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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.