Monday, April 17, 2017

Industry Trends Steer Cutting Tool Development

Manufacturing trends – such as the softening or growth of certain industry segments, the use of technologies like 3D printing or processes li
ke near net shape manufacturing – all have direct impacts on cutting tool product development. As a leading cutting tool manufacturer, we strive to not only keep pace with the natural progression of the industry, but also to set new standards in tool development and performance.

Aerotek, a leading provider of industrial staffing services, recently released its second annual list of “Opportunities in Manufacturing” that includes the top 10 fast growing U.S. industries for manufacturing employment. Topping the list is Oil and Gas Field Machinery Equipment with seven percent employment growth in 2015-2016, which coincides with a recent uptick in activity from our oil and gas customers who have shown increased interest in our patented long reach Steadyline® shell mill holders. These tools excel at reaching difficult-to-access machining areas, such as large, complex workpieces and deep cavities, and oil and gas manufacturers use them for pipe and coupling manufacturing.

High-performance threading solutions are another need for customers in the oil and gas industry. We recently introduced new Thread Chaser inserts for pitch-perfect threading. The inserts provide the speed, reliability, accuracy and precision gauging of threads needed to meet the demanding requirements of the oil and gas industry and other industry segments requiring special threads such as API and common licensed thread types.

The versatile Thread Chaser tool features inserts for both push and pull threading of ID features and push for OD threading using multi-tooth patterns for fast two-pass threading. The system’s multi-tooth inserts have precise thread patterns that quickly and reliably generate high-accuracy, consistently perfect thread pitches for couplings and pipe materials in a wide range of hardness.

Thread Chaser inserts increase productivity by reducing threading passes and decreasing cycle time. The tools use a special substrate and coating, and feature through-coolant holes and chip formers to direct high-pressure (up to 210 bar) coolant precisely to cutting edges to optimize chip formation/evacuation and extend insert life. Inserts are available in push or pull and push sets of one, two or three sets on pipe to accommodate various thread machine types.

In addition to the development of new tool technology to meet these types of specialized needs, we are continuing to meet the needs created by the use of different materials in new applications. Sticking with the oil and gas industry for illustration, manufacturers are now switching from steel to stainless steel in the manufacturing of the giant valves in fracking pumps to extend the life of the valves.

This change means more opportunities for the development of products featuring our Duratomic® technology which achieves the elusive balance of toughness and hardness when machining steel alloys and other workpiece materials such as cast irons and stainless steels.

Duratomic technology has been proven to improve productivity by at least 20 percent in average turning applications. Furthermore, it features an innovative used-edge detection technology that uses an approximately 0.1┬Ám-thick chrome-colored coating that clearly identifies a used insert edge when black aluminum oxide shows through. These high-contrast used-edge marks allow operators on busy shop floors to easily spot them and do not impact tool performance or machining-related parameters such as cutting data. As a result, manufacturers can process more parts per edge, limit production interruptions and reduce waste.

These are just a few examples of how we are at the forefront of cutting tool development. In addition to responding to current market trends with more advanced cutting tools, we also provide custom design services to meet customers’ unique needs. So, whatever your tooling need, please give us a call. We’d love to help you find the right solution.

About the Author
As product manager for threading and grooving at Seco, Don is responsible for threading, threadmilling, cut-off, grooving and oil field chasers. In his spare time, he enjoys restoring old motorcycles. Contact Don at

Monday, April 3, 2017

3 Benefits of Peel & Thread Tool Technology

By Don Halas, Product Manager - Threading & MDT

More manufacturers are turning to systems that combine multiple operations to shave time from part production and become more profitable. The increased prevalence of multi-tasking machines means there is also need for new tooling.

One refined and enhanced tool that facilitates multi-tasking is an innovative “peel and thread” holder that both tapers and threads in one simultaneous pass on a turning machine.
It works by incorporating a turning insert followed by a threading insert, both within the same holder. While each of the tool’s operations is relatively simple, performing them simultaneously offers several benefits.

1.   Shortens Cycle Times
Conventional methods of tapering and threading pipe and couplings are time-consuming. They involve first turning the taper followed by cutting the threads. The peel and thread process, on the other hand, performs both ID and OD threading. Peeling is mainly used to create the slight tapers needed when processing parts that require tapered threads. Tapered threads create fluid-tight seals, while straight threads often fail to pull mating parts together tight enough to prevent leaks.

Our peel and thread holder reduces the number of passes necessary to finish tapered pipes and couplings, so it shortens cycle times by up to 30 percent when compared with traditional separate turning and threading. As proof, one of our customers that produces between 10,000 and 12,000 couplings daily was able to increase production by 20 percent after switching to peel and thread technology.

2.   Optimizes Chip Evacuation
Chip control can be an issue when threading due to the direction of chip flow. In conventional turning and threading machine programs, the tool moves toward the chuck, which tends to deposit chips in the tool path and can easily damage the finished piece.

Peel and thread programs reverse the cutting direction. The tool starts cutting threads close to the chuck and moves away from it as the threading pass progresses which effectively directs chips away from the cutting zone and into the bed of the machine.

3.   Facilitates Lights-Out Threading Operations
Better chip control that results from using a peel and thread strategy opens the door for lights-out threading operations. It also eliminates the need for manual intervention, which improves safety on your shop floor.

At Seco, we’re always working to develop new tools that can help you boost production, improve part quality, enhance safety and increase profitability. We are very proud of this new tool holder because it makes make it very easy to apply the novel peel and thread strategy. The only additional hardware required is the holder itself. Beyond that, you simply must apply extremely fast feedrates – typically 0.15 inch per revolution – or keep the same feed rate as threading, because you will essentially be using a finishing operation as opposed to a roughing one.

To learn more about this tool holder or any of our other products, contact us.

About the Author
As product manager for threading and grooving at Seco, Don is responsible for threading, threadmilling, cut-off, grooving and oil field chasers. In his spare time, he enjoys restoring old motorcycles. Contact Don at

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Machine Operator Training Increases Productivity, Reduces Costs

By Don Graham, Manager of Education and Technical Services

These days, manufacturers are searching every nook and cranny in their organizations for ways to reduce costs. For example, our customers want toolholders, insert grades and geometries that perform better, and they want them at a lower cost. While the latest advancements in cutting tools and machining techniques deliver increased productivity, better surface finishes and longer tool lives, manufacturers can also maximize machining efforts and reduce costs through machine operator education.

Modern machines make programming many machining processes easier, but the best productivity is achieved by well-trained operators who understand the basics of turning, milling, and holemaking as well as when to use different types of cutters. A good understanding of why they are doing what they are doing, as well as what to listen for and what to look for when operating a machine can help operators proactively avert problems before they arise. Ultimately, this knowledge helps increase productivity and reduce costs by decreasing scrap rates and rework.

At Seco, we regularly host free training courses at our North American Headquarters in Troy, Michigan as part of our Seco Technical Education Program (STEP). Courses are designed to cover the latest tooling systems and metal cutting techniques as well as customer-specific requirements, so that machine operators, manufacturing engineers, programmers, and company owners can begin to understand the simplest way to choose the correct tooling and machining strategy.

We offer three levels of training. STEP Into is a four-hour course that is ideal for those with little or no metal cutting experience. Attendees get an introduction to our Navigator product catalog as well as basic manufacturing and metal cutting vocabulary. This course is not a prerequisite to STEP 1, but it can assist in gaining the full benefit of STEP 1 training.

STEP 1 is a three-day program that introduces tooling and machining technology, including ISO/ANSI standards, turning, milling, holemaking, thread milling, workpiece materials, carbide metallurgy, analyzing tool life and understanding productivity. STEP 1 is a prerequisite for attending STEP 2 training.

STEP 2 is also a three-day program, but it provides a more advanced look at machining techniques and tooling systems, including 3D milling, 3D milling tools, optimum turning, PCBN tooling, Capto quick change and solid carbide tooling. In-depth hands-on instruction, trouble-shooting and problem solving play an important role in the program.

Operator training through STEP can help your shop achieve maximum machining productivity and lower costs. We offer the training for free, however, participants are responsible for their hotel and travel expenses. Once registered, we will make your hotel arrangements. We also provide daily transportation between the hotel and Seco headquarters as well as outgoing airport ground transportation.

To learn more about STEP and register for upcoming classes, please click here. Classes fill up quickly and registration deadlines are subject to seating availability.

About the Author
Don is the manager of education and technical services for Seco, responsible for all educational activities for the NAFTA market, new product testing and various other technical functions. Outside of work, he enjoys making maple syrup, restoring antique tractors and farming.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Six Tips for Effective Optimized Roughing

By Jay Ball - Product Manager, Solid Carbide End Mills

Optimized roughing can be highly effective for machining part features such as pockets with challenging corners as well as any straight walls that require long axial depths of cuts. In fact, this strategy enables you to machine pockets three to four times faster than conventional methods while also dramatically extending the life of your tools. For example, under the right conditions, optimized roughing allows cutting tools to last up to 8 hours when machining titanium, as opposed to 30 minutes of tool life using conventional cutting methods.

However, achieving the best possible results with today’s optimized roughing strategy does require adhering to a few specific guidelines.

1. Adjust radial stepovers
An optimized roughing strategy typically employs multi-flute tools with anywhere from five to nine flutes. As the number of flutes increases, the size of the stepover must decrease to maintain surface finish at faster feed rates as well as accommodate for the decrease in chip spacing. If the stepover is too large, feed rates need to be lowered, which generates more heat due to the larger amount of metal removed in each pass. By decreasing the size of the stepover, you can use faster cutting speeds. More passes are necessary to remove the same amount of material, but the metal removal rates are still higher than at slower speeds due to the increased feed rates. This is the main reason optimized roughing makes tools last longer and heightens thermal stability.

2. Use strong, secure toolholders and fixturing
High-precision holders are crucial in optimized roughing. The holder needs similar specifications to those for hard milling, including less than 0.0004" run out. A precise holder ensures the accuracy of the process, whereas a less secure holder will cause undesirable levels of vibration at optimized roughing’s high feed rates. For the same reason, it’s important to use strong workholding fixtures as well.

3. Make sure your machine is capable of performing optimized roughing
Machine tools used for optimized roughing not only need to be able to achieve extremely high feed rates, but they also need to be able process thousands of lines of code in a matter of seconds. This requires advanced look-ahead capabilities and processing systems found in newer machine tools. Rigidity throughout the machine tool from the spindle bearings all the way through to the ball screws ensures smooth cutting, consistent tool life and unsurpassed part quality.

4. Choose a suitable programming method
It is nearly impossible to program an optimized roughing strategy manually. Many companies provide state-of-the-art programming software, but careful consideration must be made when choosing the right software or software add on. Not all software is created equal. For example, a programing software designed only for complex 3D high speed milling may not be able to perform the complex radial moves inside of tight corners to maintain a consistent angle of engagement, which is one of many keys to successful optimized roughing strategies.

5. Select the right depth of cut
We recommend a cutting depth of 2xD for optimized roughing and taking the full length of the cut in one pass. Smaller radial stepovers make such depths of the cut possible. A larger stepover would increase the amount of heat in the cut, which in-turn, will have a negative effect on tool life and performance, so rpm and feed rates must be reduced. However, a cut that is too deep, over 3xD for instance, creates cutting pressures greater than the tool can bear and causes deflection. Some manufactures add chip splitters in these cases to help reduce cutting pressure which, in-turn, reduces cutter deflection and also helps with chip control.

6. Follow recommended cutting parameters from tooling manufacturers
We frequently see customers encounter problems when they rely on the default cutting data recommendations from programming software suppliers instead of those provided by cutting tool suppliers. Tool manufacturers develop specific recommended cutting parameters after meticulous research and years of firsthand experience. They optimize cutting data for the tool’s design, specifications and for specific material groups.

Optimized roughing is an excellent strategy for achieving quality parts and extending tool life, but requires use of the right equipment and cutting parameters. If you are having problems implementing the approach or want to learn more about how to use the strategy to process a part, contact us.

About the Author
Jay has been with Seco for more than 10 years. As a key member of the product management team, he is responsible for Seco’s solid carbide end mill products in North America. He works closely with global R&D on new innovations to ensure they meet the necessary market requirements. He also provides technical support for high-speed hard milling and micro milling operations, including CAD file review, tooling selections and programming recommendations.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Three Reasons to Choose Reaming Over Boring

By Manfred Lenz, Product Manager - Drilling

Holemaking is one of the most common metalworking operations. It’s a critical operation that requires matching the right process with each job to maximize profitability. Boring is often considered the go-to method, but more manufacturers are finding reaming to be a better option in some high volume or high-cost part applications. Here’s why:

1.  Reaming is more consistent.
For some manufacturers – especially those working in exotic materials – consistency is everything. After they have performed numerous operations on an expensive part, the last thing they want is to ruin it on the very last process.

Boring tools and reamers have completely different designs. A boring head is an adjustable tool that consists of a cartridge with an insert. The advantage of this design is that it offers flexibility to use one tool in multiple operations or on different sized parts. This flexibility is often perceived to make the tool more economical, but because the inserts wear – which then leads to inconsistent holes sizes – this type of system can actually result in higher end costs.

A reamer, on the other hand, is a solid tool with a set dimension designed to deliver single digit RAs and micro finishes. It has a lead angle, a diameter, back taper, and a wiper area. On non-adjustable reamers, nothing on a reamer is moving, so it remains consistent and delivers the same hole size throughout the life of the tool. It also does not require replacement of inserts or adjusting by the operator to bring it back to size – which is subject to human error.

Reamers also have an extremely predictive tool life. A machinist using an air gauge to measure parts throughout the manufacturing process can see when it’s nearing time to change the tool and put in a new one before a problem arises. Then, once the reamer is changed, the new reamer will produce a good hole on the very first part.

One of our automotive customers that runs 15 million of the same part per year had been using a boring tool to produce large holes and was frustrated with inconsistency. Holes that were undersized required additional handling to finish bore or hone to size. Holes that were oversized got scrapped. By switching to a reamer, the customer experienced more consistency and eliminated the need for secondary operations and waste.

2.  Reaming reduces scrap.
Reducing scrap becomes especially important when working with very expensive materials. In the aerospace industry, for example, manufacturers often produce lower quantities of parts out of Inconel®, titanium and other high-cost materials. For these manufacturers, using a non-adjustable reaming tool and changing it out more frequently can provide consistent hole sizes throughout the life of the tool and significantly lower scrap ratios.

3.  Reaming can save time.
Unlike a finish boring head, which usually has just one tooth, a reamer will have up to 10 teeth depending on its size. Multiple teeth enable users to use much faster feed rates, and therefore increase productivity over machining with a single tooth tool.

Reaming is also a good choice for materials that cannot withstand high levels of heat and therefore require slower machining and longer cycle times. When it takes four or six times to machine a part out of an exotic as a normal piece of steel, the cost in the part increases exponentially. With that much time invested, it’s important to have a fool proof method in place when the final operation of finishing a hole rolls around.

The bottom line is that reaming offers the big advantage of consistency. Whether you are producing high volumes of parts or small batches of high cost parts, reaming can ensure the process stability and repeatability you need. So, if you have a boring operation that might make sense to switch to reaming, contact us. We can help you decide which process will make you most productive and profitable.

About the Author
Manfred has been with Seco for more than 16 years. In his current role as drilling product manager, he is responsible for every aspect of the company’s drilling products in North America. He works closely with global R&D on new innovations to ensure they meet the market’s tough manufacturing demands. Manfred also supports the Seco sales force by providing them with technical information and cost saving solutions that bring value to customers. In his spare time, he enjoys boating, bowling and golfing.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What is Tribology and Why Should You Care?

By Patrick de Vos, Corporate Technical Education Manager, Seco Tools AB

Tribology is a relatively new area of metalcutting load analysis. It studies how surfaces in contact with each other, such as the cut chip and tool, interact at certain temperatures and pressures. Its main focus is e.g. learning what causes the negative phenomenon of built-up edge and what can be done to minimize the problem.

Tribological research has determined that the cutting process does not simply involve a single shearing event and subsequent disconnection of chip and tool. In fact, secondary and tertiary connections and disconnections also occur. The chip shears away, adheres to the rake face and then shears away again before finally sliding off the tool. The main wear mechanism is repeated shearing, not friction.

Built-up edge occurs when thin layers of the workpiece material adhere to and build-up on the tool rake face. If a significant amount of material accumulates on the tool, it can change the profile of the cutting edge. The built-up material can also break off and damage the edge or be deposited on to the workpiece. Regardless, edge buildup makes the cutting process unpredictable and results in poor surface finishes and a need to change tools frequently.

We know that the prime factors that promote edge buildup are high ductility, high adhesion tendencies, abrasiveness and the high pressure and temperatures that are generated when machining tough alloys that have poor thermal conductivity. The possibility of built-up edge formation is much greater in newer workpiece materials such as low carbon steels, aluminum, and the family of aerospace and energy industry materials encompassing titaniums, nickel-based alloys and heat-resistant metals.

Tooling engineers are applying the findings of tribological research in the development of machining processes and tools that will meet the higher demands from these new materials. On the process side, we know that minimizing adherence and the chances for forming built-up edge involves reducing the contact time between the chip and the rake face.

The most straightforward solution is to increase the cutting speed and apply a sharper tool. Faster cutting speeds reduce the time the tool and workpiece material are in contact with each other. The resulting higher process temperatures can also reduce the strength of any edge buildup or eliminate it entirely. The sharper tool has a higher primary rake angle that forces the chip to move more quickly. Other tool geometry choices, such as use of positive rake tools, can help direct cut material away from the workpiece.

We have also used tribology research findings to understand the role tool coatings play in minimizing edge buildup. For example, the newest generation of Seco’s CVD aluminium-oxide Duratomic® coating is based on tribological principles. Development engineers manipulated coating components in response to expanded knowledge of the interactions between the chips and the cutting tool.

Another example of Seco coatings aimed at controlling built-up edge is the new silver PVD uni-coating developed for MS2050 milling inserts. The coating has high heat resistance capabilities and also practically eliminates the occurrence of built-up edge when cutting sticky materials such as titanium. With the absence of built-up edge, the inserts last about 50 percent longer and run at much higher cutting parameters as compared with existing tools.

Tool engineers are also using tribology to research ways to turn edge buildup from a liability into a positive contributor to machining productivity. For example, in some cases, a thin layer of workpiece material on the surface of the cutting tool actually slows the progress of wear. The key is to find a perfect thickness of this tool protection layer that does not affect tool geometry and also does not separate from the tool surface.

While tribology may not be a topic you think about everyday, it is offering an important new perspective for developers of cutting tools and machining processes. It’s giving us another tool to use as we respond to and solve increasingly tougher machining challenges in innovative ways.

If you have questions about tribology, please contact me.

About the Author
Based in The Netherlands, Patrick is the corporate technical education manager for Seco Tools AB with global responsibilities for the technical education activities that help train Seco employees and customers worldwide. He led the creation of the Seco Technical Education Program (STEP) and since its launch more than 200,000 people  worldwide have participated in the program. He has been with the Seco organization for more than 30 years, and during that time he has trained more than 70,000 people in   over 57 countries. He is also the author of the books “Metal Cutting, theories in practice”, “Tool Deterioration, Best Practices” and “Applied Metal Cutting Physics, Best Practices”.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Don’t Let Mechanical Loads Weigh Down Your Milling Process

By Patrick de Vos, Corporate Technical Education Manager, Seco Tools AB

When planning a milling application, there are several factors you must consider for optimum results. First and foremost, you want to have the right cutting tool for the job. But before diving too deep into a tooling supplier catalog, it’s important to understand the variables that impact cutting tool performance, with mechanical loads being one of them.

A mechanical load, not to be confused with cutting force, can be thought of in terms of pressure (force per unit of surface area). This pressure has significant influence on tool life and failure. Consider this: a high cutting force spread over a large tool area produces a relatively insignificant load, while a low cutting force concentrated in a small section of the tool can create a problematic load.

Milling exposes multiple cutting edges to continuously changing loads that go from small to large and back again. And, no matter what milling cutter type you use, its cutting edges will repeatedly enter and exit the workpiece material. Loads on the milling teeth will go from zero before entry to peak values in the cut and back to zero at exit.

Therefore, you want to moderate these intermittent loads so you can achieve the best possible tool life, reliability and productivity in your application. Elements such as cutter positioning, entry and exit strategies and chip thickness are key to controlling mechanical loads and ensuring your success.

Cutter Positioning
When approaching a workpiece, you must consider what milling direction will best meet your goals. In conventional “up” milling, the cutter rotates against the direction of the workpiece feed, while climb “down” milling moves in the same direction as the feed.

Whether you go “up” or “down,” you’ll want to position the cutter to one side or the other of the workpiece centerline. Central positioning mixes the forces of conventional and climb milling, which can result in unstable machining and vibration.

Entry and Exit Strategies
The way the cutter and its cutting edges enter the workpiece largely determine mechanical loads in milling. More times than not climb milling will offer the best point of entry over conventional milling, but there are pros and cons to both.
  • Climb milling pros: Full-thickness entry into the workpiece allows for proper heat transfer into the chips, protecting both the part and the tool. Chips flow behind the cutter, minimizing recuts and yielding better part surface finishes.
  • Climb milling cons: Full-thickness entry into the workpiece can subject the tool to heavy mechanical loads (which is not a problem for most cutting tool materials). Face milling via the climb method creates a downward force that can cause backlash on older manual machines.
  • Conventional milling pros: Gradual entry into the workpiece protects brittle, super hard cutting tools from damage when machining rough-surfaced or thin-walled materials. It also handles heavy cuts on less stable machines.
  • Conventional milling cons: Shallow-thickness entry into the workpiece creates excessive friction and heat that can have detrimental effects on a tool. Chips drop in front of the cutter, increasing recuts and lowering part surface finish quality.
Furthermore, how your cutter exits the workpiece is just as important as how it enters. If your cutter’s exit is too sudden or uneven, the cutting edges will chip or break. When handled properly, however, you stand to benefit from up to 10 times more tool life. The exit angle, defined as the angle between the milling cutter radius line and the exit point of the cutting edge, should be the primary focus of your exit strategy. Keep in mind your exit angle can be negative (above the cutter radius line) or positive (below the radius line).

Chip Thickness
Chip thickness is the thickness of the non-deformed chip at the right angles of the cutting edge, and it’s influenced by the radial engagement, edge preparation of the insert and feed per tooth.

When chips are too thick, they tend to generate heavy loads that can chip or break a tool’s cutting edges. When chips are too thin, cutting takes place on a smaller portion of the cutting edge, creating friction and increased heat that results in rapid tool wear.

Cutting tool manufacturers typically have the average chip thickness data for their milling products, so be sure to ask your supplier for this important information. When the average chip thickness data for your cutting tool is applied and maintained, you benefit from maximum tool life and productivity.

Milling cutters have significantly evolved over the years, allowing us to achieve levels of productivity and profitability never before possible. However, many fail to take full advantage of this technical progress. Don’t be one of them. By taking the time to understand the variables that influence cutting tool performance and planning out a proper milling strategy, you’ll have it made.

Metal cutting is definitely a complex process, so any time you have questions or require applications advice, please don’t hesitate to contact our technical support team. Also, be on the lookout for future posts on thermal and tribological loads in milling.

Read the published Seco technical article “Controlling Mechanical Loads In Milling.”

About the Author
Based in The Netherlands, Patrick is the corporate technical education manager for Seco Tools AB with global responsibilities for the technical education activities that help train Seco employees and customers worldwide. He led the creation of the Seco Technical Education Program (STEP) and since its launch more than 200,000 people  worldwide have participated in the program. He has been with the Seco organization for more than 30 years, and during that time he has trained more than 70,000 people in   over 57 countries. He is also the author of the books “Metal Cutting, theories in practice”, “Tool Deterioration, Best Practices” and “Applied Metal Cutting Physics, Best Practices”.