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Chapter 1: Cutting Tool Materials

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Chapter 1: Cutting Tool Materials


10/ 13/ 2009 By George Schneider Jr . CMfgE Many t ypes of t ool m at erials, ranging from high carbon st eel t o ceram ics and diam onds, ar e used as cut t ing t ools in t oday s m et alw orking indust ry. I t is im port ant t o be aware t hat differences do exist am ong t ool m at er ials, what t hese differences are, and t he correct applicat ion for each t ype of m at er ial. The various t ool m anufact ur ers assign m any nam es and num ber s t o t heir product s. While m any of t hese nam es and num bers m ay appear t o be sim ilar , t he applicat ions of t hese t ool m at er ials m ay be ent irely differ ent . I n m ost cases, t he t ool m anufact urers w ill provide t ools m ade of t he pr oper m at er ial for each given applicat ion. I n som e part icular applicat ions, a prem ium or higher priced m at er ial w ill be j ust ified.

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This does not m ean t hat t he m ost expensive t ool is alw ays t he best t ool. Cut t ing t ool users cant afford t o ignore t he const ant changes and advancem ent s t hat are being m ade in t he field of t ool m at er ial t echnology. When a t ool change is needed or ant icipat ed, a perform ance com parison should be m ade befor e select ing t he t ool for t he j ob. The opt im um t ool is not necessar ily t he least expensive or t he m ost expensive, and it is not always t he sam e t ool t hat w as used for t he j ob last t im e. The best t ool is t he one t hat has been car efully chosen t o get t he j ob done quickly, efficient ly, and econom ically. A cut t ing t ool m ust have t he follow ing char act er ist ics in order t o produce good qualit y and econom ical part s: H a r dn e ss har ness and st r engt h of t he cut t ing t ool m ust be m aint ained at elevat ed t em perat ur es, also called hot har dness ( Figure 1.1) Tou gh ne ss t oughness of cut t ing t ools is needed so t hat t ools don t chip or fr act ur e, especially during int err upt ed cut t ing operat ions. W e a r Re sist a n ce wear resist ance m eans t he at t ainm ent of accept able t ool life before t ools need t o be replaced. The m at erials from w hich cut t ing t ools are m ade are all char act erist ically har d and st rong. Ther e is a w ide r ange of t ool m at erials available for m achining operat ions, and t he general classificat ion and use of t hese m at erials are of int erest here. Tool St e e ls a n d Ca st Alloys Plain car bon t ool st eel is t he oldest of t he t ool m at erials dat ing back hundr eds of years. I n sim ple t erm s, it is a high - car bon st eel, which cont ains about 1.05% carbon. This high carbon cont ent allow s t he st eel t o be hardened, offering gr eat er resist ance t o abrasive wear . Plain high car bon st eel served it s purpose w ell for m any years. How ever, because it is quickly over t em pered ( soft ened) at relat ively low cut t ing t em perat ur es ( 300 t o 500 F) , it is now rar ely used as cut t ing t ool m at er ial except in files, saw blades, chisels, et c. The use of plain high carbon st eel is lim it ed t o low heat applicat ions. High Speed Tool St eel: The need for t ool m at erials t hat could w it hst and increased cut t ing speeds and t em perat ures led t o t he developm ent of high- speed t ool st eels ( HSS) . The m aj or difference bet w een HSS and plain high carbon st eel is t he addit ion of alloying elem ent s t o harden and st rengt hen t he st eel and m ake it m ore r esist ant t o heat ( hot hardness) .

Car bide par t s ar e loaded int o a sint er ing fur nace, t o be heat ed at up t o 2,900 F

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Chapter 1: Cutting Tool Materials

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Som e of t he m ost com m only used alloying elem ent s ar e m anganese, chrom ium , t ungst en, vanadium , m olybdenum , cobalt , and niobium . While each of t hese elem ent s w ill add cert ain specific desirable char act er ist ics, it can be generally st at e t hat t hey add deep har dening capabilit y, high hot hardness, r esist ance t o abr asive w ear, and st r engt h, t o HSS. These charact erist ics allow relat ively higher m achining speeds and im pr oved perform ance over plain high carbon st eel. The m ost com m on HSS used prim arily as cut t ing t ools are divided int o t he M and T series. The M series represent s t ool st eels of m olybdenum t ype and t he T series r epr esent s Tungst en. Alt hough t here seem s t o be a great deal of sim ilarly am ong t hese HSS, each one ser ves a specific pur pose and offers significant benefit s in it s special applicat ion. An im port ant point t o r em em ber is t hat none of t he alloying elem ent s for eit her series of HSS is in abundant supply and t he cost of t hese elem ent s is skyrocket ing. I n addit ion, U.S. m anufact urers m ust r ely on foreign count r ies for supply of t hese ver y im port ant elem ent s. Som e of t he HSS are now available in pow der ed m et al ( PM) form . The differ ence bet ween powdered and convent ional m et als is in t he m et hod by which t hey are m ade. The m aj orit y of convent ional HSS is poured int o an ingot , and t hen, eit her hot or cold, w orked t o t he desired shape. Pow dered m et al is exact ly as it s nam e indicat es. Basically t he sam e elem ent s t hat are used in convent ional high - speed st eel ar e pr epared in a ver y fine powdered for m . These pow der ed elem ent s are car efully blended t oget her, pr essed int o a die under ext r em ely high pressure, and t hen sint er ed in an at m ospherically cont r olled fur nace. ( The PM m et hod of m anufact uring cut t ing t ools is explained lat er in t his chapt er.) HSS Sur face Treat m ent : Many sur face t reat m ent s have been developed in an at t em pt t o ext end t ool life, reduce pow er consum pt ion, and t o cont rol ot her fact ors t hat affect oper at ing condit ions and cost s. Som e of t hese t r eat m ent s have been used for m any year s and have proven t o have som e value. For exam ple, t he black oxide coat ings t hat com m only appear on drills and t aps ar e of value as a det errent t o build- up on t he t ool. The black oxide is basically dirt y surface t hat discourages t he build- up of w or k m at erial. One of t he m ore r ecent developm ent s in coat ings for HHS is t it anium nit ride by t he physical vapor deposit ion ( PVD) m et hod. Tit anium nit ride is deposit ed on t he t ool surface in one of several different t ypes of furnace at relat ively low t em per at ur e, which does not significant ly affect t he heat t r eat m ent ( hardness) of t he t ool being coat ed. This coat ing is know n t o ext end t he life of a cut t ing t ool significant ly or t o allow t he t ool t o be used at higher operat ing speeds. Tool life can be ext ended by as m uch as t hr ee t im es, or oper at ing speeds can be incr eased up t o 50% . Cast Alloys: The alloying elem ent s in HSS - pr incipally cobalt , chrom ium , and t ungst en - im prove t he cut t ing propert ies sufficient ly, t hat m et allurgical resear cher s developed t he cast alloys, a fam ily of m at erials w it hout iron. A t ypical com posit ion for t his class w as 45% cobalt , 32% chrom ium , 21% t ungst en, and 2% car bon. The pur pose was t o obt ain a cut t ing t ool w it h hot hardness superior t o HSS. When applying cast alloy t ools, t heir brit t leness should be kept in m ind and sufficient support should be pr ovided at all t im es. Cast alloys pr ovide high abr asion r esist ance and ar e t hus useful for cut t ing scaly m at erials or t hose w it h hard inclusions. Cem e nt e d Tu n gst e n Ca r bide Henr i Moissan discovered t ungst en carbide in 1893 during a search for m et hod of m aking ar t ificial diam onds. Char ging sugar and t ungst en oxide, he m elt ed t ungst en sub - carbide in an ar c furnace. The car bonized sugar r educed t he oxide and carburized t he t ungst en Moissan recor ded t hat t he t ungst en car bide w as ext r em ely hard, approaching t he hardness of diam ond and exceeding t hat of sapphir e. I t w as m or e t han 16x as heavy as w at er . The m at erial proved t o be ext rem ely brit t le and seriously lim it ed it s indust r ial use. Com m ercial t ungst en carbide w it h 6% cobalt binder w as first produced and m arket ed in Germ any in 1926. Product ion of t he sam e carbide began in t he U.S. in 1928 and in Canada in 1930. At t his t im e, hard carbides consist ed of t he basic t ungst en carbide syst em w it h cobalt binders. These car bides exhibit ed super ior perform ance in t he m achining of cast iron, nonfer rous, and non- m et allic m at erials, but w ere disappoint ed w hen used for t he m achining of st eel. Most of t he subsequent developm ent s in t he hard carbides have been m odificat ions of t he original pat ent s, pr incipally involving replacem ent of part or all of t he t ungst en car bide w it h ot her carbides, especially t it anium carbide and/ or t ant alum car bide. This led t o t he developm ent of t he m oder n m ult icar bide cut t ing t ool m at er ials per m it t ing t he high speed m achining of st eel. A new phenom enon w as int roduced w it h t he developm ent of t he cem ent ed car bides, again m aking higher speeds possible. Pr evious cut t ing t ool m at er ials, pr oduct s of m olt en m et allurgy, depended lar gely upon heat t r eat m ent for t heir proper t ies and t hese propert ies could, in t urn, be dest royed by furt her heat t em per at ur es, t hese pr oduct s of m olt en m et allurgy failed. A different set of condit ions exist wit h t he cem ent ed carbides. The hardness of t he carbide is great er t han t he of m ost ot her t ool m at er ials at room t em perat ure and it has t he abilit y t o r et ain it s hardness at elevat ed t em per at ures t o a great er degr ee, so t hat great er speeds can be adequat ely support ed. M a nu fa ct ur e of Ca r bide Pr odu ct s The t erm t ungst en carbide describes a com prehensive fam ily of hard carbide com posit ions used for m et al cut t ing t ools, dies of various t ypes, and w ear part s. I n gener al, t hese m at erials are com posed of t he carbides of t ungst en, t it anium , t ant alum , or som e com binat ion of t hese, sint ered or cem ent ed in a m at rix binder , usually cobalt . Blending: The first operat ion aft er reduct ion of t he t ungst en m et al pow der is t he m illing of t ungst en and car bon pr ior t o t he car bur izing operat ion. Here, 94 par t s by w eight of t ungst en and six par t s by w eight of carbon - usually added in t he form of lam pblack - ar e blended t oget her in a rot at ing m ixer or ball m ill. This operat ion m ust be per for m ed under carefully cont r olled condit ions in order t o insure opt im um disper sion of t he carbon in t he t ungst en. Carbide blending equipm ent - bet t er know n as a ball m ill - is show n in figure 1.2.

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Chapter 1: Cutting Tool Materials

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I n order t o provide t he necessar y st rengt h, a binding agent , usually cobalt is added t o t he t ungst en in pow der form and t hese t w o are ball m illed t oget her for a per iod of several days, t o form a very int im at e m ixt ure. Car eful cont r ol of condit ions, including t im e, m ust be exercised t o obt ain a uniform , hom ogeneous product . ( See figure 1.3) Com pact ing: The m ost com m on com pact ing m et hod for grade pow ders involves t he use of a die, m ade t o t he shape of t he event ual pr oduct desir ed. The size of t he die m ust be gr eat er t han t he final product size t o allow for dim ensional shrinkage t hat t akes place in t he final sint ering operat ion. These dies are expensive, and usually m ade w it h t ungst en carbide liners. Ther efor e, sufficient num ber of t he final product ( com pact s) ar e requir ed, t o j ust ify t he expense involved in m anufact uring a specific die. Car bide com pact ing equipm ent - bet t er know n as a pill pr ess - is show n in figure 1.4, and various pill pressed car bide part s are show n in figure 1.5. I f t he quant it ies ar e not high, a larger br iquet t e, or billet , m ay be pr essed. This billet m ay t hen be cut up ( usually aft er pre- sint er ing) int o sm aller unit s and shaped or preform ed t o t he required configurat ion, and again, allow ance m ust be m ade t o provide for shr inkage. Ordinarily pressures used in t hese cold com pact ing oper at ions are in t he neighbor hood of 30,000 PSI . Various carbidepreform ed part s are show n in figure 1.6. A second com pact ing m et hod is t he hot pressing of grade pow ders in graphit e dies at t he sint ering t em perat ure. Aft er cooling, t he par t has at t ained full hardness. Because t he gr aphit e dies are expendable, t his syst em is generally used only w hen t he part t o be produced it t oo large for cold pressing and sint ering. A t hird com pact ing m et hod, usually used for large pieces, is isost at ic pr essing. Pow der s are placed in a closed, flexible cont ainer t hat is t hen suspended in a liquid in a closed pressure vessel. Pressure in t he liquid is built up t o t he point w here t he pow der s becom e pr operly com pact ed. This syst em is advant ageous for pressing large pieces, because t he pressure act ing on t he pow ders operat es equally fr om all direct ions, r esult ing in a com pact of unifor m pressed densit y. Sint ering: A cobalt com pact is heat ed in a hydrogen at m osphere or vacuum furnace in t em perat ures r anging from 2,500 t o 2,900 F, depending on t he com posit ion. Bot h t im e and t em perat ur e are car efully adj ust ed in com binat ion, t o effect opt im um cont r ol over pr opert ies and geom et ry. The com pact w ill shrink approxim at ely 16% on linear dim ensions, or 40% in volum e. The exact am ount of shr inkage depends on several fact ors, including part icle size of t he powders, and t he com posit ion of t he grade. Cont rol of t he size and shape is m ost im port ant and is least predict able dur ing t he cooling cycle. This is part icular ly t rue w it h t hose grades of cem ent ed carbides w it h higher cobalt cont ent s. Wit h cobalt having a lesser densit y t han t ungst en, it occupies a great er part of t he volum e t han w ould be indicat ed by t he rat ed cobalt cont ent of t he gr ade. And, because cobalt cont ent s are generally a m uch higher per cent age of t he m ass in liquid phase, ext rem e care is requir ed t o cont r ol and predict w it h accur acy t he m agnit ude and dir ect ion of shrinkage. Figur e 1.7 shows carbide part s being loaded int o a sint ering fur nace, and a m ore det ailed schem at ic diagram of t he cem ent ed t ungst en car bide m anufact uring pr ocess is show n in figur e 1.8. Cla ssif ica t ion of Ca r bide Tools Cem ent ed carbide pr oduct s ar e classified int o t hr ee m aj or cat egories: W e a r Gr a de s used pr im arily in dies, m achine and t ool guides, and in everyday it em s such as line guides on fishing rods and reels. Used anywher e good w ear r esist ance is required. I m pa ct Gr a de s also used for dies, par t icularly for st am ping and form ing, and in t ools such as m ining dr ill heads. Cut t in g Tool Gr a de s t he cut t ing t ool gr ades of cem ent ed car bides are divided int o t w o groups, depending on t heir pr im ary applicat ion. I f t he car bide is int ended for use on cast iron t hat is a nonduct ile m at erial, it is graded as a cast iron carbide. I f it is t o be used t o cut st eel, a duct ile m at erial, it is gr aded as a st eel grade carbide. Cast ir on car bides m ust be m ore r esist ant t o abrasive w ear. St eel car bides require m ore resist ance t o crat ering and heat . The t ool w ear charact er ist ics of various m et als are different , t hereby requir ing different t ool propert ies. The high abrasiveness of cast iron causes m ainly edge wear t o t he t ool. The long chip of st eel, which flow s across t he t ool at norm ally higher cut t ing speeds, causes.

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