The aerospace industry is not only one of the largest consumers of cutting tools but also one of the most important driving factors for cutting tool development.
Many materials used for manufacturing aircraft components have poor machinability. Titanium with its impressive strength-to-weight ratio, high temperature superalloys (HTSA) that do not lose their strength under high thermal load, and composites are difficult-to-cut materials. In order to increase output rate and improve productivity, aerospace component manufacturers must use machine tools capable of implementing advanced machining operations. In such conditions, the role of cutting tools is significantly increased; however cutting tools can represent the weakest link in the whole manufacturing system due to their low durability as a system element , which can decrease productivity. Customers from the aerospace sector expect higher levels of performance and reliability from cutting tools and tool manufacturers have been both challenged and inspired, in terms of developing and integrating sometimes unconventional solutions into their products, to meet these expectations.
Most cutting tools continue to be manufactured from cemented carbide. Over recent years, Iscar has introduced several carbide grades designed specifically for aerospace materials, including
IC 5820. The grade combines the advantages of a new submicron substrate, a progressive hard CVD coating, and a post-coating treatment to substantially increase impact strength and heat resistance. The inserts from this grade are intended mostly for milling titanium. Pinpointed wet cooling and especially high-pressure coolant (HPC) significantly improve grade performance.
For turning applications, the company expanded its line of indexable SiAlON inserts for machining HTSA materials. The new products (Fig. 1) have already proven their effectiveness in turning aero engine parts from super alloys such as Waspaloy and different Inconel and Rene grades. In contrast to other silicon nitride ceramics, SiAlON possesses higher oxidation resistance but less toughness. Therefore, a key of a SiAlON insert reliability is additional edge preparation. Iscar’s new ‘TE’ edge geometry has been developed to increase tool life in heavy load conditions during rough operations and interrupted cuts.
Improving a cutting geometry is an important direction in the development of cutting tools. Cutting geometry is a subject of theoretical and experimental researches, and advances in science and technology have brought a new powerful instrument to aid in tool design: 3D computer modeling of chip formation. Iscar’s R&D team actively uses modeling to find optimal cutting geometries and form the rake face of indexable inserts and exchangeable heads.
The F3S chipformer for the most popular ISO inserts, such as CNMG, WNMG and SNMG, was designed specifically for finish turning high temperature nickel-based alloys and exotic materials (Fig. 2).
In hole making, applying modeling to the design process significantly contributed to creating a chip splitting geometry of Sumocham exchangeable carbide heads for drilling holes with depth up to 12-hole diameters in hard-to-cut austenitic and duplex stainless steel.
Aerospace products can vary immensely in material, dimensions, shape, complexity, and more. To make such a diverse range of products, the product manufacturer needs dozens of machine tools and technological processes. Not every standard cutting tool is optimal for performing certain machining operations with maximum productivity and, consequently, the aerospace industry is a leading consumer of customised tools.
A customer producing titanium parts might be interested in solutions comprising indexable shell mills and arbors from the standard line; while another customer producing similar parts might prefer special milling cutters with an integral body, for direct mounting in a machine spindle.
Iscar developed the Multi-Master and Sumocham families of rotating tools with exchangeable heads and different body configurations to ensure various tool assembly options that simplify customisation and decrease the need for costly tailormade products.
A further example of simplified customisation can be found in Iscar’s recently-launched modular drills for multi-spindle and Swiss-type machines. The drills combine the Sumocham design with a Flexfit threaded connection (Fig. 3). Multi-spindle and Swiss-type machines typically have a limited space for tooling, which means that the tools in operation need to be as short as possible to avoid collisions and facilitate easy set up. A wide range of Flexfit threaded adaptors and flatted shanks has been designed precisely to fit the drills and maximally shorten an overhang.
Although machining aluminum might appear to be an extremely simple process, effective cutting of aluminum actually represents a whole field of technology with its own laws and challenges.
The need to increase productivity and boost metal removal rates for milling aluminum workpieces, especially large parts of aerospace structural components, has led machine tool builders to develop milling machines with a powerful main drive — up to 150 kW — with high spindle speeds of up to 33000 rpm. To meet this demand, Iscar has expanded its family of 90° indexable milling cutters by introducing new tools carrying large-size inserts that enable up to 22 mm (.870″) depth of cut (Fig. 4). The tools have been designed to eliminate insert radial displacement, which might occur due to high centrifugal forces during very high rotational speed. This concept facilitates reliable milling in a rotational speed range of up to 31000 rpm.
Iscar’s cutting tool program for the aerospace sector is based on several principles: the complex needs of this industry, taking into consideration trends in metalworking, and the drive to strengthen partnerships with tool consumers. Iscar believes that such a tri-pronged approach ensures the successful realisation of innovative ideas for efficient machining of the difficult-to-cut materials that characterise this challenging and dynamic field.