It Takes Practice

Well, here it is. Our special issue on high speed machining.

Columns From: 8/1/1997 Modern Machine Shop, ,

Well, here it is. Our special issue on high speed machining. You'll find ten articles that, combined, deal with just about every aspect of this incredibly interesting process. The applications. The machine tool and cutting tool technology. Even the NC programming.

But we may only be scratching the surface here. There is so much to know about the application of this technology that even many of the experts admit that they are still on the steep part of the learning curve. So we can imagine how this treatment may raise as many questions as it answers.

Maybe your biggest question is: "Why do I need this technology at all?" Admittedly, high speed machining is primarily a niche technology right now. You'll be hard pressed to find very many successful applications outside of the aerospace, automotive and die/mold industries. If you're not in one of those businesses, why should you care?

Here's why. While it's hard to say just how broadly high speed machining will eventually be applied, it's a pretty safe bet that competitive standards for machining rates are going to follow the leading-edge applications upward. Many shops have already figured out how to make the process practical, not just in easy-to-machine aluminum, but in cast iron and tool steels too, even in hardened materials. Moreover, many of the people who develop machine tool technology, cutting tools, CNCs and even CAD/CAM systems are committed to helping boost the machining process to higher levels of speed.

Indeed, if you intend to stay current with machining technology, faster feeds and speeds are somewhere in your future, and may be closer than you think. So why not get started now? No, you don't have to run out and plop down a couple hundred grand for a new high speed machine, at least not right away. What you can do, though, is begin to experiment with boosting the rates on the equipment you already have. (For some tips on how to do that, go to the article "Ramping Up To High Speed Machining".)

The one thing that the leading practitioners of HSM all seem to agree on is that they've learned more from their own experiences than from anything else. And the only way to get started is to, well, get started. But remember that the ultimate goal is not just to do a little faster what you did before. It's to parlay a new process capability into a strategic advantage for the business.

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