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
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.
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.