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Purdue Research Improves Cutting of Gummy Metals

The application of a permanent marker or Sharpie, glue or adhesive film makes it easier to cut metals such as aluminum, stainless steels, nickel, copper and tantalum for industrial applications.

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Purdue University engineers Anirudh Udupa (seated) and Srinivasan Chandrasekar (standing) analyze metal surfaces to look for deformations created during cutting to determine how applied materials affect the quality of the cut. (Purdue University image/Erin Easterling)

Purdue University engineers Anirudh Udupa (seated) and Srinivasan Chandrasekar (standing) analyze metal surfaces to look for deformations created during cutting to determine how applied materials affect the quality of the cut. (Purdue University image/Erin Easterling)

Purdue University researchers are looking at ways machinists can improve the cutting of “gummy” metals and their findings may help in manufacturing products and reducing component failures.

The researchers previously showed that the application of a permanent marker or Sharpie, glue or adhesive film made it easier to cut metals such as aluminum, stainless steels, nickel, copper and tantalum for industrial applications. Marking the metal surface to be machined with ink or an adhesive dramatically reduced the force of cutting, leaving a clean cut in seconds. Now, they have discovered how these films produce the effect.

“We have found that you only need the organic film from the markers or glue to be one molecule thick for it to work,” says Srinivasan Chandrasekar, Purdue professor of industrial engineering. “This ultra-thin film helps achieve smoother, cleaner and faster cuts than current machining processes. It also reduces the cutting forces and energy, and improves the outcomes for manufacturing across industries such as biomedical, energy, defense and aerospace.”

The research is published in Science Advances. The study involves a collaboration between researchers at Purdue, Osaka University (Japan) and the Indian Institute of Science (India). The research is supported by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy.

If a significant improvement can be made to the machinability of gummy metals or alloys – that is how well they cut, drill or grind – then there is potential to lower the cost of products, improve their performance or enable new and improved product designs.

The researchers found, using organic monolayer films created by molecular self-assembly, that the molecule chain length and its adsorption to the metal surface are key to realizing these improvements. By using the “right” organic molecules, the metal is locally embrittled, resulting in improved machining.