Purdue University Improves "Gummy" Metal Cutting Performance

Purdue University researchers have discovered that marking certain metals with an organic monolayer reduces the cutting forces needed for machining.


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This photo shows the altered stress pattern of cutting metal coated in an organic monolayer

This high-speed-camera image of metal coated with an organic monolayer undergoing cutting shows the strain field the process produces.
Photo Credit: Purdue University/Anirudh Udupa

Purdue University researchers have discovered an improved solution for cutting “gummy” metals and reducing component failures.

The researchers previously showed that applying permanent marker, glue or adhesive film dramatically reduces the force required to cut metals such as aluminum, stainless steels, nickel, copper and tantalum. Now, they have discovered how these films produce the effect.

“We have found that you only need the organic film from the markers or glue to be one molecule thick for it to work,” says Srinivasan Chandrasekar, a Purdue professor of industrial engineering. “This ultra-thin film helps achieve smoother, cleaner and faster cuts than current machining processes. It also reduces the cutting forces and energy, and improves the outcomes for manufacturing across industries such as biomedical, energy, defense and aerospace.”

The researchers also found the molecule chain length and its adsorption to the metal surface are key to realizing improvements. By using the “right” organic molecules, they could locally embrittle the metal to improve machining.

“We are also learning through our discovery more about how environmental factors influence failure of metals,” says Anirudh Udupa, a lead author on the study and a researcher in Purdue's School of Industrial Engineering. “As we decipher how the organic molecular films improve the machinability of these metals, the better also is our understanding of common environment-assisted failures in metals, such as stress-corrosion cracking, hydrogen embrittlement and liquid metal embrittlement.”

The researchers worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent this technology. The study involves a collaboration between Purdue, Osaka University and the Indian Institute of Science. The National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy also support the research.