The Case For Testing Tools

Do you run tool tests? That is, do you try different cutters from time to time, evaluating them in trial cuts against your existing tooling? Shops that do these trials often don’t have to pay for the test tooling. While I can’t speak for your situation or your tool supplier, I can say that free sample tooling is a not-unheard-of phenomenon.

Columns From: 1/1/2006 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Peter Zelinski

Do you run tool tests? That is, do you try different cutters from time to time, evaluating them in trial cuts against your existing tooling?

Shops that do these trials often don’t have to pay for the test tooling. While I can’t speak for your situation or your tool supplier, I can say that free sample tooling is a not-unheard-of phenomenon. Tool suppliers seeing a legitimate chance to have their tools adopted are often happy to provide tools for testing. Thus the cost of the trial cutters probably isn’t an issue.

True, other costs are involved. The machine that runs tests is not running its normal production. Ditto for the operator. Is this investment of machine and labor time worthwhile?

Yes. Though I still can’t speak for your situation, I feel safe in the assertion that periodically running tool tests stands to be a worthy use of your time.

You may not realize how rapidly cutting tools are developing. It’s not just that coatings and substrates in general are moving ahead—cutting tools are also becoming more specific. Improved understanding of the effect of changing composition and geometry, combined with improved control over these changes, increasingly makes it possible for tool suppliers to tailor their offerings to relatively focused needs. Are you too busy for tool tests? If so, the same thing making you feel this busy—a vibrant market for your application—may also have inspired the development of some new tool that is particularly effective for your own application’s needs.

Yet the value of the testing can go beyond any one tool. Consider again the operator’s time. That time spent running tests does indeed represent a cost. Might it also represent an opportunity? A privilege?

The employee closest to a manufacturing process can feel the most estranged from it. Operators implement decisions made at a distance, without the operator necessarily knowing the reasons why various details about the process are what they are. However, the operator involved in machining trials has an inside track to the reasons behind the tooling choices.

Maybe that operator not only ran the trials, but also recommended the tool that was adopted. If so, suddenly that operator has a more personal stake in the process. He or she observes the tool to see that it does perform well. He or she may also become alert to the prospect that other details of the process could be improved in a similar way. For the chance to encourage this kind of engagement and imagination on the shop floor (not to mention the chance to find a better tool), it may well be worth a shot just to spend a little time experimenting.

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