Keeping Track Of Technology

Traditionally, it was the tooling manufacturer that tended to advance the metalcutting process, and the machine tool builder had to produce a machine that could make the most of the tool. Now, the tendency appears to be the opposite.

Traditionally, it was the tooling manufacturer that tended to advance the metalcutting process, and the machine tool builder had to produce a machine that could make the most of the tool. Now, the tendency appears to be the opposite.

There are now machine tools waiting for cutter developments. The Germans tend to refer to these machines as “highly dynamic.” By that they mean that the table or pallet and the machining head will “fly” at up to 100 m/min. (300 ft./min.). You can have a high speed spindle that will rotate at 60,000 rpm or more, though 30,000 rpm is more common.

Now the German school of machine tool builders tends to distinguish between “high speed cutting” (HSC) and “high speed production” (HSP). The “highly dynamic” machine tool is more associated with HSP, while HSC refers more to the spindle speed, regarded as a speed at which you really have to balance the tool and toolholder assembly.

In terms of “high speed finishing,” the mold and die shops in Europe are beginning to use HSP and HSC. Equally high turning speeds are possible—though restricted—by how securely you can hold a workpiece in a chuck or collet. There are a few chucks and collets around that will hold a job securely at 10,000 rpm or more.

High speed roughing is a different matter, whether it is used on a lathe or a machining center. Any machine operator from the 1950s would do the 4-minute mile at the first sight of a modern roughing cut taken in a production turning center installed by Mori Seiki, Index, Mazak, Okuma and others.

Taking a normal rough milling “cut,” but using a high speed (or “higher” speed) spindle in something “tough,” such as a die steel hardened to Rockwell 55 or more (even 64 Rockwell), can be done at a feed rate of 3 to 5 m/min. (9 to 16 ft./min.). The alternative is to take a 1/16- to 1/8-inch depth of cut (or less) and tear backward and forward through the job with a 20,000-rpm spindle (or higher).

It is all good fun, but it raises the question of to whom does one go to get information, machining parameters, application “know-how” data and so on? You can choose from the tool supplier, the toolholder and workholding people, the machine tool supplier or the cutting lubricant vendor.

Maybe you have the same problem in the United States as we have in Europe. Component suppliers, who were already being squeezed so much on price, also face a downturn and/or the disappearance of work to the Far East and Eastern Europe. Manufacturing engineering staffing levels have been cut back, leaving only the requisite number of employees necessary to maintain what is left.

These suppliers have no available staff time to take on new projects or adapt new technologies such as HSC or HSP. They can’t take advantage of the technology benefits to compete head-on with low-cost labor scenarios in jobbing shops, which, by and large, use fairly conventional machine tool technologies.

Iscar and DMG have been working on this, and in Europe, they have formed a working technical cooperation partnership. Initially, it has been launched in the UK to provide a turnkey service. One of the first projects will be a $2 million machine tool system order placed by a light aircraft company in the UK’s Isle of Man.

I remember Iscar for the new geometry ideas it introduced to parting-off tooling about 15 years ago. The company has grown up into the Iscar Metalworking Companies (IMC) group that embraces TaeguTec, Ingersoll (tooling), Innotool, Metaldur, Iscar-ETM, Micro Tools, Hornung, Outiltec (France) and IT.TE.DI (Italy). Turnover is some $38 million.

As the UK managing director of DMG (UK), Richard Blake, said, “We are selling mobility to manufacture parts.” I hope it goes well, because I do not envy the manufacturing engineers who must sift through data and make a decision on which strategy will win future orders or keep existing ones.