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Coating Tech Jose R. Enjoys Being Part of GWS Success Story

Jose R. Mass

Meet Jose R., who started out as a material handler in our plant at GWS Massachusetts in 2011. Since then, he has mastered a variety of jobs, each one adding to his knowledge of the business and allowing him to advance to positions of increasing responsibility.

In his time with us, Jose has learned about shipping & receiving, packaging, laser marking, inspection and grinding. He previously worked for over eight years as a machinist at a major packaging company, so he brought a lot of practical knowledge about CNC machines and tooling to our operation.

The Science of Coating

Now Jose is one of our Coating Technicians. We depend on him to make sure the machines are running properly and that they’re always clean and ready for the next job. He also performs hardness and thickness inspections to make sure the coating is uniform across the entire tool. “I find coating to be an interesting process,” he said. “Something about seeing it all come together and helping make a great tool even better appeals to me.”

Best Parts of the Job

Naturally, he knows our tools are unique in the marketplace and appreciates being one part of the daily sales, manufacturing and delivery process that is the heartbeat of the company. “Seeing our sales grow day by day is a big accomplishment and I’m happy I can contribute to it,” he said. Jose also enjoys the comfortable, friendly workplace and the fact the company is so busy that the days seem to fly by.

He appreciates the faith we have in him and being given the opportunity to travel to our other facilities to learn new processes and techniques that he can immediately put to use on the job.

Burning Up the Quarter Mile

Jose is very mechanically minded and loves working on cars in his free time. His current project is getting his drag racer to achieve 1,000+ horsepower with a 4-cylinder engine!

Jose R. Mass

Interested in a Career at GWS Tool Group?

If you think Jose has sweet gig and want in on the action, we are always looking for talented and driven individuals to work at our facilities in Florida, Indiana, Michigan and Massachusetts. Browse open jobs here.


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If You Haven’t Tried GWS Form Tools, You Might Be Missing Out

form tools

Let’s say you have to machine a part with a unique profile or feature. Would you rather use several off-the-shelf tools, each machining a different section of the contour, or just one tool that could do it all in one setup? Form tools, which are precision ground to machine a particular profile or contour on the workpiece surface, are designed to do exactly that. This type of custom tooling (solid milling tools or turning inserts) can be beneficial for almost any industry that has complex part shapes being produced in mass.

The Case for Form Tools

Buying three or four tools to do the same job as one form tool can be costly. Besides the initial cost per unit, there is the time spent in ordering and managing the inventory. Each tool has to be set up and programmed individually, taking more time and operator involvement. Additional downtime is spent trying to dial in tight tolerances and blend the multiple surface finishes from different tools.

A tool that is custom made for a specific application will always provide optimum performance over just using “what’s in stock,” even if your machinist has the skill and experience to make it work. Often the cobbled together, multi-tool process will fill up the clock with excess cycle time, or even the scrap bin, with a lot of trial and error mistakes. That can be especially stressful on everyone involved if you are on a tight delivery schedule with even tighter profit margins.

Rethinking the Status Quo

Despite all the advantages, there are still a lot of shops that could benefit from form tools that haven’t given them a try. Some just never thought about it. Others were simply used to the process of opening a catalog and making do with what was available “off the shelf.”

But what happens when your “go to” guy, the one that could always make the “off the shelf” tools work, suddenly leaves? Finding a replacement with the kind of skill, knowledge and experience to orchestrate a satisfactory multi-tool result is going to be difficult, if not impossible.

Another group that gives form tools a pass are shops that have tried them in the past and have been burned by long delivery times, poor quality, high costs or tooling that just couldn’t do the job.

A Custom Mindset

We are the first to agree that not every cutting tool company can make a high-quality form tool. They’ll give it a try, but if they are not used to thinking outside the “standard” box, they won’t often produce good results. At GWS, we think “custom” every day. Even the majority of our catalog tools started out their careers as made-to-order items. More often than not, each time the phone rings, it is a customer that has a problem requiring a unique solution. Our job is to provide it ASAP. Nothing extraordinary. It’s just another day at the plant. This custom mindset gives us a tremendous advantage.

form tools


form tools


Knowledge is Power

When you do something for a long time, you collect a lot of information. We have put that data in a digital format for all our design engineers to access; a design library with tens of thousands of tools, searchable by tool attributes. We can put that data to use by looking up what has been done before and tweaking it to perfectly match a new application. Did a certain design element to increase reach work well for a jet engine impeller? We can apply that to a diesel turbo impeller, where reach is also an issue, while incorporating the cutting geometry from a second previous design that was successful with the same work material. Geometry, relief, rake angles, substrates, coatings – it’s all in there. Sometimes one of our high-performance standard tools is a good foundation for a new custom version. We’ll look at those, too.

form tools

A Proven Process

Even if we don’t find the answer in our library, every entry in it has gone through the same design process perfected over years. Our engineers can work from prints, a sample part or even napkin designs to come up with the answer to your machining needs. Our Inside Sales and Engineering Departments will put together a concept of a tool and what it should look like. A quote is submitted and an order processed. Approval prints are created, proofed and signed off on. (Communication is a key element.) We manufacture the tool, coat it (in our own plant) and ship it to you. The entire process takes a lot less time than you would expect. (For an example, read this testimonial from Medtronic.)

What Does Quality Look Like?

Custom is even in the DNA of our quality control professionals. Because we manufacture something new and different every day, a deeper understanding of how geometry works is needed to properly inspect custom tools. Checking several independent features, without understanding how they relate to other features and performance, is not good enough at GWS. Our quality experts work with the engineers during the design process so they can not only tell you if something is wrong during inspection, but can also help tell you why and even how to fix it! The result is complex tools, delivered fast, that work the first time.

So you see, from start to finish, there’s a big difference between form tools and GWS form tools. Please contact us or upload a part print to start speaking with one of our engineers today on making Custom a Standard for you.

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Ti-Feed: A Titan Among High Feed Endmills for Titanium

Not to brag, but one of our specialties is looking at a machining problem and coming up with ways to make your job a bit easier and more lucrative. Our Ti-Feed Series of high feed endmills is a great example of this. The series came about because popular multi-flute tools and iMachining tool paths are not practical when milling turbines for aerospace or automotive applications in a 5-axis machining environment. Z-level machining tool paths are needed to accommodate part shape and fixturing rigidity.

Traditional High Feed Mills Don’t Cut It

High feed mills and z-level processing are nothing new, Mold makers have been using this technology for years to machine hardened steels. The trouble is that the high feed mills they use are specifically designed for those materials. Neutral cutting geometry, combined with slow helix angles and ultra-hard nano coatings, are great for hardened D2 or H13, but not so much for Ti-6Al4V. So, at GWS, we have taken the principles of radial chip thinning and high feed mills and applied them to our new Ti-Feed Series for ultimate machining performance in titanium alloys.

Titanium Troubles

The problem is titanium 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. Sharper cutting geometries with fine precision honing and heat resistant coatings are needed to better attack the machineability challenges of titanium alloy and other gummy materials such as stainless steel successfully.

high feed mills

How We Did It

The cutting geometry of the Ti-Feed Series is designed specifically for titanium machining. It features a high positive cutting geometry with precision ground hone and 30-degree helix to ensure a high degree of shear action during cutting. A non-center cutting design increases core strength (and consequently rigidity) during machining. Flute count ranges from 5 to 7 flutes, based on diameter, to provide the maximum number of cutting edges for optimum MRR and thermal management. Longer overall lengths, combined with longer tapered neck bolster reach and rigidity and make the tool ideal for long-reach z-level machining operations. Lastly, our multi-layered HX coating provides heat and wear resistance for longer tool life when machining high-temperature alloys, while our optional coolant-through series provides maximum performance for those with coolant-fed spindles.

Depending on your need, tools in the Ti-Feed Series are available from stock in solid (2052 Series) & coolant- through (2053 Series) versions.

Special Promotion

To make your decision even easier, from May 15 to June 30 if you buy three of our Ti-Feed Series high feed endmills, we’lll give you another one absolutely FREE. That’s right: four titanium chomping endmills for the price of three! Use Promo Code: TIFEED20.


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Autocam Medical Fights COVID-19 with a Little Help from Their Friends

Ventilator parts

Autocam Medical, with headquarters in Kentwood, Michigan, is a global contract manufacturer of orthopedic implants, spinal implants, precision instruments and orthopedic cutting tools. Like all of us, they have watched the coronavirus crisis unfold over the past few months. But unlike most of us, they were provided with an opportunity to make a life-saving difference. The company was asked to take on a challenge that could double the capacity of vitally needed ventilators.

Ventilating Multiple Individuals

Dr. Kyle VanKoevering of MakeMedical, LLC, approached Autocam Medical with a drawing of a “splitter” device that could enable one ventilator to assist two patients at the same time. Dr. VanKoevering is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. He has broad experience in the application of 3D Printing for diagnostic and surgical applications, having played a key role in several groundbreaking and novel uses of additive manufacturing in medicine. His work continues in this field while he continues to provide excellent care and leadership at the University of Michigan.

The “splitter” device is called VentMI™ (Ventilate Multiple Individuals) and its purpose is to help provide mechanical ventilation to two patients from a single ventilator. “We know that Individualized pressure control and the addition of other components is the key to effective ventilation,” said Dr. VanKoevering. “Combining custom pressure regulators and one-way valves, this system has been tested in simulated lung and animal environments, and has Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from FDA.”

When asked if Autocam Medical could use their manufacturing skills and experience to rapidly develop prototypes of several components for the piece, the answer was a resounding, “Yes!”

Ventilator parts

Although ventilator parts are not in their current product line, Autocam Medical is fully certified to manufacture medical components. Their knowledge and experience in the medical industry, combined with their manufacturing expertise, made them a perfect choice for the assignment.

Tooling Turnaround

When the engineers at Autocam Medical studied the prints provided by Dr. VanKoevering, they realized that special tooling, specifically end mills and chamfer mills, would be needed to machine the components. Luckily, GWS Tool Group was right around the corner (quite literally). Justin Pickerd, Manufacturing Quality Engineer, had worked with Fred Edmonson, General Manager at GWS-MI, before and had always received excellent turnaround times. Justin said the company hadn’t had time to set up a purchase order and explained what the tooling was for. Fred just replied “What do you need and when do you want it?” Tool design and manufacturing prints were put into motion immediately, without an order, and within 24 hours Autocam Medical had the 6 different custom tools they needed from GWS.

Ventilator parts

Making It Happen

With the proper tooling in place, Autocam Medical proceeded to do what they do best, but in record time. It can take months to develop a prototype like this. Autocam Medical had the parts ready for assembly within days. Meanwhile, a sister facility in Tennessee was tapped to manufacture other components for the splitter device, which were then shipped to Michigan. The assembled parts were presented to MakeMedical, LLC within the week.

Granted, Autocam Medical’s specialty is medical components, but, even so, the turnaround on this project was amazing. From a doctor’s innovative idea to the power of a professional manufacturer to our own commitment to provide the tooling, this team cut months off the usual delivery timeframe! It sounds like a story out of World War II, when America was known as the “Arsenal of Democracy.” This story shows that a “Can Do” attitude is alive and well within the latest generation of manufacturing companies like Autocam Medical. We are proud to have been part of the process.

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GWS Solves What Others Could Not

custom pin hole drill

The Opportunity

A global small engine manufacturer was dealing with an unacceptable scrap rate (3.03%) when drilling piston ring pin holes into pistons for the two-cycle engines that make up a large part of their product line. The parts are made out of high silicon aluminum castings. Upon placement of the pins, pistons were cracking due to excessive force. The root cause was identified as inconsistent diameters and surface finish of the cross pin drill hole. The target was 1.520mm (+/- 2 µm) using a rotary transfer machine. Without holding this tolerance, too much force was required to insert the pin, which resulted in the breakage of the finished part. The problem was aggravated by poor surface finish which made measuring and controlling such a small hole an additional challenge. After consulting with over a dozen well respected brands, they pursued what appeared to be a more costly solution from GWS.

GWS Action Plan

As with any application, the process with GWS started with our application specialists studying the operation and listening carefully as the customer outlined their problem and experiences with their test results. Taking these data points into consideration, GWS engineers were committed to finding a solution.

Their first conclusion was that an off-the-shelf drill just would not be able to deliver the solution needed. Tighter tolerances were required, as well as better finishes. Thus, the design team set out to create a drill design that would address the problems outlined by the customer, while delivering better tool life. Key design elements included a 2-micron diameter tolerance, a double margin for improved finish and custom cutting edge geometry suited for the abrasiveness of high silicon aluminum. The rest of the tool profile took shape as follows:

  • Construction: Solid
  • Material: Ultra-fine grain Carbide
  • Coating: Uncoated, high polished flutes
  • Geometry: 30 Degree Helix
  • Tip: High-Performance S Type

custom pin hole drill

As the prototype came together, it became obvious why the customer was having so much trouble finding the right tool for this job. Putting all of these features together in a double margin drill so small is beyond the capabilities of most cutting tool companies (see photo for proper scale). The final element in its successful production was the knowledge and skills of our manufacturing hole making division.

custom pin hole drill

The Results

The customer’s manufacturing engineer stated that “The consistent diameter and phenomenal surface finish on the drilled hole now made it easy to consistently push the pin in with minimal force.”

The custom Micro Piston Pin Hole Drill from GWS:

  • Dropped the scrap rate from 3.03% to .4% (including additional process improvements)
  • Increased drill life from 10,000 to 22,000 parts per drill
  • Created an estimated total cost savings well into 6 figures

custom pin hole drill

Custom Comes Standard

Pennies still count, even when you’re a global manufacturing giant. But, as many of our other customers have discovered, paying a little more for a well designed and manufactured custom cutting tool can pay back big dividends in performance. The manufacturing engineer responsible for implementation noted that, while the cost savings from tool life alone justified the tool, the more significant savings was by far and away the elimination of the breakage problem. “Throwing away all of the costly machining work done prior to that drilling operation represented our biggest problem on that part, and GWS solved it.”

If you’re wasting time and money trying to find the right cutting tool for your application, contact us and put our expertise to work for you.

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GWS Coatings 101: End Mills Beat the Heat With nACo®

Welcome back to our series on the different types of coatings we offer to make your cutting tools provide better performance. Cutting tool coatings are designed to improve wear properties via higher hardness, increased thermal stability and reduced coefficients of friction. In our first two posts, we discussed the properties and uses of AlTiN and ALCRO-MAX.

AlTiN is a general-purpose coating with high aluminum content. Applied to the tool with a coating thickness between 1-4 microns, it provides excellent heat and oxidation resistance for application in a broad range of materials.

ALCRO-MAX is a 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. An upgrade from AlTiN for materials like stainless steel and Titanium.

If you do a lot of hard milling or machining of Nickel Alloys, you’re going to be very interested in what our next coating can do for you. Meet nACo.

Tough. Heat Resistant. Long Lasting.

A nanocomposite coating based of Titanium and silicon, nACo coating is ideal for increasing performance and extending tool life (up to 30%) versus more standard coatings like AlTiN. This super-hard coating can be found in any industry that needs an end mill that has a tough core with extreme wear and high heat resistance for milling hard materials. Examples include die mold (D2, A2 tool steels), aerospace (Inconel®), and military (4140 hardened alloy steels).

Offered standard on our Hurrimill 1030 Series of high-performance end mills in 4, 5 or 7 flutes, nACo is one of many in-house coating technologies GWS applies to both standard and custom tools.

cutting tool coatings: nACo

Why It Works So Well

With a coating thickness of 1-4 µm, nACo offers maximum protection against heat and tool wear. It resists heat up to 2,192°F before it starts to oxidize and break down. It’s also harder than ALTiN or AlCrN – the top layer has an extremely high nanohardness number (41).

Efficiency is also enhanced by a low coefficient of friction for less resistance.

nACo is applied to our tools using the Platit® high performance physical vapor deposition (PVD) units in our coating facility. Keeping the process in-house gives us total control on quality control and turnaround time. In fact, demand is so strong for our coating services, we have expanded our operations by recently opening a new state-of-the-art coating facility in our Springfield, Massachusetts location.

Contact us to see if nACo or any of our other coating options will help you maximize performance. Remember, if you don’t see what you need in the catalog, we specialize in custom engineering the right tool for your application.

nACo is a registered trademark of Platit, Inc. 
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Custom Tool Spotlight: 10-Flute Form Tool for Defense

Welcome to our Custom Tool Spotlight, a series that takes GWS cutting tools and gives them mini biographies. Today, we’re talking about a custom 10-flute form tool to be coated with AlTiN for defense.

What’s it for?

This tool is specifically made for one our large tier defense/armament manufacturers. This tool will be used to machine a AR15 Bolt Carrier Group component.

What’s cool about it?

The 10-flute design on this custom tool permits higher feed rates for optimum production while simultaneously providing rigid construction that minimizes chatter. It also features a reduced neck, which provides an abundance of clearance. This tool will also be finished with a multi-layered AlTiN coating, which is ideal for alloyed steels.

custom form tool defense

Why Custom?

With most form tools, there is a precise profile or contour needed to be milled. What often would require multiple tools and milling sub-routines now requires just one tool with simple linear tool paths. In this case, not only are cutting passes and tools reduced, but form tolerances of the part itself are held within 0.0005”.

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Coating Technician Danny Cinnamon Knows How to Spice Up the Day

Danny Cinnamon

Meet Danny Cinnamon, a long-tenured employee at GWS-Florida, who helps make work there much more fun for everyone.

Since 2011, Danny has tackled nearly every production job there is on the GWS shop floor. That includes everything from laser etching and cleaning tools to assisting the team with our CNC machines. If it needed to be done (even if it was cleaning the bathrooms), Danny made up his mind to do it, and do it well.

He remembers when we had a solo gig as GW Schultz, and has experienced every acquisition and expansion since! “Think where we’ll be in another 15 years or so,” he said. “And we got in on the ground floor. That’s pretty cool.”

Know your Coating Tech

Now Danny is our Coating Technician at GWS Headquarters in Florida. He is responsible for the application of a multitude of GWS coatings, including AlTiN, NaCo, NaCro and ZrN, to name just a few. And with a brand new PVD coating vessel hitting the floor this March, this list will be growing even larger!

When you ask Danny what he likes most about his job, he just says with a smile, “Everything.” You can’t find a more positive outlook from anyone in the shop and that’s what helps GWS maintain our high level of success. He says “The best way to have a good day is to make a co-worker smile.”

When you ask his supervisors about him, they say that Danny is one of the most dedicated workers here, “He even has a GWS sticker on his truck,” one of them commented.

We couldn’t be prouder to have someone like Danny on our team!

Work Hard. Play Hard. 

When he’s not doting on his love for GWS, Danny loves spending time with Pepper, his wonderful wife of 21 years. They rush off whenever they can to spend time at one of their favorite spots, Rocky Top, Tennessee. Danny and Pepper enjoy going up to the mountains, staying in cabins and even hiking on the trails up in the Smoky Mountains. (Danny says to go to Cade’s Cove, if you’re visiting!) The outdoor life in Tennessee is only one of their passions. If there is a Tennessee Volunteers football game on, you can bet Danny and Pepper will be leading the cheers (Go Vols!)

When they aren’t in Tennessee, you can find them relaxing at home watching The Walking Dead, anything on the ID Discovery channel or indulging in a good Hallmark Movie with their 3 Dachshunds – Penny, Lillo Peep and Ladybug.

Interested in a Career at GWS Tool Group?

If you think Danny has a good thing going and want in on the action, we are always looking for talented and driven individuals to work at one of our 6 manufacturing locations. Browse open jobs here.

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GWS Tools Up for Aerospace with a Line of PCD Holemaking Products

PCD holemaking tools

As a major provider of ​highly engineered custom, standard, and modified standard cutting tools ​to the aerospace sector, we have expanded our capacity in this area with a special emphasis on brazed PCD drills, reamers and countersinks with or without brazed threaded shank adapters. PCD (polycrystalline diamond) is made by fusing diamond grit with metal under high temperatures and pressure. The result is a substrate that is extremely resistant to wear, lasting as much as 25X that of carbide.

PCD and Aerospace

Tools made with PCD are in demand for machining abrasive non-ferrous materials, such as aluminum, fiberglass, or composites, which are prevalent in the aerospace industry. A composite material is defined as two or more different materials which are combined to create characteristics different from the individual materials themselves. Plywood is a perfect everyday example. Composite materials like Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) are used for making aircraft components that include wings, wingboxes, vertical tail sections, and fuselages, as well as a number of smaller parts. CFRP achieves significantly better stiffness to weight ratios versus traditional aerospace materials, making the planes significantly lighter and hence more fuel efficient.

Why PCD is Better

Since it is harder than carbide (6500 Vickers vs. 2000 Vickers), cutting tools made with PCD hold their edge much longer and provide a better finish. This is vital since dull edges can fail to cut the soft fibers in composites, or cause the combined components to delaminate (pull apart) due to excessive cutting forces or heat, destroying the integrity of the piece. Be it composites or Aluminum, cost savings are realized because tools made of PCD can run faster and last longer, reducing cycle times tool changes and overall tooling costs.

Our PCD Lineup

The new line of PCD holemaking tools covers a wide range of applications so we can offer a complete range of solutions to our aerospace customers. For each tool, the PCD is brazed to a carbide or steel body, depending on the application. CNC applications typically incorporate carbide bodies, while those for use in hand tools, such as pneumatic drills, are brazed to high speed steel for greater forgiveness in less rigid holding environments. Be it carbide or HSS, our holemaking tools can be made with or without a threaded adaptor on the back for screw-in type hand tools.

Other structural aerospace tools in our new lineup include:

  •  8 facet PCD Drills for CFRP
  •  Carbide & HSS Drill countersinks
  •  Carbide Drill/Reamers
  •  Carbide Dagger Drills
  •  Carbide Routers
  •  Brazed PCD Countersinks w/Threaded Adapter
  •  PCD Tipped Inserted Countersinks

Solid PCD versus Veined Technology 

“Solid PCD can outlast Veined, or grown, diamond by 2-3 times in specific applications. It tends to be much more wear resistant, thus offering more holes per drill and less money per hole. In addition, Solid PCD drills with solid carbide bodies can be resharpened several times and reconditioned many times. With the advancements in laser cutting and erosion equipment, it has given GWS the necessary ability to create complex point geometry that is needed to leave behind a superior hole, surface finish and delam free.

While the structure of composites is continually improving, solid PCD drilling is the wave of the future and GWS is the future of the wave.”

– Rich Rogers, Director of Manufacturing GWS-AZ

If you are an airline manufacturer or OEM that could benefit from our new line of PCD products,​ ​call us​ ​for a consultation and get a quote today.

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Custom Tool Spotlight: Ball Nose End Mill for Titanium

Custom End Mill Aerospace
An army of GWS Custom Ball Nose End Mills

Welcome to our Custom Tool Spotlight, a series that takes GWS cutting tools and gives them mini biographies. Today, we’re talking about a custom tapered ball nose end mill for Ti-6Al4V.

This is a ⅛” 3FL .75 LOC 6.00 OAL ⅜ Shank 3° Taper per side. While this ball nose endmill isn’t coated now, it will be finished in a TiCN coating. 

Custom End Mill Aerospace

What’s it for?

This tool is specifically made for one of our aerospace customers. It is used for finish milling operations of Titanium turbine blades.

What’s cool about it?

The long OAL combined with the 3-degree taper and short length of cut make these tools ideal for reaching deep areas between the blades. The blade shape in combination with a 5-axis machining center toolpath present obvious interference issues when it comes to toolpath. The tapered tool configuration designed below eliminates the alternative solution of longer tools and slow machining speeds. These tools, per request from the customer, will receive Titanium Carbon Nitride (TiCN) coating as a final operation prior to inspection and shipping.

Custom End Mill Aerospace

Why custom?

Our customer needed over 2,500 of these tools and they needed them fast. GWS was able to come in and help produce this project in 4 weeks, with partial shipments going out the door in a matter of days. Custom Comes Standard around here, but that’s not simply something we say. It’s something we deliver.

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Aluminum Machining Goes from Awful to Awesome with GWS Tooling

aluminum machining - Alumigator

Breiner Machine is a family-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility located in Brooksville, Florida. Their 11,000 square foot facility offers a wide range of services such as product development, precision CNC milling and turning, welding, and CNC sheet metal fabrication.

The company produces components for a variety of manufacturing industries, including the Food and Beverage Industry, Aerospace, Aviation, Marine and aftermarket automotive industry. All of these industries call for the use of various materials. A good portion of their aftermarket Automotive parts are made from various grades of aluminum.

Old Dog. New Trick.

The cuts made on these work pieces involve perimeter ramping, and helical ramping into the material and then deep pocketing. The trick to doing that with aluminum is the need to remove chips effectively and maximize tool life while still maintaining acceptable cycle times. Acceptable cycle times mean not only machining fast, but also entering the part equally as fast without reducing feed rates or altering toolpath to compensate for end mills incapable of aggressive part entry.

About 15 years ago, the company was working with a competitor’s brand endmill for their aluminum applications on a vertical machining center. They ran those tools as fast and hard as they could while maintaining finish and tolerances. A GWS sales engineer paid a visit and left behind a standard off-the-shelf-tool for them to try. That’s when the company’s programmer found out that a good quality tool can increase productivity and finishes dramatically. Finishes were much better with the very first run. Cycle times were reduced by close to 20%.

Chip. Chip. Hurray.

Today, Breiner Machine uses the latest version aluminum cutting tool in the GWS lineup, the Alumigator. One of the things that Jason Breiner, President of Breiner Machine, has found unique on the Alumigator line is their outstanding center cut gash design. “The ramping is insane, I’ve never seen anything so aggressive,” he said. “The chips eject with no problem even when ramping at extremely steep angles.” Jason says in his experience, that usually packs up any other endmill. The best I can usually ramp in at is 10 degrees with other brands. I can more than double the ramp angle with the Alumigator. The ramp angles achieved with this tool exceed the capabilities of any other endmill he has tried.

With their old tool, Breiner Machine was only capable of 250 IPM when pocketing in aluminum via ramping high-speed machining for turbo mounts for diesel engines. With the 1025 Alumigator Series they were able to achieve 450 IPM. “Few tools can plunge and ramp like the Alumigator can,” Jason said.

The reasons for this outstanding chip flow can be attributed to the design of the tool. The tapered core of the endmill adds stability and a carefully designed gash at the tip maximizes chip clearance while still maintaining rigidity during machining.

Tooling Along

Breiner Machine recently acquired a brand-new Kitamura vertical machining center. This only gave the shop more reason to take the GWS tooling they’ve been using and push it harder, to test not only the tool’s capability, but the machines. They recently tried a 1010 Alumigator to make airboat propeller hubs, and they’ve far exceeded the initial recommended feeds/speeds which were 300 IPM and 10,000 RPM. The roughing operation consists of a 30-degree ramp angle going 1.5″ deep with no speed reduction. The spindle load meter on the machine has yet to register.

The impact to the bottom line has been huge. Aside from the performance of the GWS tool, profitability is way up. While cycle times are dropping, yield is good. Tool changes have been eliminated by using the same tool for roughing and finishing operations; tool life has been maximized; and the scrap rate has dropped since parts are no longer messed up by chip-packed tools. Those are just a few of the advantages Breiner Machine has seen so far with tooling from GWS.

Exceptional Value. High Performance.

Jason is known to experiment. So, he’s familiar with many of the “top tier” brands in the market and what their competitive tool offers. But GWS has proven to have great cost performance (good price point). “It doesn’t make sense to use a tool at double the price if it doesn’t yield comparable results,” Jason said.

What’s next for Breiner Machine? Jason has only been using standard off-the-shelf items and has reached milestones he’s never thought possible. Just imagine if he decided to tap into GWS’s custom capabilities (something they are known for)? The sky is the limit.

So, if you’re machining aluminum, take deep cuts in the parts, not your profits. Contact us anytime. We’ll be glad to put an Alumigator or any of our fine tools to work for you.

And be on the lookout for the newest addition to our aluminum offerings, our the GWS KA5. Watch it work

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The In’s & Out’s of Ball Nose End Mills

ball nose end mills

Ball nose end mills, also known as full radius end mills or ball mills, are cutting tools where the nose radius is equal to half of the diameter of the tool. This creates a constant single radius (or ball) at the tool end with no straight edge (sharp corners) in the profile. They are used for a host of milling operations from contouring and profiling to slotting and corner picking. Their primary application is in 3D semi-finishing and finishing operations for industries like Mold & Die, where the very nature of their shape can be used to more efficiently machine part contours. In this article, we are going to provide a general overview of how we manufacture this type of cutting tool and just how versatile it can be.

Applications: Machining on the Curve

By incorporating various design elements, ball nose end mills can be tailored to a wide range of applications. They can be used as roughing tools, where a design incorporating a large core, neutral cutting angles and slow helix, coupled with the full radius and used with HSM machining techniques, can yield extremely long life in the hardest of materials. Sharper designs with greater chip pocket space and unequal helix designs can be combined with more conventional tool paths to rough softer steels with a high degree of efficiency and predictability. As with any tool, it generally depends on the individual part and the programmer’s preference. But make no mistake, the ball nose end mill is a powerful ally in the art of machining the part.

The Basic Manufacturing Process

The method of production, same as any solid carbide end mill, is with a diamond-impregnated grinding wheel installed on a specialized CNC grinding machine. Comparable to most end mills, ball nose end mills will require more than one grinding wheel to complete the tool. Therefore, multiple wheels will be mounted together in what’s commonly referred to as a wheel pack. With stock products, these packs are standardized based on the tool’s design and size. Different wheel grits, diameters and profile shapes will be used based on design criteria by our manufacturing engineers. For custom tools, fewer wheel packs are used in place of more single wheel sets to reduce change over time that often occurs during shorter custom production runs.

ball nose end mills
A DM2 from our 1050 Series

The core challenge to grinding a perfect ball is maintaining a precise radius from the tip of the nose back to the shank of the tool. To achieve this, a relief must be ground into the end of the tool, that leads out to an intersection of the outside diameter so that when it gets to the tangent point, creates a perfect radius. Of course, the accuracy and movement of the machine is critical to ensure proper control, with accurate probing to guarantee wheel profiles do not wear to the point we cannot hold a 5-micron tolerance over 180 degrees. Other grinding nuances are added based on design, like finer grit wheels for polishing of flutes in end mills for aluminum, and smaller grinding wheels with finer profiles to create 8,10 and even 12-flute ball nose end mills, where clearance from one flute to the next gets incredibly tight.

The Formula

The recipe for the substrate used for ball nose end mills also varies with the application, but the standard formula is tungsten carbide with 10% cobalt mix. Carbide is actually a metal matrix composite in which cobalt particles are embedded in a tungsten carbide matrix. The cobalt acts as a binder, adding strength to the mix and making it more shatter resistant. The grain size of the tungsten and cobalt particles has a significant impact on performance and wear resistance of the material. Generally, the smaller the better. For most applications, a 10% grade of micro-grain carbide (under 1 micron in grain size) is sufficient.

However, many of our customers often demand more based on the application at hand. We are happy to bring finer grades with greater hardness for hard milling applications or high cobalt grades with more transverse rupture strength (TRS) for aluminum roughing tools that typically encounter more radial load.

For a complete run down of the ball nose end mills we carry, please visit our website.

Inspection for Perfection

Small variations in the machine tool can cause the radius to be slightly off, so we inspect every unit before we ship it. We use a camera-based visual inspection system after the tool has been ground to avoid damaging the surface with a touch probe. This is especially critical for micro ball end mills, where the smallest blemish or nonconformity could affect the function of the tool.

If you’re going around and around trying to find the right milling tool for your application, the ball nose end mill may be the answer. Please contact us to learn more.

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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.


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

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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Sales Call: The Right End Mill Cuts Cycle Time for Aerospace OEM

End Mill

The Opportunity 

A contract aerospace manufacturer was supplying attachment brackets made from 17-4 stainless steel to a major aerospace company. They were being machined on a 40 taper horizontal machining center with 2 parts mounted to each tombstone. They were using a competitor’s end mill and the quality was okay, but tool life was short and the process was long. Cycle time was 1hour and 55 minutes per run. Our application specialist studied the operation and saw how the right tool and some toolpath tweaking could make a big difference. After a quick consultation, the customer authorized us to take the shot. 

GWS Action Plan

The customer was utilizing conventional milling strategies (slow speeds and feeds with heavy radial depths of cut) to machine the brackets. These parameters favored the competitor’s end mill. But this process was ultimately the cause for excessive cycle time and erratic tool life. To improve both, we shifted the customer to high speed machining processing, dramatically increasing speed and feeds while reducing radial step over. With the increased feed rates came the need for some toolpath reprogramming, which we were able to provide to the customer with the help of our in-house programming team. The new cutter path was programed in MasterCam using the Dynamic Milling option. With the proper toolpath and high speed running parameters, we could now apply the perfect tool for this application, a ¾ inch 7-flute Hurrimill end mill. Its heavy edge prep demands higher speeds to maximize performance, while variable helix geometry permit smooth and stable metal removal rates. 

The Results 

  • Cycle time was reduced by 46 minutes (1 hour and 14 minutes for 2 parts)
  • SFM increased from 250 to 550 with a 0.005″ chip load per tooth
  • Tool life was improved from 4 to 12 parts per tool (3X tool life)
  • Overall cost per part decreased 20%
  • Part quality remained high & tool life became predictable (no more sudden failures)

End Mill

The Bottom Line

Due to the relationship and level of trust with their application specialist, the customer was open to trying something new. They now have a higher level of production and efficiency at a considerable cost savings. 

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GWS Coatings 101 – 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.


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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Gina Hong Learns Something About Custom Cutting Tools Every Day

Gina Hong has been a GWS Tool Group Machine Operator in our Springfield, Massachusetts plant for three and a half years. She’s a skilled maker of our custom cutting tools, and if you told her four years ago it’s where she would be, she probably would not have believed you.

Since she was undecided about going to college, Gina asked a tech instructor in her home town of Asnuntuck, Connecticut, about her next step. Recognizing her skills on the school’s old Bridgeport manual lathe, the teacher suggested she apply for a job with GWS while she made up her mind. It was an excellent piece of advice. Gina admits that she likes working here so much that college is still on the back burner.

“Can I Do This?”

Today, Gina runs a bank of four ANCA MX7 Linear CNC tool grinders. Taking dimensions from a paper print, she programs the machines via the control panel, loads a blank and monitors the run. While you wouldn’t know it today, Gina admits that during her first year, she was convinced she would never learn to do the job effectively. But for each error she made, she gained a piece of knowledge that could be used the next time to make a better product.

That education process continues to this day. “If I get a bad result, I can count on my experience to correct it,” she says. “But there’s always something new for me to learn.” For example, on a recent job, a 350 carbide end mill wasn’t matching spec after the run. Gina adjusted the wheel and checked the core and diameter. Finally, an engineer checked out the machine and found that a loose probe was causing the problem. “I filed that one away for the next time,” she said.

Mastering the Job

The variety of new challenges in each day is what keeps the job exciting for Gina. She may not know the exact nature of the next tooling puzzle to be solved, but she knows whatever it is, she will be ready to analyze the situation and come up with a viable solution.

Gina says her greatest accomplishment so far was mastering the job well enough to run independently. “I thought it was too hard at first, but I gave it a chance and found out I was much more capable than I had even imagined.”

Working for GWS

One of the things Gina likes about working for GWS is the constant flow of new technology into the shop. “The company isn’t afraid to spend money to keep us competitive and give our customers the best tools possible.”

Gina has a pretty full work schedule and says her job is enough of a challenge to satisfy her creative side. She doesn’t need to take on a hobby or participate in sports. “When I have the chance, I just like to relax with the television or hang out with my girlfriends.”

Looking for a Satisfying Career?

GWS Tool Group is on the cutting edge of custom cutting tools, and our facilities in Florida, Indiana, Michigan and Massachusetts are always looking for talented and driven individuals. If you’re curious about the perks and possibilities of a career here, read up on how you can join our team.

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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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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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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.

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.

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.


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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GWS Takes Aim at Gummy Materials with PYSTL Series End Mills

Some materials just like to gum up the works. You know the ones we’re talking about–stuff like 303, 304 and 316L stainless steel, or Ti-6Al4V and other titanium alloys. These bad boys have a tendency to generate excessive heat at the contact area. This results in those 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. All materials that fall into the “gummy” category require unique geometry if you want to mill them successfully. What’s the answer? Get your productivity back on target with the PYSTL (pronounced “pistol”) series end mills from GWS Tool Group.

Designed for Clean Cutting
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 PYSTL series end mills are designed with an array of purpose-built features that specifically address the gummy nature of the aforementioned materials, and others like them.

High Quality and Long Life
All PYSTL end mills incorporate full eccentric relief. This design element, combined with the right degree of relief, produces a cutting edge that is both rigid and free-cutting.

Other fundamental attributes built in to these end mills that make them ideal for gummy materials like 316L and 303 stainless are the unequal index design incorporated into the 4-flute and 5-flute models. This design element reduces vibration in machining operations by breaking up harmonic resonance that is prominent with end mills using equal spacing between each flute. Couple this design attribute with a tapered core, used across the entire series of PYSTL end mills, and you get an incredibly robust end mill that resists both vibration and deflection during machining.

Last, but not least, the series features a nano PVD coating that incorporates elements like aluminum and chromium for higher hardness, heat resistance and lubricity. Premium micrograin carbide is used for the base of this Ultimate Performance tool end mill line.

Pick Your PYSTL
The series, which includes 4, 5 and 7-flute end mills, is available in diameters 1/8” to 1-1/4” with radii from 0.010” to 0.250”. Our “PYSTL Grip” shank treatment, for added anti-pullout protection, is also available upon request.

Hit the Bullseye Every Time
If you are struggling with milling gummy, difficult-to-machine materials like 6Al4V-Ti, or are simply looking to possibly upgrade your current milling operation, give the PYSTL series end mills from GWS Tool a shot.

Contact Us today to find out more or sign up for our free Test Tool Program.

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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.