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I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for… Plunge Roughing?

Plunge roughing involves taking a series of overlapping passes along the Z axis.

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Plunge roughing involves taking a series of overlapping passes along the Z axis. This makes the process less prone to chatter and vibration.

Recent news about plunge roughing made me think of something I remember from my childhood—“space” ice cream, of all things. Freeze-dried (space) ice cream ended up being launched into markets not originally expected when it was first developed, and according to CAM software developer Gibbs and Associates, a Cimatron company, something similar is going on with plunge roughing techniques. The connection here is a little “spacey,” I’ll admit, but bear with me. Point is, a novel product, process or technology can end up expanding beyond its initial niche due to some change in the attitudes or practices of the wider market.

Space ice cream was one of my favorite treats growing up. I thought it was pretty neat to sample the same snack enjoyed by astronauts in orbit. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. While freeze-drying made ice cream and other foods more practical for astronauts on lengthy space flights, it wasn’t long before it caught the interest of a much broader segment of the population (mainly, wide-eyed kids).

While space ice cream owes its popularity to the wonder inspired by the space program, the use of plunge roughing has expanded for more practical reasons. This technique has traditionally been the purview of mold and die manufacturers because it is ideal for hogging out large amounts of material, a typical requirement in that arena. However, with a trend toward more customized, short-run work, increasing numbers of manufacturers in other fields are machining from raw stock rather than near-net-shape forgings or castings. According to Gibbs, plunge roughing can provide new levels of efficiency for shops taking on more jobs that call for removing a lot of material in a hurry.

However, like any manufacturing technique, making the most of plunge roughing requires the proper combination of cutting tool, machine, software and everything in between. On the CAM side, Gibbs suggests any system purporting to program the technique effectively should meet a few key criteria. Is your CAM system up to the task?