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Shop Leaders Share Thoughts on Evaulating Cutting Tools

The “Top Shops” discussion group on LinkedIn includes owners, managers, engineers and senior personnel in CNC machining facilities. Here’s what they had to say about cutting tool evaluation.

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Modern Machine Shop recently started a “Top Shops” discussion group on LinkedIn. The group is for owners, managers, engineers and other senior personnel in CNC machining facilities. Recently, various group members posted their responses to the following questions:
 
Questions:
Do you experiment with new cutting tools? How often do you do this, and how do you determine which tools you test? What do you do to evaluate them?
 

Craig Heaton, lead NC programmer, Goodrich Aircraft Wheels and Brakes

We are constantly challenged to reduce our machine cycle times. In fact, our yearly performance evaluations are based on our success in this area, so trying new tooling is a monthly affair.
 
Jonathan Buss, president, Buss Precision Mold
As a mold shop doing mostly one-off cavities, it can be hard to quantify performance gains. However, we have seen several new tools that have caused us to change our processes. One time, a tooling vendor came in with a demo tool which we tried, and we didn't let him take it back with him, there was such a clear improvement. That switch saved us thousands of dollars in tooling over the course of the year.
 
Jim Carr, president, Carr Machine & Tool
It is paramount to us to try new tool technology throughout the year. This practice started about seven years ago and proved to be a huge success. We are always looking for ways to reduce cycle times and if a new, high performance cutting tool is introduced to the market that can run 50-400 percent faster, we are well ahead of the competition.We have an alliance with a major cutting tool manufacturer; they know what we do and how we cut metal—they are encouraged to stop in and share new technologies with us.
 
Antonio Gil, owner, Medrton Tech
It is a fact that cutting tools manufacturers have developed and are developing cutting tools that improve current manufacturing processes. Their knowledge and in-house testing cutting new materials are a great value for any machine shop trying to improve their processes. We are constantly challenged by the new materials developed for the medical industry and we have improved many processes with the new cutting tools. We pose new cutting challenges to our tooling vendors, and ask them to recommend solutions. To test a new tool, we run it two or three shifts at least to make sure that all variables that can occur with the machine, coolant, operator or different material lots are evaluated.
 
Kevin Saruwatari, engineer, Qsine Corporation Limited
I try a lot of cutting tools via my distributors when I have an application that requires tooling not on my rack. Or if I have an application where performance or tool life is not up to expectations. I think this is pretty standard. My not-so-standard approach is to watch the metalworking section on eBay. I would not endorse using eBay as a supply chain but it has turned out to be a valuable research tool. So far it has been a good way for me to learn what other people are using. I’ve discovered a myriad of options on specialty items like tool presetters, shrinker & hydraulic holders and special purpose setup tools like center scopes and 3D probes by just looking at what was for sale.Part of my problem is that I am in Calgary, Canada, where machining is not a well-supported industry. And the things dealers have on their shelves reflect the market. When I got connected with tools being sold from places like Michigan and Ohio it turned out to be a real eye-opener. 
 
Fred Grauch, president, Grauch Enterprises
We are a small shop. Ten years ago a friend with an even smaller shop took me to IMTS. I have found that going to every show is very important to see what is up and coming in cutting tools.
 
Bobby Biggs, programmer, Glemco
In our shop, the majority of what we cut are very abrasive and brittle materials, so we are always looking for a longer-lasting tool. We develop relationships with tool manufacturers and encourage their communication with us for any new tooling or technology that may increase tool life. Also, we work with our local and not-so-local tool regrinders to be sure we get as much life out of a tool as possible.
 
Other ongoing conversations within the Modern Machine Shop “Top Shops” group focus on lean manufacturing, particularly the challenge of sustaining a lean culture against the tendency for old habits on the shop floor to reassert themselves. A LinkedIn profile is necessary to join the group, but this takes only a moment to create. The group is for those in a management or leadership role within a CNC machining facility in North America. The intent for now is to keep the group limited to people who fit that description. If this describes you, join the group here.