Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wind Turbines Need to Lose Weight

By Gary Meyers, Product Manager – Milling

Europe uses more wind power than we do in this country. After all, they invest more in this renewable energy resource because their conventional energy costs are higher than ours. But consider what more wind power could do for us. It’s a plentiful and renewable “green” energy resource that just might help us say goodbye to fossil fuels. 

However, if the United States wants to increase its wind power manufacturing, companies will need to find ways to lower the cost of industrial wind turbines. One way is to start using weight-reducing materials when producing wind turbine components.

The heavier the wind turbine, the more expensive it is to produce, transport and install. Consider today’s 5MW wind turbine. It weighs more than a million pounds, with the nacelle, rotor hub and blades accounting for most of the weight.

If wind turbine component manufacturers started using materials with improved strength-to-weight-ratio, such as carbon fiber, compacted graphite iron, aluminum and titanium alloy, to produce the nacelle, rotor hub, and blades, they could essentially cut a large turbine’s weight in half.

There are, however, some challenges in transitioning over to these materials. For example, if a shop is currently machining rotor hubs made of ductile cast iron and wants to start using aluminum, the shop would need to update its tooling, reprogram its parts for different cutting techniques and adjust its speeds and feeds for the tooling. Another challenge is the hazardous dust that comes with machining carbon fiber materials. Shops would need to have special equipment to keep the carbon fiber particles from contaminating the air. 

But for those wind component manufacturers ready to start a weight-loss trend, Seco has extensive experience in working with carbon fiber, compacted graphite iron, aluminum and titanium alloy. After all, the company’s cutting tools have long played a role in machining these weight-reducing materials within the aerospace and power generation markets.

Such cutting tools include Seco’s Double Octomill™ that features 16 cutting edges and provides excellent cost effectiveness. It handles roughing and finishing by accurately positioning its inserts inside the cutter body pockets using high-speed steel location pins that offer easy and secure indexing. The Turbo square shoulder mill, available in four different insert sizes, provides improved tool life and precision by optimizing cutting properties that reduce heat generation and cutting forces.

Other relevant Seco tools for the wind power industry include the Steadyline™ vibration damping shell mill holders as well as a complete range of drilling, reaming and boring tools, such as Feedmax and Performax drills, X-fix reamers and the Graflex boring bar system. Plus, the company’s Duratomic® insert coating technology provides high speeds, increased cutting data, longer and more predictable tool life, a wider machining window and dramatically increased productivity.    

Wind is one of the most affordable renewable energy resources on the planet. However, in order to cultivate more wind farms in this country, a trend towards using weight-reducing materials has to happen. And manufacturers need to know they would not be alone in such a movement because Seco can help them pave the way with its optimized solutions that effectively handle weight-reducing materials.

If you would like more information on this topic, feel free to email me or get in touch with your local Seco sales representative.

About the Author
At Seco, Gary works closely with product development, marketing and field sales to effectively launch new milling products into the market as well as ensure their long-term success. Outside of work, he enjoys outdoor activities, which include running 5k and 10k races in the summer and downhill skiing in the winter.    

Monday, November 21, 2011

It’s Probably Time to Refine Your Manufacturing Processes

By Ken Bellinger
Project Manager for Seco’s Nafta CET (Component Engineered Tooling) Group

Seco is an innovation-driven company; we’re always working to advance our cutting tool technology. With that said, we’re also very customer focused as we work with manufacturers every day to help them maximize their efforts. One of the ways in which we connect with customers is through our Component Engineered Tooling, or CET, group. 

Specializing in project management from conception to completion, CET provides extensive assistance in creating or refining manufacturing processes to ensure our customers meet the highest levels of productivity, efficiency and cost effectiveness.

While most of our customers have engineering resources in place, their focus is typically on new components instead of existing production processes. It’s an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” situation because the time and resources just aren’t there to continuously re-evaluate older processes that appear to be “ok.”

Manufacturers, however, need to be careful because as cutting tool technology advances things might not always be what they seem. In fact what may come across as “ok” could be a drag on a company’s productivity levels—and ultimately their bottom line. For example, an older machining method might significantly benefit from today’s high feed and pocketing strategies.

Not too long ago, we worked with an aerospace component manufacturer who had not altered their production process in 10 years. However, they realized it was time to optimize their efforts and looked to us for advice. As we analyzed their processes and future goals, we discovered quickly they were losing massive amounts of valuable productivity time with an antiquated, 35-hour machining process.

Because the manufacturer did not have any 3D models that would allow us to review the programming, we worked with a third-party technology partner to create both a rough part and a finished part in a 3D format. From there, another partner surfaced the component and then we checked the finished model against the original blueprint. This process allowed us to verify that the component specs were indeed still accurate a decade later. Even with this information, we recommended that the manufacturer start over with a clean slate.   

We implemented several new tactics that enabled them to streamline their efforts and reduce their processing time to about 16 hours, which included taking an unwanted lathe out of the process. We also removed their manual reaming operations after heat treat, which weren’t included in the original 35-hour processing time. We did this by performing pre-heat treat rough machining and finished machining everything else after heat treat—basically a “reprocess” of the aerospace component.

If you have a long-term contract to build a specific component, we recommend evaluating your production process about every five years, particularly if you need more capacity or throughput to achieve more profitability. However, you must justify the decisions you make, especially if new equipment is involved. After all, tooling portion and strategy is a much easier switch than going from two, 10-year-old machines to a new machine that costs $500,000.

For those who need help in evaluating their production processes, Seco can assist by performing a Product Cost Analysis, or PCA, that enables the measurement, control and management of manufacturing methods. Seco’s PCA will identify areas of cost reduction and productivity gains to help maximize the profit on any process within a customer’s machining facility. We’ve found that customers who use our PCA typically benefit from a total cost savings of up to 25% and productivity increases of up to 35%, regardless of industry sector.                                                                                                                                                    

Our customers are at the center of everything we do at Seco, and we are committed to developing the tools, processes and services necessary for them to succeed in today’s competitive manufacturing landscape. If you have questions about the CET group, please feel free to contact me. After all, my job is to help you find ways to save money and increase your profitability.

About the Author
Ken Bellinger is the Component Engineered Tooling Manager at Seco. His responsibilities include new project management, process engineering, technology partner development and overseeing the CET department, which includes six process engineers, two OEM technical specialists and a project coordinator. When he is not helping customers improve their manufacturing processes, Ken spends his spare time hunting, ATV riding or boating. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Finish Boring vs. Reaming

By Mike Smith, Product Manager – Reaming and EPB

Drilling the perfect hole is nearly impossible, making it necessary for precision finish tools to follow the drill operation and complete the job. Fine boring heads and reamers are two popular tools used for finalizing the holemaking process. While both styles of tools can finish the hole, the design of each tool has significant advantages that can be optimized depending on the needs of the component.

When selecting the right technique for your holemaking operations, you should consider hole diameter and length, interruption within the hole due to internal cavities and the required straightness, size, tolerance and surface finish of the hole.

My intent here is to compare finish boring and reaming just enough to help steer you in the right direction as to what might be the better choice for your operations.

Finish Boring
Liteline Fine Boring Head
Finish boring is ideal for short-run jobs and situations where more stock is remaining in the hole. When compared to reaming, finish boring is more flexible when machining different hole sizes using the same tool. Also, precise hole positioning is less critical than in reaming because if a drill does not drill the hole straight, a finish boring head will true up the hole.

A reamer only follows the existing hole. In terms of hole quality, finish boring heads typically achieve tolerances within IT 5 and surface finishes above Ra 1 micron. The main drawback to a finish boring head is feed time as it only has one tooth for cutting. Also, with one tooth doing the cutting, tool life is generally less than with reamers. Once the insert wears, size and finish can diminish quickly.

Precimaster Exchangeable Head Reamer
Reaming works with pre-machined holes that have small amounts of stock. When compared to finish boring, a reamer holds tighter tolerances for longer periods of time because the cutting is generally spread out over multiple flutes. This also allows for faster feeds over finish boring heads.

Real-World Example of Finish Boring vs. Reaming
I once had a customer using a finish boring head to machine 256 holes in each of the large plates his company was producing at high volumes. These holes had very tight tolerances, requiring an adjustment of the finish boring head after every fourth hole due to insert wear. We were also able to feed the reamer five times faster than the boring head due to the reamers multiple flutes that drastically cut the production time.

We determined that finish boring would have been the better option if they were machining five holes in a 10-piece job. At which point, you could set the finish boring head, run your holes and then put it away for a different component later on down the road. 

Finish Boring and Reaming Together
There are instances where both finish boring and reaming must work together in order to get the job done right. For example, I once worked on a gun component project where the manufacturer required true positioning and very tight tolerances. The company attained the tight tolerances through reaming, but first had to use finish boring to straighten the holes before the reamer could accurately do its job. 

Holemaking and Machines
When it comes to reaming, it’s best to have a newer, accurate machine because the goal is to minimize runout. Because runout is such a big enemy of reaming (and all holemaking operations for that matter) I recommend using high accuracy toolholders, such as hydraulic or shrink fit holders.     

If a machine has a lot of runout at the spindle, finish boring is more forgiving than reaming because you have some adjustment in the boring head to compensate for the runout.

Holemaking Tools
When it comes to holemaking, whether through drilling, finish boring or reaming, Seco has a wide variety of world-class tooling solutions for small and medium batch production, large batch manufacturing and difficult-to-machine materials.

If you have any questions about what method is best for you or how to maximize an existing hole finishing application, you can contact your local Seco technical specialist or me. We’re always happy to help!

About the Author
At Seco, Mike is the product manager for reaming and EPB tool holders, which includes EPB’s line of rough and finishing boring heads. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters as well as running when he gets a chance.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Trend Towards Composite Materials

By: Gary Meyers, Product Manager-Milling

Today more manufacturers are opting for stronger, lighter composite materials—broadly known as reinforced plastics—instead of steel to reduce the weight of the parts they produce, especially within the aerospace, automotive and medical industries.

After all, lighter parts bring more fuel economy to aircrafts and vehicles, as well as effectively produce delicate prosthetic devices for patients. And while composite materials are more expensive than steel, prices are sure to drop with increased usage.

When it comes to composite materials with carbon fiber reinforced polymers, polymer matrix composites are the most commonly used. The material uses a polymer-based resin as the matrix and a variety of fibers, including glass, carbon and aramid, for reinforcement. Stacked or “sandwich” materials used for structural parts or panels typically combine aluminum or titanium with carbon fiber. Filler material can take on a layered or honeycombed shape and be ferrous or non-ferrous.

It’s important to remember, however, the consistency of composite material can vary depending on the application. But rest assured the material is strong and CVD coated diamond cutters and PCD inserts are the best choice to machine these materials because of their high-wear resistance.

Seco brings years of experience to composite machining, with dedicated tooling for the rapidly growing use of this material. Specific products include the Jabro JC800 line of solid carbide endmills, which features the JC840, JC850, JC860, JC870, JC871 and JC880.

JC840: A double helix cutter that eliminates delamination in stacked materials, as well as provides improved workpiece quality and process reliability that helps reduce scrap and costly rework.

JC850: A 4-flute ball nose cutter with a low helix design for 3D applications.

JC860: A honeycomb router ideal for side milling and slotting in honeycomb material. It incorporates a left-hand helix, creating downward axial cutting forces for the prevention of part lifting and delamination. Additionally, the JC860 has chip splitters that break the material into smaller pieces, reducing the risk of material clogging the flutes. 

JC870 and JC871: Available in coated and uncoated varieties, these multi-flute routers operate in a variety of materials and applications. The JC870 is an end-cutting tool that routes out pockets and recesses using circular interpolation, while the JC871 uses a multi-tooth end, making it ideal for side milling operations when machining close to the machine bed or fixture. Both feature a crosscut design that reduces the cutting forces on a workpiece.

JC880: A 4-flute endmill that provides excellent metal removal rate. It features center-cutting front teeth, making it very flexible in pocketing operations. With its low helix angle, the cutter also generates low cutting forces that reduce the risk of lifting the workpiece during the machining process.

If you’re unfamiliar with machining composite materials, there are some things you should know. While composite materials can run on the same machines as metal, the tooling is different. Once a cutting edge hits a composite workpiece, material removal comes across as shattering or splintering as opposed to the chip formation that occurs in metal machining. However, like in metal cutting, energy becomes heat in composite machining. Without chips carrying the heat away, the buildup can melt and damage the matrix. Therefore, tooling for composite materials features high positive rake angles to help eliminate heat and provide sufficient clearance angles to prevent the edge from rubbing the material during the cut. Because coolant may not be permissible in certain applications, the tool and tool path are the only variables that can reduce heat buildup.

The type of toolholder you use also plays an important role in composite machining. You should make sure particles are unable to penetrate the toolholder and collet chuck. Such fragments can cause damage by jamming screw threads and significantly increasing wear. Furthermore, workpiece geometry is an important consideration because complicated designs can cause clearance issues between the toolholder and the part. Finally, your toolholder should be a precise solution capable of running high speeds with low runout. Shrinkfit toolholders are the best option because they have a sealed interface between the tool and holder, provide high accessibility to the workpiece and run fast with low runout. In fact, Seco’s EPB shrinkfit technology provides a less than 3 micron runout, even at 3 x D.

Hopefully, this information is helpful to those of you thinking about following the composite materials trend. If you would like more information on this topic, feel free to send me an email or get in touch with your local Seco sales representative. We have a lot of experience in this area and are here to help you achieve a more lucrative business.

About the Author
At Seco, Gary works closely with product development, marketing and field sales to effectively launch new milling products into the market as well as ensure their long-term success. Outside of work, he enjoys outdoor activities, which includes running 5k and 10k races in the summer and downhill skiing in the winter.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Understanding High Feed Milling Helps Ensure Success

By: Todd Miller, Product Manager-Milling

High feed milling involves removing as much material as possible in the shortest amount of time. With this process, the cutting forces take aim at the machine spindle in the axial direction, providing greater stability and reduced vibrations for extended tool life.

High feed milling can double productivity
compared to conventional processes.
Ideal for the mold and die industry, high feed milling also works in general machine shops, but it’s often a matter of equipment, fixture and stability, as well as producing enough of a certain component to make it worth the investment for tooling and programming.

The process has been around for a while, but many manufacturers have moved away from it due to what they consider reliability concerns. And it’s true, if not applied properly, high feed milling can result in unfavorable experiences. However, I think you’ll find the benefits really outweigh any potential challenges.

High feed milling offers amazing productivity, nearly double the metal removal rate of conventional methods, but there are several things you must understand in order to make it work for you.

First of all, you need to have a rigid, highly capable machine tool because the cutters run at high feeds, which require the machine and the control to keep up with these demands. Secondly, proper programming is important to optimize the cutter path and ensure unrealistic demands are not put on the cutting tool.

For example, when you are in a mold and come to a corner, you can’t just stop and change directions. You need to be able to ride the radii around to generate some cutter movement to avoid changing forces in the opposite direction. Machine tools can also have problems in this area because several calculations are involved in generating an arc. If the machine tool can’t properly calculate the arc, the toolpath can become erratic.

Seco has developed a variety of
solutions for high feed milling.
Manufacturers interested in pursuing high feed milling for their shops should also know newer equipment is much more advantageous for the process. It’s possible to apply high feed mills on older machines, but it works best with bigger cutters because the feeds and speeds aren’t as accelerated.

At Seco, we believe in the power of high feed milling so much that we are working hard to position ourselves as the market leader in this arena. While we currently offer several products, including Jabro™ solid end mills and Minimaster® Plus, that increase productivity and decrease machining time on each work piece, we are starting to introduce more products that will take high feed milling users to the next level.

If you have any questions about high feed milling, send me an email or get in touch with your local Seco rep. We have a lot of experience in this area and are here to help you achieve a more productive and profitable business through high feed milling. Additional information on high feed milling can be found here

About the Author
Todd is a milling product manager for Seco, responsible for technical support and marketing of all milling products, including gear machining and other Seco winning solutions. He is an avid bowler and season ticket holder for University of Michigan Football.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wiper Inserts Can Boost Your Turning Productivity

By: Chad Miller, Product Manager-Advanced Materials

If you have a rigid setup and perform straight turning involving facing or ID or OD turning, chances are you can receive serious benefits by integrating wiper inserts.

Wiper inserts use a special grind
to maximize productivity.
Through a special grind on the nose radius, wiper inserts possess a unique edge geometry that wipes away the miniscule peaks and valleys found on a material’s surface. The resulting performance has a very positive impact on the relationship between cutting speed and surface finish, allowing speed increases of up to 300%, while maintaining the same surface quality.

There are two ways to think about the potential advantages of wiper inserts. If you currently have to perform secondary grinding to achieve the needed surface finish, the right wiper insert may be able to eliminate that operation entirely. At a 0.004” per revolution feedrate, a wiper insert can achieve surface finish of 5 Ra. On the other hand, if you’re already getting the surface quality you need from your turning operations, integrating the correct wiper insert can provide a 200% to 300% productivity gain.

Negative wiper geometries shift
crater wear and maximize insert life
when used with rigid setups.
At Seco, we’ve developed two additional styles of wiper insert to complement the standard geometry found in the market. WZP inserts use a positive angle on the ground edge to provide wiper benefits with less tool pressure, making them ideal for applications where pressure’s an issue, such as cutting with long tools. At the other end of the spectrum, if you have an extremely rigid setup, WZN inserts are likely your best option. These feature a negative angle grind that pushes crater wear further from the edge, allowing for increased tool life.

Positive wiper geometries reduce
cutting forces and vibration.
If you have any questions on how wiper inserts can potentially impact your turning applications, send me an email or get in touch with your local Seco rep. We have extensive experience in helping manufacturers get the most benefit out of this technology and would be glad to help you maximize your operations. Additional information on Seco wiper inserts can be found here

About the Author
Chad manages Seco's advanced materials product lines, including all CBN and PCD products. When he's not helping customers implement advanced metalcutting solutions, you can find him training for and running 5K, 10K and 1/2 marathon races and triathlons.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Welcome to Cutting Edge Conversation!

Welcome to Cutting Edge Conversation, Seco's new, expertise-driven technical blog. Over the coming months, we'll be posting entries covering a wide range of topics, from general advice for working with certain material classes to the application of specific tools to unique applications. In the meantime, if you have a topic or question you'd like one of our experts to tackle, please submit it via the 'Contact Us' option to your right. Be sure to follow us if you'd like to be notified when we post new information. Thanks for visiting and we look forward to building a resource that'll be a valuable source of information for your operations!