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High Performance Machining of

Hard-to-Cut Materials Using Cutting

Tools with Hard PVD Coatings
McMaster Manufacturing Research
Institute, Canada
Kobelco, Kobe Steel Group, Japan
Do you have difficult to cut material?

With the introduction of advanced structural materials to the manufacturing

practice the development of innovative tooling solutions able to sustain severe
and extreme operating conditions is a challenge. At the McMaster
Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) we have found a way to achieve this
through the application of Adaptive Hard PVD coatings. Our philosophy is
founded on a phenomena-based concept with the emphasis on evaluation of
friction-wear mechanisms.

Is your tooling limiting your productivity?

In industry, tooling is roughly 5% of your cost and you usually don’t focus on it,
but concentrate on the big ticket items like equipment. McMaster has
identified this as an issue in high performance machining by using cutting tools
with Adaptive Hard PVD coatings.
MMRI and Kobelco offer Customized Solutions

As a result of a long-term collaboration with Kobelco of Japan, a

family of PVD (Physical Vapor Deposited) coatings has been
developed. These coatings can be used to improve the machinability
of hard-to-cut materials, increase productivity in the machining
process. Two major categories of novel hard coatings were
•Adaptive coatings (for machining of aerospace alloys and hardened
•Thick coatings with reduced level of residual stresses (for machining
of advanced structural materials).
Machining of aerospace alloys using cutting tools with
Adaptive PVD coatings

A new generation of adaptive nano-multilayered coatings (2-3 mm thick) allows

to introduce nano-technology to high performance machining. This new class
of coatings has an ability to form superb protective and lubricious surface
layers during cutting. Harsher operating conditions enhance self-protection of
the coatings. The result is a significant improvement in tool life and
productivity of the machining process. We introduced this family of coatings
with customized composition, structure and properties for specific
Unique feature of the novel adaptive Kobelco – MMRI coatings is
their nano-multilayer design with alternating layers that have
various chemical composition and structure. This allows to
encourage adaptability under harsh operating conditions that
could result in productivity improvement.

TEM image of the nano-multilayered adaptive coatings.

Overall coating thickness of the coating is 2-3 micrometers
with 80-100 alternating nano-layers with different
composition or/and structure
Examples of Adaptive Hard PVD Coatings
Applications for machining of hard-to-cut materials
Novel adaptive multi-functional coatings
with enhanced protective ability
A family of novel adaptive coating shows multi- functionality
due to their ability to sustain strongly variable operating
conditions, such as:
-dry ultra-high speed machining (ball nose end milling) of
hardened tool steels;
-high performance machining (turning) of Ni-based superalloys;
-deep hole drilling of hardened structural steels.
Machining of Hardened (HRC 53-55) tool steel
The adaptive coating is able to sustain extreme conditions of dry (coolant-
free) machining (ball nose end milling of hardened tool steel H 13) at ultra-
high cutting speeds of 700 m/min. This means that productivity of the
machining process for the coated cutting tools is significantly (by more than
2.3 times) higher compared to commercial coatings.

To assess the efficiency of the
hard coating application a
special parameter named
improvement by
relative surface wear (RSW) was
2.33 times introduced, which is a ratio of
the radial wear of the cutting
tool to the area of the machined
surface. Higher values of RSW
relate to a lower productivity
and vice-versa.
Tools with Tools
commercial with
coating novel
Turning of Inconel 718 Alloy

Harsher operating conditions during

machining of Inconel 718 alloy
(increase in cutting speed) results in
better tool life of cutting tools with
adaptive coatings

Tool life improvement of the novel adaptive

coatings is around 70 % with simultaneous
productivity improvement of 50 %
Deep hole drilling of hardened ( HRC 30-35) structural
conditions Value Units
Speed 79m/min
Feed rate 0.25mm/rev
Depth of cut 39mm

Number of drilled holes

Commercial state-
of-art coating
TiAlN coating Novel adaptive
Tool life improvement of the novel
adaptive coatings is around 1,7-2
times compared to commercial
state of art and more than 3.5
times compared to TiAlN coating
Novel adaptive/self-lubricating coating
Turning of TiAl6V4 alloy

Value Units
Length of cut, m up to flank wear of 300

3500 Speed 150 m/min
Feed rate 0.1225 (mm/rev)
Depth of

2500 cut 0.25 mm



Tool life improvement of the
novel adaptive/self-lubricating
0 coatings is above 2 times
Commercial benchmark Novel adaptive/lubricating
coating coating
Machining of advanced structural materials using
cutting tools with ‘thick’ PVD coating
Recently developed new PVD coatings with
reduced level of residual stress allow to
increase thickness of the coatings layer up to
15-20 micrometers instead of regular 2-5
micrometers. Cutting tools with ’thick’ coatings
could be used for machining of various
structural materials such as Cast Irons, Compact 20μm
Graphite Iron (CGI), Stainless Steels and other
advanced materials. The advantages of thicker
coatings are clear: the tooling substrate is
better protected against various effects
resulting from the cutting process such as high
temperature, physical-chemical interactions
with the workpiece and the environment.
Moreover new coatings have improved surface
finish that results in better tribological
conditions on the tool surface during cutting.
This leads to significant tool life increase Cutting insert with new ‘thick’
Columnar polycrystalline structure of
the ‘thick ‘ TiAlN coating is presented
in TEM image
Example of ‘thick’ Hard PVD coatings applications for
machining of advanced structural materials
Turning of Compact Graphite Iron (CGI), finishing

Compact graphite iron is an 300

advanced material recently
introduced to industrial practice. 250

Flank Wear (microns)

Due to superior mechanical 200
properties CGI opens to the
possibility of manufacturing
components with thinner walls and 100 TiAlN
TiAlN, 'thick'
bias multilayer (3)

less weight. Despite this, the use of 50 KCTiAlN

5510 commercial
CGI is limited due to its very low
machinability. Aggressive abrasive 0
0 5000 10000 15000 20000 25000
and chemical wear as well as build Cut length in Metres
up edge formation can be observed.
High cutting speed gives faster tool
wear, when machining CGI
compared to gray iron.
Tool life improvement of the novel ‘thick’
coatings is around 2.5 times . Cutting
conditions: speed 250 m/min; feed rate 0.345
mm; depth of cut 0.25 mm
Collaboration with Industry
The $19-million McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) is one of the
largest university manufacturing research institutes in North America. Industry
experts consider the MMRI to be Canada's most advanced and best-equipped
manufacturing research laboratory.
View our laboratory facilities on line at:
Customized Packages for Industry
MMRI is looking for industrial collaborators interested in research projects related
to increase in tool life and productivity of the machining process. MMRI is focused
on industry oriented research. We provide customers with customized solutions
that could be used for machining of hard to cut advanced and exotic materials
recently introduced to industrial practice to achieve high productivity on the
production floor. We work closely with our industrial collaborators using
standardized procedure that includes: 1) identification of their critical problems in
machining; 2) performing detailed failure analysis of the worn or broken tools; 3)
develop surface engineering tooling with customized coating design for specific
applications; 4) optimize parameters of cutting to achieve better productivity of
We are ready to deposit novel coating on our customers tools to be tested at their
Selected cutting tool samples with the novel adaptive coatings are available for
testing at industrial customer sites.
If you have any questions or you need additional information,
please contact:

Dr. G. Fox-Rabinovich
Research Scientist, MMRI, McMaster University, Canada
Phone: (905)525-9140, ext. 23127

Dr. K. Yamamoto
Research Scientist, Kobelco, Japan