SFI’s tooling engineer, Derek Poole, outlines the issues: “We’re machining a range of workpieces weighing anything from half-a-tonne upwards for a global customer base involved in, for instance, heavyweight presses and rolling mills, offshore oil and gas, as well as power generation, defence and civil nuclear work. These are generally produced as one- or two-offs and involve mainly milling and boring routines.

“The fact that our ram boring and milling machining capacity is obviously large doesn’t mean, however, that a new milling cutter which is proving successful on smaller components could not be relevant to us.

“We look at every advance and decide whether the tool or the process and/or its application can be scaled up for our routines. And it is here that our working relationship with Walter GB’s sales engineer, Phil Broddle, pays dividends. Phil’s role means that not only is he privy to all of the latest tooling developments [solid and indexable insert products] that come from Walter AG’s headquarters in Germany but, importantly, because he is also visiting a raft of different companies with differing needs, he continually builds an extensive knowledge bank of applications engineering expertise – Walter calls it ‘engineering kompetenz’ – that we regularly tap into.”

The shop uses Walter GB tooling for both roughing and finishing routines on a host of cast and forged iron workpieces.

Poole continues: “We also look at the drawings for all components due to come on stream and together with Broddle consider all possible tooling options. We’re always looking to improve, and that includes trialling new tools.

“Walter’s Blaxx M3016 heavy duty cutter is a case in point; when we used this with Tiger.tec Silver inserts, we achieved a very high standard of machining,” adds the tooling engineer.

Tiger.tec Silver inserts feature a stress-reducing surface treatment on both wet and dry applications. In one rough milling case, Blaxx and Tiger.tec Silver technologies used in combination at Sheffield Forgemasters reduced machining time from 272 to 29 minutes, slashing a component’s machining cost from £249 to just £26.

Concludes Poole: “When you’re taking perhaps one hour to make a single pass on components that even before being touched are worth a lot of money, tool longevity and reliability are crucial – we cannot afford to get it wrong – and that is exactly what we achieved with these inserts.”