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The Graduate: How Derek Haller Makes GWS Better

GWS has some impressive employees, and Derek Haller is one of them. Derek is one of our talented CNC operators and programmers at our Michigan facility. He has been with us since 2012, going all-in on the custom cutting tool world.

Derek discovered a love of metalworking when he was a freshman in high school. He started taking courses featuring milling machines and lathes, and he never looked back.

Beyond the Books

In December 2019, Derek graduated with his Bachelors of Science in Manufacturing Engineering from Ferris State University. He’s drawn to the ever-changing technology shifts in the metalworking industry while also focusing on problem-solving even the smallest of customer woes. Derek loves the constant challenges that come with creating custom cutting tools. “There is something fulfilling about starting a project with a paper design and ending with a tangible product,” he said.

Derek prides himself on implementing our new Strausak machining in our Michigan facility. He worked closely with this line of machines to add a new layer of technology-forward capabilities to our lineup.

His formal training in Manufacturing Engineering, paired with his hands-on experience with programming and operations, helps deliver unmatched efficiency to our production. A deeper understanding of customer needs helps him deliver the right tool in the shortest amount of time.

Derek’s education won’t stop with his degree. He embraces the opportunity to learn something new every day and help customers meet their goals. We are lucky to have Derek as a part of the GWS Team, and we congratulate him for attaining his bachelor’s degree!

Gone Fishin’

When he’s not working, Derek enjoys doing anything outdoors. Whether it be hunting whitetail deer, fishing, kayaking or hiking with his chocolate lab puppy, Goose, you’ll always be able to find Derek outside. He is pretty modest when he says he likes to fish as a hobby. Derek has been part of the Ferris State University Fishing Club and loves to enter bass fishing tournaments all summer long. He doesn’t quit there; he also spends his winters out on Lake Erie, ice fishing whenever he can.

Derek Haller

Interested in a Career at GWS Tool Group?

We are always looking for talented and driven individuals at our facilities in Florida, Indiana, Michigan and Massachusetts. Browse open jobs here.

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Team Effort Speeds Production of Intricate Titanium Aerospace Parts

Titanium Aerospace Parts

Superalloy Manufacturing Solutions Corporation offers turnkey components for aircraft engines and other mechanized systems in the commercial and military sectors. As you can well imagine, their customers are very particular about quality and delivery time. When an order came in for a titanium pylon part for aircraft landing gear, Marcia DeVeny, Superalloy Senior CNC Programmer, was tasked with programming the part, and started exploring the best way to get it done.

The project was for 8 sets for a total of 16 components, which would be machined on the company’s new DMG Mori Horizontal Machining Center. The finished part has several deep cavities in it that are within thin walls, a demanding application that requires the right tool, right machine and the right toolpath strategy.

Teaming Up

Titanium is expensive, and planning for a machining project like this can resemble the preparations for a moon landing. Marcia did her homework to make sure the ideal cutting tools and toolpaths were in place before hitting the “cycle start.” She decided to consult with Mark Scott, a GWS Application Specialist with over 20 years of industry experience.

After reviewing the prints and specs, Mark looped in Mike Littlejohn, GWS’s Senior Applications Specialist. Mike is GWS’s programming guru, and he recommended adaptive milling: a technique available on NX 12 CAM software that uses a large axial depth and a small radial depth of cut for high-speed cutting. Mike demonstrated the technique to Marcia on a shared screen. “Seeing it in operation was a big help,” she said. He also showed her how to approach the pockets, and Marcia purchased the adaptive milling license from Siemens.

Marcia DeVeny and Mike Littlejohn
Marcia DeVeny and Mark Scott

While Mike was helping online, Mark worked with Marcia onsite to help dial in the application. The team proved out the process in a steel set-up part first. When satisfied, they adjusted Speeds & Feeds for Titanium. A lot of fine tuning was needed to pin down the process. “Mark was in here almost daily to help us get this running,” Marcia commented. “As we worked through the application, he would bring in trial tools to improve the process. The turnaround time on those was incredible.”

The Right Tool

Mike has a lot of experience helping customers machine titanium (see “Milling Titanium is a Lot Easier with Specialty Tools from GWS”). He outlined the problem with the material. “Titanium has a tendency to generate excessive heat during the machining process. It has low thermal conductivity characteristics so the heat mainly gets transferred to the cutting tool. This results in long continuous chips that can weld on to the tool edge, giving you a poor finish, or worse yet, out of tolerance parts. Feeds and Speeds need to be dialed in carefully if you want to mill it successfully.”

Titanium Aerospace Parts

To counter these problems, he suggested the PYSTL 538 series which has a dedicated geometry and Alcro-Max coating that are ideal for titanium. The team used a range of sizes to get the best result, deciding on 1” and ½” tools. “The 1” tool did 90% of the job (pocket milling and all the OD work),” Marcia recalled. “The cornering work was done with the ½” tool.” As expected, the PYSTL did a great job breaking up chips.

The Results

Superalloy ran the parts in less than ½ the time of a test program, also running pocket milling, but using older cutting techniques. They finally reduced the cycle time to 8.5 hours per set, going to the full depth of the floor of the part, almost 2.5”. Using adaptive milling, they achieved 7% engagement on the cutting tool, and a much higher metal removal rate of 5.78 in 3/min than the test program.

Each part only used three 1” diameter tools to complete. “GWS initially recommended a cutting time of approximately 100 minutes per tool,” Marcia said. “But when I looked at it after 90 minutes and saw minimal visible wear, we decided to keep going. The tools lasted up to 180 minutes after finding the sweet spot of Speeds & Feeds and optimized MRR.”

Customer Support Plus

Now that the project is complete, Marcia said, “The assistance of Mike and Mark on this project went way beyond the cutting tool on this application. They never hesitated while providing two levels of support: Mike provided remote advanced programming help and Mark gave us onsite application support.”

This was a smaller production run, but Marcia indicated that there are many opportunities beyond this initial application in the same product family. “What we learned here will pay benefits to Superalloy and our customers for years to come.”

If you have a complicated machining situation and could use some advice from guys like Mike and Mark, contact us anytime. We’ll be glad to help.

 

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Cutting Tools Forecast: Ready for a Banner Year in 2020

In order to perfect our product line and the service we provide to our customers, GWS Tool Group continually analyzes the feedback we receive from our end users, distributors and employees. As the New Year approaches, we’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some of our findings, look at some industry trends and provide an overview of our plans for 2020.

The Economy

Election years always bring a degree of uncertainty to the marketplace. The upcoming year will certainly be no exception. While this may affect buying decisions in some industry segments, we see our core markets of aerospace and medical remaining strong, with a large backlog of demand for high-quality machined components.

Our right-sized business model, coupled with a strong customer base, makes it unlikely that any economic slowdown will affect our business or keep us from our goals of adding value and providing superior products to our end users. In fact, we believe we will thrive in the new year, with strong growth in both market share and additional business opportunities.

Product Line Performance

The past year saw solid growth in the sales of standard tools from our catalog. That being said, our specialization in custom tools continues to pay dividends and remains central to our value proposition. Our ability to engineer a tool that is a perfect fit for a unique application is vital to our customers’ productivity and profit. Continuous advancements in aerospace and medical science, along with progression in manufacturing technologies, means that demand for custom tools will remain a strong growth area for us in the future.

At the same time, we listen carefully to our customers and distributors to determine which of our custom products can cross over from custom to catalog. Examples in 2019 include the AlloyCat whiskered ceramic inserts for high-temp alloys and high feed mills for Titanium alloys and 5-axis machining.

For 2020, we will be releasing two previously custom items to the catalog: a line of 6-flute variable index milling cutters for steel, stainless and high temperature alloys; and another high efficiency milling end mill for Titanium, featuring all new substrate and new heat-diffusing tool geometry.

Tech to Free Up Workforce

Industry 4.0, the digitalization of the manufacturing process that connects machines with networks so data can be shared and analyzed, continues to gain traction with our customers. Data logging allows patterns over time to emerge. These can be studied so that procedures can be adjusted to eliminate inefficiencies.

Rather than reducing the number of employees, automation seems to be more of a measure to make up for the shortage of workers caused by the skills gap. It is used to perform simple tasks, freeing up a worker to be re-trained and promoted to a higher-level operational position. This model is a win-win-win for the employer, employee and production. This trend will become more pronounced as skilled Baby Boomers retire. The skills gap is a challenge at GWS, just as it is in all of manufacturing, so we use the same multi-pronged approach as many of our customers to address it.

PAC Reamers
PAC Reamers

Revamped Distribution Model

You will see a new look in our distribution network in the New Year. We will be leaning in with our distributor partners who make it clear they want to lean in with us. This will mean working with a leaner, more mobile network, but one in which every member is in lockstep with us and our target end users.

Capital Expenditures

We will continue our practice of purchasing equipment that will give us new capabilities or improve our throughput for both product and quality control processes. A good example is our plan to bring onboard more tool coating vessels in 2020. Increased automation is also on our to-do list for 2020, along with more i4.0-ready machines that communicate directly with our state-of-the-art machining centers.

Drills with Thru Coolant and Zirconium Nitride coating.

Acquisitions

Finding opportunities to acquire organizations that will expand our geographic reach or extend our product capabilities will continue in 2020. We can’t give specifics, but any company we consider will continue to be judged on two criteria: alignment with our value proposition and product quality beyond reproach. At the end of the day, quality drives value for our customers.

Zombie Whirler
GWS ZOMBIE WHIRLER™ Insert

A Great Year Ahead

Frankly, we are pumped up and totally optimistic about the approaching year. We have great clients; we are poised and ready to serve them with our world class distributor partners and we’re ready to invest in whatever is necessary to deliver our promised value to our customers.

2020 also brings the energizing effect of looking forward to another visit to Chicago for IMTS. In anticipation of a large volume of traffic, we have already upgraded our presence with a bigger booth in a better location. We hope to see you there and look forward to the opportunity to discuss your unique tooling needs in person over a beer or mimosa.

As always, if there’s a GWS product you’d like to discuss right away, contact us anytime.

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Custom Tool Insert Professional: Anne Cooper – Master of Design

Anne Cooper

Meet Anne Cooper, a 27-year veteran of the custom cutting tools industry. Anne is the Lead Design Engineer for GWS Tool Groups’ insert division and started her career with humble origins as a machine operator in the Edge Prep Department. From there, she has continued to perfect her craft and expand her responsibilities, making her position one of the company’s most vital roles.

Uniquely enough, Anne’s path to becoming an integral part of the GWS family started as she was celebrating her 25-year anniversary in the industry. It happened to be the same day it was announced that CGI Tool would be joining the GWS Tool Group Family.

A Design Dynamo

Using solid model CAD/CAM software and years worth of experience, Anne designs custom cutting tool inserts that machine parts as diverse as medical implants to parts for heavy machinery. It is not uncommon for customers and sales representatives to ask Anne to work from basic 2D part prints or reverse engineer a sample to design custom inserts to fit their special needs

In addition to her design work, on a typical day you can find Anne taking an active role in researching & developing new techniques “to improve the features of an insert for a customer’s unique application, while working to keep costs down at the same time.”

Mindful Mechanics

While Anne is modest about her natural abilities, she has a strong mathematical and mechanical background, citing the fact that “her father was a self-taught inventor and her grandfather was an architect.” Combined with degrees in Manufacturing Technology and Design Technology, she uses her strong background to help “visualize the whole process and imagine the proper tool” for the customer’s requirements.

Anne Cooper

The GWS “Edge”

As an expert in her field, Anne takes pride in knowing that GWS never hesitates to invest in new technology that will make a better product for their customers. “Working with the most advanced equipment on the market helps us provide a much faster turnaround than the competition,” she said. “Plus, it’s a lot of fun having new toys to play with.”

Beyond Design

Thanks to her diverse background, Anne is very knowledgeable in all aspects of the business and truly knows it inside and out. She enjoys the different challenges that every day brings and has the confidence that her years of experience, along with utilization of state-of-the-art machinery, will enable her to handle any task.

Beside custom cutting tools, she has a strong knowledge of CNC machines and is a tremendous asset when it comes to troubleshooting and fixing a downed machine to prevent costly downtime and expensive service calls.

Off the Clock

Anne Cooper

In her free time, Anne enjoys spending time with her kids and contributing to the community. She is vice president of the local chapter of Optimist International, a worldwide volunteer organization whose members work each day to make the future brighter by bringing out the best in children and their communities. Anne’s group helps to promote childhood health & wellness, organizes programs for summer youth camps and offers scholarship opportunities to assist local high school students.

 

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GWS Coatings 101 – ALCRO-MAX

ALCRO-MAX

In our last post in this series, we introduced you to AlTiN, a great general purpose coating with a high aluminum content, which is used for machining steel, titanium alloys, Inconel, stainless, and cast iron in both wet and dry environments. In this article, we’re going to kick it up a notch with a coating that has all the advantages of AlTiN, but performs at an even higher level. Meet ALCRO-MAX.

Strong. Stable. Long Lasting.

ALCRO-MAX is a Triple Platit® Coating based on AlCrN (aluminum, chromium, nitride) combined with titanium. Triple Coatings are deposited with 3 sections freely programmed in one batch. ALCRO-MAX is applied to our tools using the Platit high performance physical vapor deposition (PVD) unit right on our shop floor. Keeping the process in-house give us total control on quality and turnaround.

This super-strong coating has been engineered to give an optimum balance between the toughness of the core layer and the abrasion resistance of the top nano-layer. The addition of titanium reduces adhesive wear and chipping compared to conventional AlCrN coatings. It increases the micro-hardness up to 3500Hv and stops the crack propagation through the coating.

When to Use It

ALCRO-MAX is highly suited to machining tool steels; 303, 304 and 316L stainless steel; and Ti-6Al4V or other titanium alloys. These materials have a tendency to generate excessive heat at the contact area. This results in long continuous chips that can weld on to the tool edge, giving you a poor finish and scrapped parts. And you can just imagine what that kind of heat does to tool life. All materials that fall into the “gummy” category require a coating like ALCRO-MAX for increased thermal resistance and extended tool utilization. Our customers use it for wet and MQL (minimum quantity lubrication) application to achieve longer tool life and increased thermal stability. And because it is does not rely on heat to activate the coating, like AlTiN, its performance in wet milling applications noticeably better.

ALCRO-MAX

The ability of the cutting edge to shear the work material with as little residual friction as possible after initial contact is critical in producing an end mill that will satisfy the tool life and metal removal demands of today’s manufacturers. That’s why ALCRO-MAX coatings are available on all of our PYSTL series end mills. Of course, we can always add ALCRO-MAX to a custom tool designed specifically to your needs.

Contact us to see if ALCRO-MAX or any of our other coating options will help you achieve better results. Remember, if you can’t find what you need off the shelf, we specialize in custom engineering the right tool for your application.

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GWS Coatings 101 – AlTiN

Machining metal generates heat, and coatings are all about providing resistance to that heat while also providing some other tangible benefits as well. The make-up of the coating depends on the cutting application and the coating machine itself. Variables like work material, cutting fluid, cutting tool type and even part tolerances can all play roles in coating selection.

Cutting tool coatings are designed to improve wear properties via higher hardness, increased thermal stability and reduced coefficients of friction. In a new series of posts, we’ll review the different types of coatings we offer to make your cutting tools provide better performance. First up: AlTiN.

AlTiN. For when things heat up.

This chemical compound is named for the three elements that make up its composition: Aluminum, Titanium, and Nitride. It, along with most coatings we will discuss in this series, is applied to tools using the PVD (physical vapor deposition) method. While TiAIN is made up of the same basic components, the percentages of aluminum and titanium differ. Based upon the application, one may work slightly better than the other, but for our purposes here we will place them both in the same category.

See Boost Productivity with the Right Cutting Tool Coating

Once deemed a new innovation, AlTiN is now considered a general purpose coating with high aluminum content. Applied to the tool with a coating thickness between 2-4 microns, it provides excellent heat and oxidation resistance. This is partly due to its nano hardness of 36 gpa (gigapascal – a unit of pressure). AlTiN remains stable at operating temperatures up to 1,292F°. Uncoated tools get into trouble at around 572°F.

One note about AlTiN is its application in wet machining environments (which, obviously, is most of them). Simply put, AlTiN performs best in applications where temperatures are both elevated and stable, as consistently high temperatures essentially activate the aluminum in the coating, improving performance. When run wet, temperatures fluctuate up and down, somewhat reducing the coating’s maximum performance capabilities.

AlTiN Cutting Tool Coating
Convex Radius Cutter

What does all this mean for you? Higher feeds and speeds when machining ferrous materials, for starters. Better tool life, too. AlTiN is a good coating for dry machining and machining titanium alloys, Inconel, stainless alloys, and cast iron.

AlTiN coatings are available on the following GWS tool groups:

• 210 Series – 335 | 3FL | Radius
• 215 Series – 335BN | 3FL | Ball Nose
• 220 Series – 545 | 5FL | Square & Radius
• 240 Series – S94 | 2FL | Chamfer Mill
• 241 Series – S94 | 4FL | Chamfer Mill
• 243 Series – CM2 | 2FL | 90 deg. | Chamfer + End Mill
• 4005 Series – ECO | 2FL | 5xD | Solid | Inch & Metric

And of course, we can always add AlTiN to a custom tool designed specifically to your needs.

Contact us to see if AlTiN or any of our other coating options will help you achieve better results. But whatever you do, don’t run a bare tool. Put a coat on it!

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5 Signs You Need Custom Cutting Tools for a Better Bottom Line

Cutting tool catalogs are full of very good off-the-shelf options for a lot of machining applications. But not every situation has a standard answer. Is it possible that you may save time and even more money by going to a tool tailor-made to your needs? Here are 5 signs that you might be better off going with a customized product.

One: Unsatisfactory Performance

The most obvious sign that a custom tool may serve you better is when you pull a part out of the CNC machine and are not happy with the results. For example, if you feel your surface finish could have been better, or you’re routinely sending pieces off to another operation for polishing or deburring, you could be wasting time and money. Likewise, if you are getting the quality you want, but wish you got more tool life, custom may be the way to go. Constantly stopping the run to replace tools that break prematurely is also an obvious red flag.

Custom Carbide Twist Step Drill
Custom Carbide Twist Step Drill

Two: Bottlenecks in Production

Simple logic tells us that when you can make a part faster, you reduce the cost per unit and generate more revenue. Along with this, when big rush orders come through the door (and they always do), having the ability to increase throughput makes customers happy in the form of on-time deliveries. If you’re cutting profiles on a part that require multiple tools to complete, especially on turning centers where tool storage is limited, it might be worth investigating whether a custom form tool will do it in one operation. The custom tool, combined with a little tool path reprogramming support from GWS, has the potential to reduce hours into minutes and minutes down to seconds. And as we all know, in manufacturing, every second counts!

Three: Room for Improvement

The best tool out of the catalog may not be the best option for the application. How much in terms of operational performance is it leaving on the table? You probably experimented with different makes and models before you selected the standard tool you are using now. Why not keep that thought process going and really dial in the geometry, coating and substrate to wring out every ounce of performance possible? Custom could open up a whole new world for you.

Custom Top Notch Insert
Custom Top Notch Insert

Four: Slow or Late Delivery

Just because a part is in a catalog doesn’t mean it’s actually on the shelf. Lead time on out of stock tools can stretch from a few days to a few months, depending on the manufacturer and their production backlog. A custom tool means it’s unique to you with no one else to deplete inventory and leave you stranded. With over 150 grinding centers organized in cells to accommodate highly customized work with rapid turnaround times, GWS can fill large volume orders quickly, consistently and with the highest degree of quality. To ensure consistent and on-time-delivery, we even work with our distributors to keep inventory on their shelves dedicated exclusively to individual customers.

Five: Spending Too Much $$$

It may seem counterintuitive that custom tools can save you money. But if you’re a high-production manufacturer using hundreds or even thousands of tools over the course of the year, you could be ordering a hundred or two hundred tools at a time. However, the catalog price is the catalog price. You won’t get a concession for volume because the price has already been set. Custom tool pricing is based on quantity breaks, and as a consequence, often yield cost savings versus pre-defined “stocked standards.”

Getting out of the “stock” mindset and seeking optimum performance for your cutting tool dollar by going “custom” makes sense in today’s manufacturing environment. If you have noticed any of these signs in your operations, contact us and put our expertise to work for you.

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Cut Cost, Not Quality, with Reconditioned Inserts from GWS

 

If you’re a high-volume production type facility, getting as much value as possible out of your cutting tool inserts on long runs is essential.  So, what if you could find a source of high-quality cutting tool inserts at half the price?  That’s exactly what happens when you take advantage of our Tool Reconditioning services.  Beyond the initial cost savings of being able to use the inserts 2 to 3, or even more times, our regrinding operation offers value-added benefits you won’t find anywhere else. Reduced lead times, inventory management and cloud-based tracking are other ways to benefit from our regrinding process.  Most importantly, the service you get will be tailor-made to your needs.  Let’s take a closer look at how it all comes together.

Quality

Let’s set the record straight right up front.  Reconditioning inserts does not mean taking a step down in quality.  Quite the contrary.  The GWS Tool Recondition program regrinds your worn out, chipped and used inserts back to newly manufactured tool quality.  When you put one of the reconditioned inserts into your CNC, you can machine with confidence.

Reconditioning Tips

A PCD or CBN tipped insert can generally be re-sharpened 2 to 3 times.  After that the substrate (body) of the insert may start to be degraded from the heating and cooling cycle during the brazing process.  The most common styles that we recondition are ISO standard as well as most standard and special milling inserts, both carbide and steel bodied.  We can do multi-cornered inserts, but usually these are only for CBN inserts, and PCD inserts are normally only single tipped.

Choose a Process

Depending on your needs and the applications, there are three ways to add new life to your old inserts.  The first is to shim and regrind. With this method, the PCD/CBN tip is removed and then placed back into the original body with shim stock placed behind the tip.

reconditioned inserts - PCD-Tipped Carbide Inserts
PCD-Tipped Carbide Inserts
 

This will “push” the tip out from the body and the overhanging (damaged from use) material will be ground away, to re-establish  a new cutting edge by utilizing the un-used material for a brand new cutting edge that will be ground to the original dimensions of the new insert.

Another approach is to re-tip the inserts, by replacing the worn tip with a brand new PCD or CBN tip. This will allow the edge length of the tip to be the exact length of the original insert.  In some applications, the edge length is critical and must be maintained.  This is one of the reasons that a re-tipped insert may be needed as opposed to the Shim and Regrind. The re-tipping process is slightly more expensive due to the new material which is being introduced, but is still roughly 30% less expensive than a brand new insert.

If you use a variety of insert sizes in sequence in your shop, a succession technique may work for you.  This is most often used in conjunction with ceramic inserts, usually whisker-reinforced and other types of ceramic.  This can be used with PCD or CBN inserts that are solid or “full top” configurations.  With the succession, we start with the larger size (or feeder) insert and then will be ground to the next standard size.  For example, RNG-45 ground to a 4V to 3V to 2V.  If you do not utilize all the standard sizes, we can skip steps if needed, i.e. RNG-45 to a 3V, or 4V to a 2V and so on. These examples are for round inserts, but they can be utilized with grooving and some ISO standard inserts as well. Depending on the mix of inserts that you use, you may never have to buy a new smaller sized insert.  You can buy the large (feeder) insert, and use all down-sized/reground inserts for all of your smaller insert applications.

With each process, new coating and edge preparations (T-lands, or hones) are added as required. Whatever method works best for, our turnaround for reconditioned inserts is significantly less than for new tool manufacture.

Hidden Value

Besides seeing insert costs go down by half or more, our Tool Reconditioning program offers additional benefits that reduce inventory handling and carrying costs.

Our Tool Tracking System gives you a customized communication experience. We provide live to-the-minute information on your tool regrind process and keep everything accessible through the cloud. The GWS Portal, customized to your needs, allows you to track your current regrinds in real time and stay on top of your tool inventory.

Personalized service comes standard in the reconditioning process as our technicians have the expertise to visually analyze each of your unique inserts and decide which can be shimmed and reground, which can be re-tipped and which should “fallout” (be scrapped). They can accurately predict the number of times your tool can be reground, which reduces the need for new tool purchases and helps you avoid rush charges.

We also provide custom laser etching/labeling on your reconditioned inserts for traceability and inventory management programs provided certain minimums are met.

As you can see by this article, we are offering not only an insert reconditioning service, but a whole new way to administer the tool consumption process. To discover all the ways we can help you save money and time managing your tool insert program, please contact us for a consultation.

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New AlloyCat™ Whiskered Ceramic Inserts Ideal for Super Alloys

It’s a fact. Carbide inserts aren’t your best bet for finishing and roughing nickel and cobalt-based super alloys. By the time the temperature “sweet spot” is reached, the carbide is in meltdown (literally). Even traditional ceramics have a tough time due to the heat and stress generated during the machining process.

What’s the answer? By adding silicon-carbide crystals (whiskers) to a hard ceramic matrix, we can now offer inserts that provide excellent wear and shock resistance at high surface speeds. Our new AlloyCat premium whiskered ceramic inserts are also tougher and stronger than carbide (and even traditional ceramics) thanks to the interlaced fibers within the ceramic material. For example, our brand-new CG-88 grade is ideal for machining nickel and cobalt-based super alloys at metal removal rates 5-10 times higher than carbide.

Right Shape. Right Edge. Right Ceramic.

Our new AlloyCat line features a variety of shapes so it’s easy to find just the right insert for your application. These include round, round V-bottom, dog bone full nose and dog bone flat nose. And if there is a shape we are missing or a custom configuration you are looking for, our team can produce nearly any shape in as short as a few days. Whatever your choice, any number of standard or specialized edge preps are available to perfectly match your machining needs. Upgrades to the ceramic matrix, such as Silicone Nitride, Alumina TIC and Al203, are available upon request.

Whiskered Ceramic Inserts

Insert Reconditioning

The GWS Tool Group Reconditioning program adds even more value to the AlloyCat line. Be it our own inserts or a competitor’s, we offer a comprehensive downsizing program to maximize savings for our customers. Our regrinds aren’t just made to be as good as your brand-new tools; they’re reground to such exacting specifications that they are often better. Whether it’s improved edge preparation or coating enhancements, GWS can downsize your used ceramic inserts so they can be put back to work.

Our AS-9100 certification and vast knowledge of ceramic inserts ensures that you will get quality reground inserts every time. All of this comes with exceptional turnaround times.

A GWS regrind provides cost savings in material, manufacturing process time, volume shipping and inventory reduction. These cost savings are data-driven, not anecdotal. Our Regrind Portal tracks and provides real-time comparisons between regrinds and the purchase of new tools.

Whiskered Ceramic Inserts

Tool-Tracker

Tired of managing your inventory? We can do it for you. We take your worn-out tools, regrind them and release them to you as needed. Our Tool Tracking System gives you a customized communication experience. We provide live to-the-minute information on your tool’s regrind process and keep everything accessible through the cloud.

To discover all the AlloyCat configurations available, please contact us for a consultation.

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Milling Titanium is a Lot Easier with Specialty Tools from GWS

milling titanium

Here’s a true story for you. A Tier One supplier was fulfilling a defense contract for titanium components using conventional 40 taper vertical machining centers. The part had a simple turning operation and then was put into the VMC and machined to its final stage. Total cycle time: 5.5 hours.

Enter Mike Littlejohn, Senior Applications Specialist for GWS. Long story short – supplier reduces cycle time to 29 minutes and drops one whole setup. Owner’s jaw drops. He turns to the GM and says, “We’ve been doing this wrong the whole time!”

Just Another Day on the Shop Floor

These are the sort of things GWS specialists, like Mike, do every day. With their background in process analysis and cycle time reduction, they have the ability to re-approach a particular manufacturing process and achieve great results through the use of our custom tooling. When running production quantities, even a quarter of a second cycle time savings on a part could save hours annually and dramatically affect your bottom line. The experience and expertise of our specialists have led customers to hours and hours of cycle time reduction.

The Trouble with Titanium

milling Titanium

Titanium is used extensively in the aerospace and medical segments. The problem is it has a tendency to generate excessive heat at the contact area during the machining process. With titanium’s low thermal conductivity characteristics, that heat gets transferred mainly to the cutting tool. This results in long continuous chips that can weld on to the tool edge, giving you a poor finish, or worse yet, out of tolerance parts. And you can just imagine what that kind of heat does to tool life. Feeds and speeds need to be dialed in carefully in order to get any decent tool life at all. All of these characteristics must be taken into account if you want to mill titanium successfully.

Hold Up on Desperate Measures

To solve titanium issues, aerospace companies might be ready to invest in new machinery that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here’s a tip. Consult with one of our specialists on the appropriate tooling on your current machine before breaking the budget for new capital assets.

To serve industries where titanium and other alloys are widely used, GWS has developed a standard cutting tool line that was created with these materials in mind. The PYSTL series comes in different multiple flute variations and coatings. Even more styles are currently in development.

Tailor-Made for Your Application

milling TitaniumWhen you need more than standard tooling, GWS can develop a custom design from a part print or reverse engineer a tool from a part sample. We can design a custom tool that potentially can machine more than one feature at a time.

To us, building a custom tool is like putting together a new recipe. In addition to geometry, we research combinations of substrates and coatings. Because we specialize in custom tools, our specialists have this process down cold. That’s why we’re known for our fast turnarounds for tailor-made products.

If titanium and other space-aged alloys are giving your operators fits and causing a dip in your bottom line, contact us and see if a standard or custom cutting tool from GWS will help give your jaw-dropping results.

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Custom Holemaking Tools Available from GWS Tool Group

To answer an increasing demand from customers, GWS has added a new line of precision tools to its existing lineup of holemaking products. Initial models include the 4005 Series ECO Premium High Performance Carbide Drills, the 4050 Series PAC Premium High Performance Carbide Reamers, and the 4105 Series ECO Premium High Performance Carbide Drills with coolant through.

These offerings are ideal for many applications right off the shelf. But that’s only part of the story. In addition to our standard items, we now offer quick turnaround on custom holemaking solutions like step drills, deep hole drills and step reamers. This is especially important to our customers in fast moving industries like automotive, aerospace and medical, where new special applications are routine occurrences.

Times Have Changed

holemaking

Responsibility for the new holemaking line falls to John Kiiffner, our Product Manager of Drills, Reamers and Micro-Drills. John’s background in tooling beganin 1988, and he’s been with GWS since 1997. During his career, John has seen cutting tools go from simple to complex. He says the level of sophistication seen in the GWS catalog has grown to match the advances in jet engines, medical implants and electric vehicles. “The geometries and options were pretty simple back when I started,” he said. “Not to mention there was a smaller range of raw materials. Now we have so many different grades of aluminum and steel, exotic metals like titanium and cobalt chrome, not to mention high temp, chemical resistant plastics that are machined for medical implants.”

There’s been a lot of changes on the tool side of manufacturing as well. “We have more variables to work with for our custom line, including new carbide substrates, drill point designs and custom coatings.” Innovations in offline programing and simulation software also play a huge part.

“We can leverage these advances to provide high levels of precision along with cost savings that come from long tool life and minimization of cycle times,” John remarked. “This is extremely vital in high volume production environments.”

Finding Out the Need

holemaking

As a Product Manager, John’s job is to analyze the customer’s application and give direction to the type of custom tooling needed for the job. His work requires a lot of road time to maintain relationships with his customer base, which is more high-volume production than your typical job shop. Quantities of parts produced in an automotive, aerospace or medical facility can easily reach 40-50K per day.

Along with volume, precision is extremely vital in custom applications. Automotive parts related to fuel injection such as diesel fuel rails, lifter bodies, etc. have holes that can be as small as 1 to 1.5mm in diameter. Some of our custom finishing reamers are within 5 microns tolerance in diameter and 10 microns in length. We have proven ourselves to be very successful with major automotive parts corporations and their 1st and 2nd tier suppliers due to our ability to make tools that are accurate to specifications like these time after time.

How It Comes Together

holemaking

Staying in front of the customer’s machine on a regular basis allows John to get the feedback necessary to continually improve the process. “We may start with nothing more than a standard CAD drawing or even a sample of the component to be machined,” he said. John then coordinates with our designers to reverse engineer the right combination of elements to make the perfect tool for the application.

“Not that we always hit the mark on the first try,” John remarked. “It may take 3 to 4 variations of a tool over a span of time, sending the customer anywhere from 6 to 12 pieces of each variation to test.

“But, as our long-term customers know, we are totally committed to the process. We never raise the success flag until the part is in production.”

Regrind for a Second (or More) Life

Adding to this value is our ability to regrind drills and reamers in-house. Some straight drills can be reground 3 to 4X depending on the wear condition. We take regrinding seriously because the customer has to get the same result in the hole regardless of whether it’s a new or a reground tool. In fact, we have gotten so good we are the preferred regrind source of many customers for their non-GWS drills.

If you have a unique holemaking application, contact us for a consultation. We think you’ll be please with the results.

 

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How GWS Cutting Tools Go from Custom to Standard

Many of the tailor-made cutting tools we engineer for customers are so innovative they are easily adaptable to a wider range of applications than originally anticipated. This doesn’t happen by accident. Our organization is full of highly experienced and talented people who have a knack for both listening to customer feedback and seeing the future potential for each tool they design. Because of this, every custom project we undertake has the potential to develop a new standard tool for our catalog, expanding and strengthening our overall product mix.

Tool Design 101

How does a custom tool become a standard? It’s not rocket science (actually, sometimes it is), but a careful thought process consisting of equal parts of experience, knowledge and communication.

custom cutting tool

For example, here’s a quick overview of the design process for an end mill. The first step is to marry the tool to the cutting material. There is still a lot of machining in nonferrous aluminum material, especially in the aerospace/aircraft sector. Machine tool builders are busy making machines for that area, which are usually outfitted with high rpm spindles (30k rpm and up) and can feed as fast as 1,000 IPM. It’s up to us to develop the right kind of cutting tool that works in these high-volume removal applications.

This involves calculating the chip load based on the tool diameter to get good chip thickness and generate the proper cutting angle to attain the preferred shearing action.

Communication with the end user during the development process is vital to improve the original design. We stand right by the machine, listen to the customer’s feedback and fine-tune the geometries of the tool until its performance and longevity match our high expectations.

When we have success with a particular design in a certain application, we document it in our master database. The library acts as a starting point when the next request arrives for a similar material and application. Having examples to work from puts us ahead of the game and speeds up delivery times for a new tool.

Rapid Prototyping

This is truly where GWS stands apart from the competition. We do not impose limits on ourselves simply because we already have an outstanding standard product portfolio. If a custom tool is required, we pride ourselves on delivering the very best design without prolonged wait times for the end customer.

A critical component of our “custom comes standard” model is our ability to pull resources, develop completely new tooling (be it custom inserts, a complex form tool or redesigned high-performance end mill) and deliver it to the customer in days. With other suppliers, the wait could be weeks or even months. Our capacity also allows us to deliver these tools with scale (a few hundred to a few thousand pieces), to support the largest of demands.

Constant Learning. Practical Applications.

The entire process is actually a little more sophisticated than our simple outline would suggest. Tooling design has gone beyond the typical 4 flute design that used to be the benchmark. Variations today include indexable tooling options, variable helix from flute to flute that eliminate vibration and chatter, eccentric reliefs ground in for better edge support, and edge preparation for better tool life.

The evolution of the best tool is always a moving target. Developments are always on the horizon, from manufacturing and inspection technologies to new carbide substrate compositions and advances in the area of PVD and CVD coatings. To keep pace, our own education process needs to be continuous.

Even understanding the varieties of software customers are using in their process is a must in developing the right cutting tool. A tool for light, high speed Z-level machining will be designed very differently from one for heavy, high-volume milling applications. Understanding the capabilities of a customer’s software enables us to not only design the right tool, but also helps our programmers determine if applying a more efficient toolpath for the customer is possible.

Whether you use a model right out of our catalog or need a custom approach, contact us for a consultation. Either way, we’ll always deliver the cutting tool you need.

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GWS Custom Inserts Last Longer by a Wide Margin

CBN custom inserts
Continually changing worn out cutting tools can be a real profit breaker. If you’re machining automotive and aerospace components made out of hardened steel or nickel-based alloys, you really know what we mean. How do you avoid the costly downtime and excessive tooling costs typically associated with these super-hard materials? Find yourself a tougher tool. We offer a full array of standard and custom turning inserts tipped with the hardest substances on Earth.

Cubic Boron Nitride

CBN comes in right behind diamonds on the hardness scale. Unlike other types of boron nitride, it exists as a cubic crystal lattice, like the crystalline structure of diamond. It’s the perfect choice for applications that require extreme wear resistance and toughness like hard turning, grooving and milling hardened steel and nickel alloys or roughing gray cast iron at high cutting speeds.

CBN custom inserts

We were once called in to consult with a large automotive manufacturer that was having difficulty machining clutch plates made out of powdered metal. The part was very intricate, with a lot of internal and external diameters that needed to be turned, with some grooving and interrupted cuts. Inserts from their current supplier lasted only 20 parts before they had to be replaced. Initial tests with our CBN product immediately bumped this up to 215 parts per insert.

Polycrystalline Diamond

Polycrystalline diamond (PCD) is diamond grit that has been bonded onto a carbide substrate under high-pressure, high-temperature conditions.

PCD custom inserts

It works best for abrasive non-ferrous composite material applications. Our PCD- tipped inserts (including intricate form tools), come in several extremely wear-resistant grades (so you don’t have to buy more PCD than you actually need.)

Expect a dramatic change in tool life when you switch to PCD. In our experience, the first tool life can yield savings of up to 30-50% when compared to carbide inserts.
Believe it or not, the savings don’t stop there. Frankly, PCD inserts are costly compared to their carbide relatives, so we purposefully design each of our tips so they can be brought back to life multiple times by re-grinding. This gives you hours more cutting time for your initial investment.

How the Inserts Are Made

After receiving the raw material from a supplier (usually in the form of a 63mm to 75mm diameter disc), we cut out the desired tip and shape it using an electrical discharge machine (EDM). Features and edges are ground into the tip, which is then braised onto a carbide insert body. Using this process, we can take any standard turning insert and make it the top of the line for hardness.

Edge Preparation

Edge preparation is a big part of the performance of a CBN insert. A T-Land (or chamfer)is a common edge preparation we use for CBN inserts. Prior to edge preparation, a too typically has a 90 degree corner. Edge preparation removes this sharp angle which gives the insert a beveled edge.

For example, a 20 degree chamfer results in a “strong negative” cutting angle, with a rake of 70 degrees. The advantage of a chamfered tool is that the tool lasts significantly longer than a tool with a square or “positive” edge. Most companies offer standard angles of 20, 25 and 30 degrees. If 25 isn’t right, you have to make the leap to 30. This jump would probably not give you the ideal balance between strength and accuracy required for your application. At GWS, we have proprietary equipment that allows us to go from 10-45 degree angles and everywhere in between. We are the only company that has the ability (and the will) to give our customers this level of optimal customization.

Just the Right Composition

There are only a handful of companies that sell raw CBN and PCD. While our competitors usually work with only one, we order from a group of suppliers. The reason for this is that each source has a slightly different formula that may be a better match for any one of our customers. This “pick and choose” approach gives us more flexibility to provide a superior product for different applications. If your cutting tool inserts wear out too fast, contact us for a consultation and see the difference custom can make. When it comes to our customers, we don’t make do, we make better.
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GWS Increases Tool Life 4000% for Semiconductor Parts Maker

Manufacturing valves, manifolds and fittings used for the delivery of ultra high purity gas for semiconductor production is a demanding job. Part of the problem is that the components are primarily made with heat resistant super alloys and stainless steel. One manufacturer came to us with a situation that is not unusual in the industry. They were experiencing poor tool life with one particular semiconductor part family. The bulk of the work was being done on either 3-axis vertical or 4-axis horizontal machining centers. Only 6-8 parts could be completed before their end mills failed or needed to be replaced. This was unacceptable.

High Standards vs. Tough Materials

The majority of projects in the semiconductor industry involve HASTELLOY® C-22® alloy (UNS N06022) and 316L stainless steel, along with some aluminum components. The problem-causing semiconductor application mentioned above involved HASTELLOY material.

This material is a well-known nickel-chromium-molybdenum blend, the chief attributes of which are resistance to both oxidizing and non-oxidizing chemicals, and protection from pitting, crevice attack, and stress corrosion cracking. Like other nickel alloys, HASTELLOY C-22 alloy is very ductile, exhibits excellent weldability, and is easily fabricated into industrial components.

On the down side, HASTELLOY C-22 alloy is generally very abrasive. It is also gummy and generates a lot of heat when machining. Ideal for semiconductor components, but not so ideal for cutting tools trying to machine it.

Setting the Bar

The situation was frustrating for a company that has a solid reputation for delivering the highest standards of quality and using the latest manufacturing technologies in order to meet strict demands for on-time delivery and value. It’s no surprise that they set about to find a partner who would meet their goal of increasing tool life.

It had already been decided to switch from a sharp corner tool to a radius corner to reduce corner edge break down. But the specifications called for a very small radius.

The search for an off-the-shelf tool that would provide longer tool life when machining their test piece led nowhere. No one seemed able to help. Then Kevin Corrigan, a representative of Deco Tool (a local distributor) suggested they bring GWS in for a consultation on a custom end mill. GWS’s ability to produce high performance purpose-built tooling quickly made getting the exact tool needed easy and virtually delay-free.

Tweaking a Standard

Semi-Conductor Board

Our engineers took a close look at the customer’s application and realized just a few subtle enhancements to one of our standard tools would make it an excellent fit for their requirements. The tool was a 1/2″ diameter, 8-flute carbide end mill that was originally intended for titanium. But since the material was HASTELLOY C-22, we adjusted the dish angle on the tool to add rigidity and went from a non-center to a center cutting tool for improved performance in plunging operations needed to machine the “elbow.” As specified, it has a 0.0015 corner radius, which provides better tool life when compared to a sharp corner tool which was more prone to chipping. We finished off the tool with a different hone on the cutting edge for optimum cutting in HASTELLOY C-22.

Unbelievable Test Results

The customer ran two different batch tests with the new GWS tool. The first test produced 384 parts with one end mill. The second test delivered 324 parts. That accounts for the huge % increase in our headline. It was estimated that the new tool will save them $30,000 per year based on tool life alone and an estimated cost per part savings of $5.83 per part.

Aside from increasing tool life dramatically, a productivity improvement was also realized. They went from 9.6 ipm (inches per minute) to 12.9 ipm, an increase of 33%.

Similar success in their stainless steel parts yielded an additional annual savings of $20,000 not including productivity gains via higher metal removal rates in these parts as well.

Customer Satisfaction

The lesson to be learned from this case study is to never give up until you find a solution that will give your customers the finest parts available. Because that’s what they deserve. We work hard to be the best provider of customized cutting tools on the market. Because that’s what you deserve.

If you have a cutting tool problem that no one else can solve, contact us. We’ll find a way to save you time and money as well as increased performance.

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Capital Expenditures: An Investment in Our Customers

Capital expenditures are often thought of in a negative light. After all, no organization likes to spend down their profits. But, in reality, the company that does not take the opportunity to enhance capability, create more throughput and/or to address an efficiency issue is not going to be in business for long.

One way to look at the CAPEX situation is like priming the pump. You pour money into the business to make more money in the end. To a certain extent, that is true. But at GWS, we are always on the lookout for ways to provide additional value to our customers. The purchasing of the latest manufacturing technologies is one way we accomplish this goal.

Whether it’s the purchase of a new machine tool to produce our cutting tools, or the acquisition of a whole company that is advanced in a competency we don’t currently have, all of our expenditures are executed with the intent to stay true to our “Custom Comes Standard” mission.

Scaling
We focus our CAPEX planning on scaling the organization to match the needs of our customers. “Scaling” is the important word in that sentence. Creating scale within our industry is not always a seamless exercise. Like many other skilled trades, there exists a shortage of skilled labor. That means there’s not always a clear equation that says 1 person + 2 machines = $X of growth

You can generally estimate what a machining center is capable of producing within a prescribed window of time, but the spindle utilization rate achieved plays a critical role in whether or not that potential is realized.

Utilization rate is driven by presence of skilled labor, but the ability to spread the talent you have across the production floor is only possible if you work to achieve machine standardization.

Standardization
Commonality of CNC equipment (both in construction and programming language), allows operators to be familiar with all the machines on the floor, not the just the ones they attend. The result is faster operations, from setup and programming, as well as maintenance and troubleshooting. This consistency allows for a flow of expertise across the workforce. The shared knowledge increases the quality of our custom-engineered tools and facilitates fast deliveries.

Inspection of our cutting tools is done the same way. Standardized inspection processes and equipment across multiple facilities gives each product the same quality signature from one shop to the next. You can be sure that the end mill you receive from Florida, the drills and reamers you get from Michigan and catalog products from Massachusetts all meet our high standards for quality.

FANUC LR Mate 200iD

The Automation Advantage
If you want to maximize utilization of your work force, investing in automation is essential. Let’s look at this concept in action, using cutting tool grinders as an example. First of all, automation is key in quality control and JIT deliveries. And of course, it’s impossible to run 24/7 without loading/unloading robots. Automated probing tools check measurements like diameter and flute depth and make adjustments on the fly to save time and keep tools within tolerance.It also decreases downtime via manual inspection processes and limits the use of physical contact gauges, like mircometers, which can damage cutting edges.

 

Tool Changer

Automatic grinding wheel changers house redundant or special tools so that a grinder can continue to run without additional setup time. This versatility, created by some judicious spending, gives us the flexibility to quickly change orders on the floor.

Meanwhile, while automation keeps the line moving, our master toolmakers can utilize their expertise in other areas more critical to our customers, like new tool design and turnkey application support.

 

Specialization
The exception to the standardization rule would be when we are tooling up for a new customer, or a new advanced technology.

GWS will always consider the purchase of special purpose machinery and equipment to fulfill a customer’s need, (after a thoughtful and thorough cost analysis process, of course). This could be a CNC machine tool that maintains a super high tolerance or a new coating vessel to apply a special treatment. The evaluation of specialized equipment is done carefully by our engineers so that they are able to choose equipment that meets the standards of GWS and ultimately those of the customer.

When the demand for the new application grows to a certain point, we purchase more machines of the same model to invoke the standardization rule once again.

Return on Our Investment
Careful investment in capital assets ensures that we put the finest technology available to work for our customers. That, in turn, means even faster turnarounds and higher levels of quality at a fair price.

But mechanics aside, our biggest investment is always in our relationship with you, our customers. We consider that to be priceless.

Contact us if you have a cutting tool problem that no one else can solve. We’ve invested in the people, hardware and software to come up with the answers.

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Cutting Tool Breakage: The 3 Most Common Mistakes

Cutting tool breakage is a fact of life in this business. But you should be able to get your money’s worth out of them before it happens. There’s nothing like premature cutting tool breakage to get a machinist steamed. Not only is it slowing the operator down, it’s costing money. The problem is, there are a ton of variables that could be in play when a tool bites the dust before its time.

What’s to blame? Was it a bad tool? It’s not really like the old days when you could get a bad batch of carbide. It’s all reasonably good stuff today. So outside of that, what other reasons could be at fault for cutting tool breakage, chipping and inadequate performance? Let’s look at 3 of the more common mistakes.

ONE: Improper Tool Holder Assembly
In order to make good parts, run out and balance are fundamental. This leads to a discussion about whether you’ve chosen the correct type of toolholder for the application (collet chuck, end mill, hydraulic, milling and heat shrink types) the correct profile of the toolholder in regards to reach, and how far your tool is hanging out. The goal of course is to minimize runout and unbalance while gripping the tool adequately with maximum rigidity in the setup. These attributes become more or less significant depending on the application. For example, balance is more critical for high speed machining operations, while gripping torque is more crucial in roughing operations where pullout is more likely.

Stopping premature cutting tool breakage.
The GWS “Alumigator” End Mill

Correct Tool Holder: As a rule of thumb, we lean towards hydraulic chucks for hole making and maybe some light milling work; mill chucks for low speed milling and roughing. For high speed machining and/or high precision work, shrink fit tool holding.

Correct Length: More times than you might think, the selection of the toolholder is an afterthought. While many operators look to achieve short stick out lengths with the cutting tool, they often overlook the gage line of the holder itself. Marrying both the correct holder type with proper cutting tool stick out are both fundamental to optimum tool performance. Save the excessively long holders for only those applications that require the reach.

Stick Out Tip– For carbide tools, look to maintain an LDR (Length to Diameter Ratio) of 6:1 or less for optimum performance. When the applications require longer, you will need to reduce cutting parameters (speeds, feeds, depths of cut) to compensate for the increased tool deflection.

Correct Profile: The shape of the tool holder and construction has a lot to do with its inherent ability to provide rigidity or reach or balance in a given application over a long period of time. For example, mill chucks generally have greater centers of mass, that when coupled with internal needle bearings, create an extremely rigid holder that dampens vibration while achieving a high degree of gripping torque. However, the balance properties of these holders are often inconsistent, making them less ideal for long reach or finish operations. Slimmer profiles, like that of shrink fit holders, enable significantly more reach (hence shorter tool LDR) while possessing ideal balance and runout properties.

TWO: The Wrong Tool/Speed for the Material
When you call us with a tool life problem, probably the first things our technicians will ask is what material you are cutting followed by the speed, feed rate, radial and axial depth of cut.

Stopping premature cutting tool breakage.
Protip: Run your Alumigator at higher speeds for optimal performance.

If you’re running 303, 304 and 316L stainless steel, or Ti-6Al4V and other titanium alloys, you need a tool that can handle the excess heat generated at the contact edge. (See GWS Takes Aim at Gummy Materials for information about our PYSTL Series End Mills.)

A note about speed.What’s the first thing an operator does when a job doesn’t sound or look right? They turn the dial left and slow the machine down, right? It may seem counter-intuitive, but many of our tools are actually designed to run faster, not slower. This can be uncomfortable for operators who aren’t used to running at high speeds, especially if it’s a tool they are not familiar with. So, when we ask if you’re running at the right speed, we may mean you are not going fast enough to take advantage of the tool running in its sweet spot.

Machine tool and cutting tool technology have been leap-frogging for decades. A lot of operator habits developed back when cutting tools couldn’t match the total speed output of the CNC machine. Today, the learning curve has shifted back towards carbide tooling, where they are now fully capable of handling the speed and actually perform better at higher revs.

THREE: A Flawed Tool Path
Five to ten flute tools (and sometimes more) can be incredibly productive when properly applied. After all, more flutes equal greater feed rates. However, you have to marry it with the right type of tool path. While more flutes translate to higher feed rates, they also translate to less chip pocket space.  Therefore, to be successful with these tools requires a specific tool path that keeps percentage of total tool engagement (relative to its diameter) limited, so as not to bury it and cause breakage. The amount of tool engagement varies, but generally the more flutes you have, the more careful you need to be to ensure its not overloaded (put into a slot or sharp corner). With the right tool path, techniques like full radial trochoidal milling tool paths can be used to shred cycle times!

We have had great success with our 7-flute tool cutting titanium, but we’ve also had people break it right away because it’s very dependent on the amount of engagement (as previously stated). It’s got to be consistently light. Slotting or heavy pocketing with a 7-flute tool is not going to work. It just doesn’t have enough chip clearance within each flute. With the right tool path that keeps cutter tool engagement at around 20 percent, the tool is going to run smoothly and permit optimum metal removal rates.

If tool engagement cannot be adjusted, using 4 or 5-flute end mills may be the optimum solution, as the large chip pockets provide more forgiveness in potentially unforgiving scenarios like pockets or deep slots.

A Lot to Think About
Of course, the simplest way to avoid premature cutting tool breakage is to call in the pros. Contact Us and we’ll be happy to conduct a thorough investigation of your particular application and help you optimize your process.

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Max Out 5-Axis Value with the Right Cutting Tools

Demand for faster cycles times in industries such as aerospace, die and mold, automotive and medical continue to drive OEM’s and their manufacturing suppliers to find ways of reducing production costs. This has given rise to a parallel popularity in 5-axis machining. That’s why there are more and more machine builders offering 5-axis machine platforms in today’s market.

         C62U 5-axis machine courtesy of Hermle USA

Why 5?
Simple. 5-axis machines are the price of admission to the game. You might be able to get highly creative with the machines you currently have and use a combination of 3 and 4 axis machines to produce a given part. But this would involve multiple setups – cutting certain features on one machine, then switching machines to cut another feature to make the complete part.

Don’t forget the added setup time whenever you move the part or the challenge of maintaining tight tolerances between machines. And what if there is a bottleneck on one of the machining centers? You could wait half a day or more just for it to free up pending other work in your pipeline. With this scenario, it is highly doubtful you could win the bid, deliver on time and make money.

But all this hassle and delay is preventable (in many cases) thanks to 5-axis machines.

The Joys of 5

Convex Radius Cutter

The beauty of 5-axis machines lies in the simple fact that you can do more with less…more machining in one setup. Less downtime, fewer touch points and ultimately more money in your bank account and smiles on the faces of your customers for faces via improved deliveries.

This formula: [fewer setups + increased metal removal rate = reduced overall cycle time = more profit] is the reason many shops are going to 5-axis machines when they replace old equipment (or even sooner if they want to bid on new parts more competitively).

Issues with 5
Great. End of problem? Not exactly. With a couple more axes added to the typical XYZ, a couple more variables are often encountered. First, programming with 5 axes does become more complex, and will require some additional training and learning with programmers used to only 3-axis machines.  Another issue is the physical reach constraint that is often created where none was present in a 3-axis machining plane.  Entirely new tool holding and cutting tools are often needed to avoid collisions.

Something else to consider is that the work materials often machined in the industries most frequently using 5-axis machines tend to be more exotic and expensive by nature. From stainless steel and Titanium to Inconel and Cobalt-Chrome, these materials have higher price tags and consume more tooling.

Solution: The Right Tool
Not to worry. GWS can help you maximize the 5-axis positives by creating custom tooling that fits your specific application. GWS has the designs and capability to build tools that will maximize the enhanced capability of 5-axis machines.  Tools that include

Toroidal Cutter Before Coating

  • Barrel endmills
  • Tapered endmills
  • Spherical endmills
  • Bullnose high-feed endmills.

And remember that increased metal removal rate we mentioned? It won’t happen if you’re using a standard ball nose tool. There’s just not enough cutting edge surface area. These spherical type endmills, can take a greater length of cut with each pass as compared to tradition ball end mills. Pivoting the tool and workpiece (which the 5-axis makes possible) brings more of the cutting edge in contact with the part. Longer cutting edge engagement means a dramatic increase in metal removal rates.

Custom Carries the Day
With the variety of contours that 5-axis parts require, for example, turbine blades, you really need a custom tool that you can marry to the shape. Off the shelf won’t cut it (literally). We can deliver custom tools specifically designed for your application with the right length, taper, diameter, radius, geometry, substrate and coatings – to address the issues of reach, collision and tool life.

When you look to 5-axis, look to GWS for the optimum tools for your application. Contact Us today to see what we can do for you.

 

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Boost Productivity with the Right Cutting Tool Coating

Do your cutting tools head south much sooner than you would like? Are you going through them by the gross? Is their performance less than satisfactory? If you answer yes to any (or all) of these questions, you might want to take a look at what kind of coating is protecting your tool. Cutting tool coatings are designed to improve wear properties via higher hardness, increased thermal stability and reduced coefficients of friction. The right coating can vastly improve overall performance and increase productivity, and new coating technologies are hitting the market every day.

GWS Chrome-based AlcroMax Coating

The Right Coating
Matching the proper coating to an application is key for maximum performance. There are a lot of variables including the application, geometry, profile, substrate and machining environment (wet or dry). For example, Aluminum-based PVD coatings typically perform best in stable high temperature environments. Therefore, when used in a wet machining environment, a stable machining temperature is impossible to realize due to the natural hot/cold cycle that accompanies wet machining. In contrast, Chrome-based coatings don’t require a reaction between Al and the heat to extract the coatings potential. They perform just as well wet as they do dry. We won’t go into it further here because the variations are endless.

Our in-house coating facility provides fast turnaround on coated tools, with a wide range of standard PVD coatings. If you don’t see the one you’re looking for, we can even start with your particular application and formulate a custom coating for you via our in-house resources or with one of our many coating partners.

The Mechanics of Coating
If you’re not familiar with the process, coating a cutting tool is a bit more complex than many realize. Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) is a vacuum coating process of vaporizing a solid metal to a plasma of atoms under high temperatures, that are subsequently deposited on tools to create a high performance coating. Coating properties such as hardness, structure, heat resistance and adhesion can all be precisely controlled. The coating centers, or vessels, can hold are large amount of tools (the smaller the tool the more it can fit) and uses a rotating pillar system internally to hold the tools during processing to ensure even coating adhesion (think of the inside of a watch). While there are multiple methods for PVD coating, like arc evaporation or sputtering, all utilize targets composed of the base materials the coating itself is composed of (Titanium, Aluminum, Etc.). These targets are hit with high levels of energy to atomize the material, and in combination with reactive gases like Nitrogen, are deposited on the tool substrate. Primary components to any PVD process are heat, pressure and time. And like any good recipe, the best results are typically a combination of both the cook, his recipe and his oven.

ZrN (Zironium Nitride)

Coating Resources
As you can imagine, these coating vessels are not inexpensive. We’ve invested in them so we can control quality and cost while still being able to deliver quickly when our customers need it.

However, we also work with a wide range of coating manufacturers, who obviously have vessels of their own. We do this because our core belief is predicated on providing the absolute best tool for any given specific application. If this means a coating we have internally isn’t the best fit, we look externally to our partners for the right one to produce the best results for our customer.

For example, our machines can typically coat to a thickness of 1.5 to 3.0 microns, but if the application demands a thinner coating (micro tools for example), some of our suppliers can go down to one micron for such applications. We work with companies both big and small in order to keep current with all the latest evolutions in coating technology on the market. We can pass on the benefits of this research and networking to you. The important thing to us is what works best for your unique application.

Rebirth of a Tool
If you regrind your tools, obviously the coating will need to be reapplied. We can help with the grinding and the coating – even if it’s not one of our tools. In fact, by using our geometry and coating resources, we frequently give customers reground tools that yield better performance that of the original tool. Thanks to our relationships and buying power, the variety of coatings we can offer is virtually unlimited. Combine this with our experience in grinding cutting tools, from drills and mills to PCD inserts and forming tools, we have an extensive library of programs that can be applied within the area of regrinds to enhance nearly anyone’s tool.

At GWS, we like to say that we have all the flexibilities of the little guys, but with all of the production capacity of the big guys. Let us put that combination to work for you. Contact Us today.

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How Our Florida-Inspired AR-15 Catalog Made Its Way To Indiana

We’ll start this story with a quick quiz: GWS Tool Group has four facilities. One in Indiana, one in Florida, one in Michigan and one in Massachusetts. Which of those states was home to our first facility?

If you said Florida, you get a gold star for the day. The Southeast United States has always been central to the cutting tools we make, with form tools and milling tools being the core competency. And that means a good portion of our business is in the armament manufacturing field.

Back in 2015, we were getting so many requests for cutting tools to manufacture AR-15 components that we decided to create a standardized product offering that enabled customers to manufacture the product complete in their CNC machine. Basically what once was custom-made tooling became a specialized tool kit.

Whatever name you choose, the GWS ARMORY catalog was created to be an ideal way for our Florida customers to build around milspec standards while improving their processing or cutting specific features they need. But not long after, manufacturers in other states learned about the catalog as well.

An Overjoyed Customer in Indiana
Peruse the online reviews of ZR Tactical Solutions in Noblesville, Indiana and you’ll quickly discover some common themes: It’s a custom gunsmithing and manufacturing shop that treats its customers well and gives them a fair price. “Best gun shop in the state” and “Indiana’s best kept secret” are used more than once in the reviews. (They also have a pretty solid Instagram feed) We spoke with Zach Wagner at ZR Tactical about how he came to rely on GWS Tool Group.

Zach wanted the ability to make AR-15 lower receivers made out of a forging, so he requested a turnkey machine for the job. Problem was, the 30-taper was not up to the task and Zach quickly realized he should have gone with a 40-taper horizontal instead. His new machine did not have the rigidity or the mass for the cuts he wanted to make, and resonance in the spindle created vibrations that did not help tool life.

He needed a fix, so he opted for end mills from big brand names that cost upwards of $250. Even with those high-end products, his tool life was still abysmal, and he got 50 to 60 parts per end mill at best. But then, in November 2017, he found the answer: GWS Alumigators and the Magazine Well Broaching Tool.

The 3/8” end mills, ¼” end mills and ½” ball end mills instantly shot Zach’s tool life up to 1,500 parts per end mill, an astounding increase from where he was before. “I’ve replaced pretty much everything with Alumigators for high volume work,” Zach said. “They just shred. I’ve never had one fail.”

On top of the extended tool life, the machine feed went from 60ipm to 130ipm at 16,000 RPM. When asked to ballpark the cycle time savings, Zach estimated it was around 15 to 20%. Plus, the broaching tool for the magazine well just worked perfectly from the get-go.

Need end mills that just shred? Talk to GWS.
And if you’re making AR-15 parts, absolutely check out the GWS ARMORY catalog. And remember, if you don’t see the tool you need, our dedicated engineers create custom tools for your armory application, and those tools are delivered in less time.

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The Secret to Faster Turnaround Times for Custom Cutting Tool Orders

Whether it’s custom or standard cutting tools, they’re made with the utmost quality and precision at GWS. But when it comes to custom cutting tool orders, we have established a valuable differentiator in the industry: the ability to design, manufacture and deliver those specials in less time.

It didn’t happen overnight, but thanks to years of hard work, our customers now have their tools in hand sooner than ever, which means they’re making money sooner than ever as well. From the moment they request a custom tool to the moment they have it on their shop floor, the process is optimized for quality and speed.

There is no one trick to doing this right. Rather, there are multiple ingredients that blend together to create the ideal custom cutting tool recipe. Here’s a look behind the curtain at how it all works at GWS.

 

Ingredient #1: Utilize Expert Toolmakers

If you’re looking for a shortcut for faster turnaround times, it does not exist, unfortunately. That’s because skilled cutting tool grinders take time to develop. At GWS, the first reason we deliver specials faster is because the engineering process is well established.

From the moment our engineers get the customer’s specifications, they are able to pull from an extensive set of design standards to quickly create a tool design aligned with the customer’s specific needs. Combining expertise with documented design methodology enables incredibly fast turnaround times on finished tool drawings. This allows jobs to hit the floor with greater speed and consistency. And on that note:

Ingredient #2: Focus on Each Facility’s Core Competencies

There is an impressive diversity of work across GWS facilities, and this range lets each location focus on what they’re best at. In Indiana, we make our inserts. Rapid prototyping is done regularly there, and skilled toolmakers is an understatement. The average tenure in the Indiana facility is 22 years.

Down in Florida, this facility specializes in highly engineered custom milling and forming tools. As with other facilities, engineers in Florida work from a robust set of design standards formulated from decades of experience. The facility boasts quick turnaround capability with the added capacity to satisfy large volume production orders. Meanwhile, the Michigan team is focused on hole making products, including precision reamers, carbide high performance drills and a gamut of highly specialized step tools. Finally, the Massachusetts facility is dialed in for mass production of milling tools, producing high volume runs for catalog standards and high volume end users.

The specialized facilities and production facility in Massachusetts are organized very differently in order to maximize desired outputs. For fast turnaround specials, cellular layouts are utilized to enable faster teardown and set-up times. From inspection equipment to grinding wheel stock, each cell is completely outfitted. On the mass production side, more traditional manufacturing lines are used to maximize machine-to-operator ratios.



Ingredient #3: Perfect the Process

There’s a 6-step process at GWS for handling custom cutting tool orders.

  1. Here, the preliminary design of the tool (not too detailed) takes place. After the work is won, the drawings and design of the tool are completed. Customers typically approve the design within 24 hours.
  2. Skilled programmers write the CNC program for the tool offline, which is then uploaded to a database server. All revision control is managed on the server so that the most up-to-date program is stored in a master digital library.
  3. The job is released to the floor with material. As the CNC machines pull the cutting program from the database server, it flows through the necessary departments to be prepped, cut, OD ground and finish ground as required by the routing.
  4. Additional processes such as the addition of edge preps and coatings are also done in-house.
  5. Final Inspection. All tools are inspected both in-process as well as upon completion. Final inspection randomly samples 20%, followed by 100% inspection should any tolerances be out of specification. GWS uses a combination of both tactile gauges and advanced optical inspection machines to inspect all cutting tools.
  6. Then it’s time for packaging and shipping from any of the four locations.

Long story short, we’ve separated ourselves because of the way we handle custom cutting tool orders. We’ve spent untold hours perfecting the process, and we’re now fluent in the language of custom orders. To see just how different the specials are at GWS, start the custom tool design process.

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Cutting Tools: Metric Manufacturing Counts on GWS

Powdered metal casting can deliver highly accurate near net shape parts, but finishing the super-abrasive materials chews up cutting tools at a rapid pace. Metric Manufacturing Company of Lowell, Michigan knows this all too well. They specialize in machining high-volume powdered metal parts for the automotive industry. To keep the production line moving, they could either maintain an inventory of cutting tools on-site or find a company that could provide good quality, longer-lasting tools.

GWS Tool Group is a Michigan-based manufacturer of highly engineered custom, standard, and modified standard cutting tools, primarily servicing automotive, aerospace and defense, power generation, and medical sectors.

A good match? Absolutely. In fact, it’s a partnership that has lasted over 20 years.

Precision Required

Metric Manufacturing uses 23 different cutting tools to produce items such as transmission carriers, connecting rods, stators for cam phasers and suspension components for customers like American Axle, General Motors and Ford. Working for the automotive sector involves high volumes and tight tolerances. To keep profit margins up, manufacturing companies must be as efficient as possible.

One way to do this is to turn out good/accurate parts as fast as possible by minimizing cycle times. Metric Manufacturing does this by using GWS tools with the proper coating for better tool life when cutting powdered metal components. In addition, a customized tool (besides achieving high tolerances) can often do the work of two, eliminating one step from the operation to save even more on cycle time.

Custom Comes Standard

Besides having a full inventory of off-the-shelf cutting tools, we can create custom tools from blueprints, print models, CAD files or even drawings on a napkin. According to Greg Thomas, Co-Owner of Metric Manufacturing, “Some of our projects can be pretty difficult. The engineering team at GWS does whatever it takes to get the process working.” Greg should know, since he also acts as the company’s tool room manager.

Rapid Delivery

GWS prides ourselves on our turnaround time for custom tools. Special orders from a big catalog house can take anywhere from 2-4 months, if they will even accept an RFQ. We can turn around quotes for custom orders in as little as 24 to 48 hours and deliver them in less than a week. For extreme emergencies, we even have a “Drop Everything” Expedited Service. “GWS is always really good about getting tools to us when we need them,” Greg commented.

Value Added

Metric Manufacturing uses an assortment of our products including step drills, carbide reamers and standard drills in sizes ranging from 0.375” to 1”. Powdered metal castings are difficult to machine, but GWS has found ways to help increase tool life. For example, putting a small angle on the outside of a drill doubled the tool life from 250 parts to 500 parts per drill.

“Our step drills need to be complex in order to meet the client’s required tolerance as well as keeping tool life to an acceptable level,” Greg said. “There are various flute forms, helix angles and point angles that we need in order to make these parts. Using step drills customized by GWS helps us to eliminate a tool in the operation, cutting down on cycle times.”

Tip regrinds, which Greg says are as good as original tools, also add longevity to the working life of our products, especially for powdered metal applications. This is vital for a company that works three shifts, sometimes 7 days a week.

The Bottom Line

“Our processes demand a consistent quality as well as long life,” Greg concluded. “Other companies might be less expensive than GWS, but their quality isn’t nearly as good.”

If you would like to improve your bottom line with fast delivery of high-quality standard or custom cutting tools, please contact us.