In this image, you can see the variety of toolholders that a flexible live tool can use. Having these options makes it easier for job shops to make use of different cutting tools without having to invest in several live tools.
Live tooling is well known as an excellent option for performing secondary operations on turned parts. They eliminate the losses of precision and time from moving a part to a milling machine, making turning machines much more productive. Additionally, they make finishing deep features in turned parts much easier.
According to Platinum Tooling President Preben Hansen, the variety of applications that can be performed with a machine is equally impressive. “I have seen a dozen live tools on a single turret, with that shop able to produce parts of mill-turn complexity with a single-spindle turning machine,” he says. Yet the sheer variety of available live tooling can give shops choice paralysis. “A lot of people don’t understand how many different products are available. Live tooling can be designed to handle different materials and different physical spaces, as well as different speeds and feeds.”
With all of these options, choosing the right one can be daunting. In a conversation with Hansen about the factors influencing live tooling, he offered these four questions for guiding the choice:
- Are you buying for one job or multiple? High-production shops in medical, for example, may prefer one or more specialized tools to get the best feed rate and finish on each process. However, job shops may want to go in a different direction. “A job shop looking to get into live tooling should focus on flexibility,” Hansen says. “That means buying a system that can accommodate different cutting tools for different materials and purposes.”
- How long and how fast? As with cutting tool edges, wear is the enemy of tool life in live tooling. The longer your tooling is running, the greater the wear. However, there are ways to extend the life. “If a job requires running the live tooling too long,” says Hansen, “then a speed increaser is going to be your best friend.” Speed increasers, in addition to the other benefits of increasing cutting tool speed, reduce the wear and tear on the machine tool’s turret, helping it to run longer.
- What are you cutting? Just as it defines the cutting tool needs, the material will often affect the live tool needs. “Talk with your supplier,” Hansen says. “Tell them the material you are cutting and the finish you need. That will help them to develop a system that fits your shop’s needs.” Getting the torque, rigidity and speed required is the priority.
For many jobs, especially with materials like titanium, through coolant is essential. Fortunately, most providers have live tooling with through-coolant capabilities.
With macros and canned cycles resident in the CNC on most contemporary turning centers, single point turning of OD threads can seem like almost a default process decision. However, for numerous applications, OD thread rolling has inherent advantages as an alternative to cutting threads.
Running rotary milling cutters at the proper speeds and feeds is critical to obtaining long tool life and superior results, and a good place to start is with the manufacturer's recommendations. These formulas and tips provide useful guidelines.
Liquid coolant offers advantages unrelated to temperature. Forced air is the fluid of choice in this shop...but even so, conventional coolant can't be eliminated entirely.