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cutting tool solutions

1,500 to 3,500 MPa (carbon fiber alone Composites, each presenting a unique compo-
is shown in the chart below) as com-
pared to aluminum, at between 450-600
sition and set of characteristics, are competing with
MPa and steel, at 750 to 1,500 MPa and replacing traditional building materials — steel
(MPa is a metric unit for pressure, or and aluminum — at a rapid rate.
force per unit area).
As for weight or density, carbon • CVD diamond coated tools • PCD
fiber-epoxy has been rated at a low 1.5- The Chemical Vapor Deposition The polycrystalline diamond tool is
2.0 g/cm3, compared to aluminum at (CVD) diamond coated tool is a solid a synthetic diamond product produced
2.76 and steel at a whopping 8.01. carbide tool coated by a protective by ultra-high pressure and heat applied
diamond surface that extends up to 10 to a diamond powder mixed with a
Selecting a tool solution times its useful life cycle. Among the va- metal matrix binder.
A tool’s cutting edge hardness and riety of coating processes, the preferred There are basically two types of
geometries are two critical factors to (CVD) diamond coating was commer- PCD tools. One uses a brazing process,
consider when choosing the tool for cialized nearly 20 years ago for non- inserting a PCD blank into a groove
your job. Of the two, correct geometry ferrous cutting tool applications. CVD that has been cut into a carbide tool
is of primary importance because the diamond coating is a well-established body.
efficiency of a tool is determined by the technology for machining graphite and The other uses a sintered vein pro-
geometry of its cutting edge. hard carbon material. cess that bonds diamond powder and
CVD diamond binder that is inserted into a groove
Material Ultimate Density coatings consist along the carbide body. Heat and pres-
strength (MPa) (g/cm³) of 100 percent sure are then applied to create the PCD
Carbon Fiber 5,650 1.75 pure diamond and at the same time bond it to the
Steel high strength alloy 760 7.8 crystals that are carbide tool body.
Aluminum alloy 455 2.7 actually grown in Both PCD technologies produce
Values depend on manufacturing process and purity/composition. a vacuum cham- diamond-hard cutting edges. How-
(Source: A.M. Howatson, P.G. Lund, and J.D. Todd, “Engineering Tables and
ber using super- ever, PCD geometries are limited
Data,” p.41)
heated filaments and their cost is comparatively quite
There are currently three tool choices to activate hydrogen and methane gas- high due to an expensive and lengthy
able to withstand the punishing hard- es. The resulting vapor mixture bonds manufacturing process. The unit cost
ness of today’s composites. They are to the surface of tungsten carbide in of a PCD tool ranges from three to
solid carbide, diamond coated carbide, thickness that is controlled within a five times the unit cost of a com-
and polycrystalline diamond (PCD). range of 3 to 30 microns. Continued on page 34
• Solid carbide tools Diamond coatings protect the
An industry standard, the solid car- entire cutting surface of complex
bide tool continues to be the most geometry tools. Unlike the cobalt
widely used tool for machining com- binder used in making PCD tools,
posites, as well as traditional materials. the chemically inert properties of
It has been in use for over 50 years. diamond do not react with com-
Widely and readily available, this tool posite resins during machining.
can accommodate the broadest range Increasingly, with the right tool
of cutting geometries. geometries and recent advances in
The low commodity price of carbide multi-layer coatings, even extreme-
allows operations to consume many ly abrasive composite materials are
units before approaching the cost of being efficiently machined to exact
using PCD tools. Additionally, the solid tolerances using diamond-coated
carbide tool can be re-sharpened many solid carbide tools.
times, further extending its effective life. A diamond coating on a solid
Amamco diamond coated carbide Composite Drill carbide tool preserves
vs. PCD the tool’s edge geom-
etry while protecting
Overall Tooling Cost 97% Reduction
the tool’s entire sur-
Span Time 75% Reduction
face and can extend its
Tool Life – Holes per Tool 450% Increase
useful life by as much Floor personnel work on the fuselage of the
Feed Rate 12 Times Faster as 10 times. F-35 fighter. January/February 2009 tooling& 33

cutting tool solutions
The CFRP strength ingredient, carbon fiber, is
many times stronger than aluminum and even the
hardest steel.

petitive coated tool and as much as pared to 275 produced by the PCD
six to 10 times that of a non-coated drill on the same task. Test results also
carbide tool. showed a reduced span time of 75 per-
cent and an increase in feed rates of 12
The F-35 composite drill times faster than the original drill.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. In the aggregate, Lockheed achieved
manufactures major components for a 97 percent reduction in tool cost. The
the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the next process change savings represent sub-
generation fighter jet being developed stantial cost reductions over the course
by the U.S. Department of Defense of manufacturing the expected 2,783
and eight other partner countries. As F-35s planned for production.
described below, the company achieved
improved quality machining results in Solutions for composites
less time while significantly reducing Speeds and feeds play a major role
total tool cost. in the performance of any cutting tool,
When faced with a tooling change, especially when working with today’s
testing at Lockheed revealed that pre- advanced composites. Keeping thrust
cise cutting edge geometries allowed to a minimum can reduce heat and
operators to greatly reduce span time friction created at the cutting edge, as Some components are hand-fastened on
and increased feed rates. The resulting do protective coatings. Less heat and the F-35.
tool and process change netted a 450 friction at the cutting edge will result
percent increase in the number of holes in a longer tool life and a higher quality tects the geometry advantages of the
drilled per tool. cutting edge or surface. solid carbide tool. There are cases
After implementing the Amamco CVD diamond coating, a true 100 where each of the three tools described
tool into the process program, test re- percent diamond crystal, reduces heat would be suitable and each has charac-
sults showed the CVD diamond coated and friction created by the highly abra- teristics appropriate for the application
drill produced over 1,200 holes com- sive composite environment and pro- you may be considering.
Solid carbide will remain the
tool standard for machining
composites, and both PCD and
CVD diamond coating solutions
are increasingly available. Tool
choice will likely continue to be
based on budget and shop floor
factors that are complex and
often complicated by material
availability and project sched-
ules, beyond the control of pro-
duction managers.
However, tool performance
and choice will increasingly be
based on the two attributes de-
termining a cutting tool’s effec-
tiveness and efficiency: cutting
edge geometry and hardness.

Amamco Tool, www.rsleads.

com/901tp-194; Lockheed
Martin Aeronautics Co.,
Construction continues as an F-35 takes shape.

34 tooling& January/February 2009