increasingly difficult-to-machine materials throw at manufacturing technology developers and suppliers. But that such large gains can still be made via such seemingly simple techniques – although I don’t want to understate the efforts of those that originate them – is a happy surprise. So during your visit to MACH 2018 this year (p16), while shiny new machine tools will catch the eye most easily, be on the look out for other developments such as are covered in our cover story and which can boost the output of existing machinery.

Read the cover feature here

First published in Machinery February 2018