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JULY 2006 / VOLUME 58 / NUMBER 7

Like Superman, titanium has amazing strength.

But is it kryptonite on the lathe?

cover story ➤ B Y B I L L K E N N E D Y, C O N T R I B U T I N G E D I T O R

Turning tips for a

B. Kennedy

itanium has “special powers” that allow This assumption is true with titanium, but only
it to save the day in a growing num- to a certain extent.
ber of applications. The metal’s high This article explores turning strategies that
strength-to-weight ratio, toughness and allow machinists to deal with this difficult-to-
superb corrosion resistance dictate its use in machine material, exotic titanium applications
products from medical implants to golf club such as Indy car parts and scuba equipment,
heads to military armor. and new cutting technologies.
However, when it’s time to turn those parts,
some machinists look at titanium like Super- Tough Turning?
man looks at kryptonite. They assume that as a Bill Headland, senior project specialist
metal’s performance properties become more at titanium producer RTI International Met-
extreme, so does the challenge of machining it, als Inc., Niles, Ohio, said many shops as-
to the detriment of their machining “powers.” sume titanium is “kryptonite” in regard to
machinability. Actually, titanium in- cal missile. “when I turned the speed up 10 to 15
cludes “a broad category of alloys, Characterizing machinability across percent, tool life went from 40 passes
and you need to know what family you the various titanium alloys is some- to 6 passes. That’s how significant it is
are working with,” he said. “There are what arbitrary, but one shop owner said if you take a step too far.”
grades that are extremely difficult to he generally assumes a Ti6Al4V work- Gyllengahm also found that when
machine and then there are grades that piece will take three times as long to turning at speeds that did not shorten
are very readily machinable.” machine as a steel part, while another tool life, raising the feed rate produced
Commercially pure, or “CP,” tita- said a difficult-to-machine Ti5553 beta a critical temperature detrimental to
nium grades are unalloyed and used for grade requires twice the machining tool life. “There is a window where
making medical parts, heat exchangers time of Ti6Al4V. you reach too much heat,” he said.
and eyeglass frames. CP grades offer Tool geometry plays a key role in
excellent corrosion resistance and are Turning Time dissipating heat by controlling the
relatively easy to machine, but have When it comes to turning, titanium’s chip’s shape. A wider, thinner chip
low strength relative to other alloys. most significant property is its poor enlarges the contact area between the
They are “very gummy and very soft, heat conductivity. High temperatures chip being produced and the cutting
edge, thereby reducing heat con-
Replacing an 80°
insert applied at a
centration. “If you have a thinner
-5° lead angle (right) chip, you produce less heat, and
with a square insert you can go slightly faster,” Gyl-
presented at a 45° lengham said. For example, when
lead angle (left) will roughing with a C-style (80˚ dia-
produce a wider,
thinner chip, reducing
mond) insert and a standard -
the concentration of 5˚ lead angle, chip thickness is
heat on the cutting roughly equivalent to the feed
edge. rate. But applying a square insert
set at a 45˚ lead angle spreads the
Sandvik Coromant

metal being removed—and the

heat of the cut—along a greater
length of the cutting edge.
Round inserts theoretically
relatively speaking,” Headland said. developed when machining are concen- take this concept to its extreme, “but
Alloy additions to pure titanium trated in the tool’s cutting edge rather only at lighter depths of cut,” Gyllen-
change its phase, or crystal structure, as than being absorbed by the workpiece. gahm said. “Normally, with a round
well as its performance properties and Excessive heat catalyzes a chemical insert you have a very thin chip at a
machinability. Alpha and near-alpha reaction between the cutting edge and low depth of cut.” However, consider-
titanium alloys include additions such the chip, producing crater wear. ing the case of a round insert with a ½"
as nickel, aluminum and vanadium. Titanium also has a tendency to inscribed circle applied at a DOC of
“These intermediate grades machine workharden, so removing metal more than 0.080", “your effective lead
pretty well,” Headland noted. through a shearing action, rather than angle is getting low. Then you might
Alpha-beta titanium grades may pushing it away, is crucial. Further, be better off with a square, because at
contain increased amounts of alumi- although titanium has high strength, it that depth of cut, you still have a 45˚
num and vanadium. Industry’s work- has a relatively low modulus of elastic- lead,” he said.
horse titanium alloy, Ti6Al4V, is an ity. This means it is relatively resilient
alpha-beta grade containing about 6 compared to other materials and moves Push and Pull
percent aluminum and 4 percent va- away from the cutting edge, especially Bill Skoretz is manager of the ma-
nadium. Ti6Al4V and its variations during lighter cuts. Together, these chining division of Patriot Forge Co.,
account for 50 to 70 percent of the properties make a balance of speed, Paris, Ontario, which maintains an in-
titanium in use today. feed and DOC the key to successfully ventory of raw materials ranging from
Beta grades, which include ad- turning titanium. low-alloy steels and stainless steels to
ditions of iron and chromium, are Cutting speed is the biggest factor specialty grades of aluminum and tita-
among the most difficult to machine affecting heat development. Stefan nium. Skoretz occasionally machines
titanium alloys. With high fracture Gyllengahm, now a turning specialist titanium parts for Patriot’s customers.
toughness and excellent resistance to for Sandvik Coromant Co., Fair Lawn, However, when discussing the chal-
high cycle fatigue, “they are getting N.J., previously spent 3½ years devel- lenges of turning titanium, he recalled
into machinabilities like Hastelloy and oping tool grades for the toolmaker. an experience from a prior position
similar materials,” Headland said. As a During that time, he conducted labo- when he turned nozzles for cooling
typical beta alloy application, he cited ratory tests on Ti6Al4V that demon- sprays used in steel rolling mills. The
lightweight springs used to activate the strated the care required when setting corrosion-resistant grade of titanium
folding fins of a barrel-launched tacti- cutting speeds. In some cases, he said, “didn’t like parting with itself, and it
was abrasive,” he said. titanium parts Rayco turns are
Positive tool geometry was bobbin inserts that go between
essential, but with emphasis on the brake caliper and rotors.
the shape of the tool’s top, due Like Skoretz, Cox said suc-
to titanium’s resilient nature. cessfully turning titanium re-
“If your bottom angle or rake quires a balanced approach.
angle underneath is a little too Regarding machining param-
sharp, then you end up with eters, he said: “One of those
more problems, because the things you just know, you’re not
tool starts to pull in.” he said. going to push it. If you push it,
“So you have to find the happy it is going to workharden and
medium between a top geom- hurt you more. We run around
etry being positive and support a standard of about 120-sfm
underneath the cutting edge.” speed and about a 0.005" to
Skoretz described the situ- 0.008" feed.”
ation from the historical per- DOC makes a difference as
spective of cutting tool develop- well. Again, moderation is the
ment. Before the development best course. “We don’t bury
of carbide tools, HSS tools were it. I think the deepest depth of
traditionally ground sharp and cut we ever take is 0.030" to

Sandvik Coromant
“peeled the steel off,” he said. 0.040," Cox said.
The advent of hard carbide tools Production volumes at Rayco
permitted the use of positive may run as high as 200 pieces,
geometries, “which could just Turning a Ti6Al4V part typically
but the majority of runs are
pound the steel off, but you had to requires cutting times three times from five to 20 parts. Cox said the
have horsepower to do that.” However, longer than a steel part. shop does pursue continuous improve-
a negative geometry makes titanium ment, but has to be somewhat cautious
“just fold and push. You’ll not be able Skoretz noted that the inserts he regarding cutting parameters because
to remove the material.” But “if you employed in his previous position fea- “titanium is so expensive you can’t be
go with something too positive, the tured a slight T-land edge preparation so aggressive that you scrap a part.”
insert wants to pull into the material,” of 0.004" or 0.005", “basically for He said the price of titanium has risen
he cautioned. “You have to find that edge security. You can’t go right up to a rapidly, from $47 per lb. to $68 per lb.
happy medium between pushing and sharp edge, because it won’t last long.” over the past year.
pulling.” He also used an oil-based coolant, According to Cox, higher titanium
more for its lubricious characteristics prices also tightened his workpiece
The following companies than its cooling capabilities. Skoretz material inventory. “We are like a drive-
contributed to this report: is sure other shops have different ap- through service for the racing industry;
proaches to turning titanium. “As with they literally call today and get parts
Atomic Aquatics Inc. any material-removal process, there tomorrow.” When titanium prices were
(714) 375-1433 are many, many ways to skin a cat.” lower, he might have had 10 pieces to run of a particular part and, “I’d order
Fast Turning at Indy a whole stick of titanium, just so I’d
Patriot Forge Co. Making racecar parts is about 30 have a stick on the shelf,” he said. “I
(519) 758-8100 percent of Indianapolis-based Rayco have really pulled away from that, just Machine Co. Inc.’s business. Greg because the cost per pound has gotten
Cox, company president, noted that to be so expensive.”
Rayco Machine Co. Inc. Rayco machines a lot of relatively
(317) 271-7848 pricey titanium, because the top rac- A Certain Recipe ing teams are willing to spend extra Scott Holland, general manager of
for light, strong parts that allow them Atomica Research and Development,
RTI International Metals Inc. to keep their cars at the rule-regulated the R&D and manufacturing division
(330) 652-9955 minimum weight but still maintain of dive equipment company Atomic some control over how weight is dis- Aquatics Inc., Huntington Beach,
tributed throughout the car. For ex- Calif., said when machining scuba
Sandvik Coromant Co. ample, reducing the weight of rotating equipment from titanium, “we always
(800) SANDVIK and unsprung masses like wheel and try for continuous improvement, to brake parts can significantly enhance find that extra few seconds, a couple
acceleration and handling. Among the more parts or more tool life.” However,
he said he resists the urge to go too far however. Holland has been machining change them when you are supposed
and “try and get one more part out. titanium for nearly a decade and said to. You can only run titanium within a
I can get that one more out and then he relies on “what the part looks like, certain box,” Holland said. “You can
snap, there goes the tool.” He added what the tool looks like and what the try things on your own, but it might not
that there is “a middle ground in there cut sounds like.” work out. There’s a certain recipe for
that we try to reach.” Machining titanium can be rela- it, and if you stick to the recipe, every-
It’s not all numbers and programs, tively simple. “Use sharp tools and thing is going to work out right!” q

Titanium-taming technology

T he increasing use of titanium is driving development “You remove a lot more material during the same time,”
of cutting technologies focused on turning it more Mills said. “Just by using a square insert you can pretty much
productively. say you’ve doubled your productivity. And then, if you apply
Chris Mills, senior manager for application management the high-pressure coolant system, you can increase your cut-
and support at Sandvik Coromant, Sandviken, Sweden, em- ting speed an extra 50 percent on top of that.”
phasized that chemical wear is the main failure mechanism Mills said the high-pressure coolant must be routed
when turning titanium and that high cutting temperatures through the machine spindle and not via external piping.
accelerate that wear. As the hot chip slides
over the tool’s rake face, it is “actually pulling
out cobalt from the insert,” he said.
Mills described a two-step approach to re-
ducing cutting temperature. The first step is
using tool geometry to reduce chip thickness.
Applying a square insert with a 45° lead angle
or a round insert thins the chip, which will
thereby reduce cutting temperatures and resul-
tant crater wear, ultimately permitting higher
feed rates and extending tool life.
The second step involves application of a
specific form of high-pressure coolant. Accord-
ing to Mills, the coolant is not only presented
at high pressure, but is in the form of a “very
accurate laminar flow jet, which produces a
hydraulic wedge between the chip and the
rake face of the insert. It lifts the chip up and
doesn’t have the same contact on the rake face,

Sandvik Coromant
so you don’t get the same crater wear.”
Sandvik calls the system Jetbreak. It pro-
vides 0.050"-dia. jets at pressures from 1,000
to 3,000 psi. The system employs standard High-pressure coolant delivered in a small-diameter laminar flow jet
emulsion coolants, and, according to Mills, produces a hydraulic wedge between the chip and the rake face of the
insert, lifting the chip to minimize its contact on the insert rake face with
“it’s the force of the jet lifting the chip up, the effect of reducing crater wear.
not actually a cooling effect, which reduces
the friction and the temperature between the chip and the The coolant flows through a special adapter for the Sandvik
face.” He said use of the system can permit a 50 percent Capto quick-change tooling coupling, engineered to handle
increase in cutting speed. the high pressures. The system is most easily implemented
Mills described the effect of combining the two heat-re- at the time the machine tool is installed.
ducing strategies. He proposed a basic situation of a CNMG For shops machining titanium on a daily basis—especially
insert employed at a -5° lead angle, run at optimized ma- large, high-value aerospace components—the 50 percent
chining parameters of about 40 m/min. cutting speed and increase in productivity makes it worthwhile to invest in
0.3 mm/rev. feed rate, resulting in about 20 minutes of tool special toolholders and a somewhat specialized machine,
life. Substituting a round insert or a square insert with a 45° Mills said. The system offers unique advantages when turn-
lead angle would enable the cutting speed to be increased ing titanium, because crater wear is not as prevalent in other
to 50 to 60 m/min. and the feed to 0.4 mm/rev. Tool life workpiece materials.
would be similar. —B. Kennedy

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