Cutting tools with infinite possibilities

Quickgrind has a rich history of cutting tool design and manufacture
Quickgrind has a rich history of cutting tool design and manufacture

Mark Aspinall, technical support manager of leading cutting tool manufacturing specialists, Quickgrind explains how the company works with customers to produce the perfect solid carbide cutting tool solution through its Infinite Possibilities programme.

The desire to increase energy efficiency and reduce component weight is a major driving factor in the development of new products and is leading to the widespread adoption of lightweight materials, such as carbon fibre-reinforced polymers (CFRP) and combinations of CFRP and metallics. Whilst all combine excellent mechanical characteristics, they also share fewer desirable characteristics in that they are difficult to machine accurately and efficiently.

Quickgrind is a UK-based manufacturer with a rich history in cutting tool design and manufacture spread over 55 years. The Quickgrind team is committed to giving clients efficiency and product-based solutions, rather than just selling a product. Investing £4 million over the last five years proves that Quickgrind is not afraid to invest in technology, which will help keep it at the forefront of cutting tool development and manufacture.

Quickgrind also works with a number of universities and research centres to develop tooling for machining composites, including the Lightweight Manufacturing Centre at the Advanced Forming & Research Centre (AFRC) and the Future Metrology Hub at Huddersfield University.

Stay sharp

I begin by asking Aspinall why specialised composite cutting tools are needed for machining advanced materials like composites, as opposed to using traditional metal cutting tools.

“Machining composite materials is completely different from machining metallics,” he states. “They are usually made from fabric materials that are mixed with a form of resin and other additives that can include glass, aramid fibre’s and metallics. A sharp geometry is needed on the cutting edge along with a helix angle which will not pull the material apart, whilst providing an efficient cutting action. Another important factor is heat. Using the correct coating enables the cutting tools to run at higher cutting speeds, whilst keeping a sharp cutting edge.

“Other important factors to consider are speeds, feeds, and applying the correct dust extraction measures. Allowing the dust to build up can generate heat from within which can increase the risk of fire, as well as burnt edge of part, delamination of plies and fibre breakout.”

Fixated on fixturing

Aspinall says that there are many CFRP manufacturers still using fixturing designed for lightweight handling and reduced costs of fixture manufacture.

“Eggbox fixturing may not be as rigid as solid vacuum fixturing made from metallic or epoxy tooling materials,” he explains. “The vibration and stability will always affect the cutting data being used and the quality of machined surface. When compared to metallics, the machining of composites is still relatively new to a lot of manufacturers, with many companies using methodology transferred over from woodworking and traditional craft practices.”

The ‘Infinite Possibilities’ programme helps customers obtain the perfect solid carbide cutting tool
The ‘Infinite Possibilities’ programme helps customers obtain the perfect solid carbide cutting tool

I’m interested to know what industry changes Quickgrind would like to see made that would make life easier? For example, would empiric cutting data information similar to that employed on metallics make it easier to assess what the right drill will be?

“Because of the manufacture of composites and how many different materials can be applied alongside Quickgrind’s ‘Infinite Possibilities’ methodology of producing non-standard size cutting tools to a product, empiric cutting data is very difficult to put out into the market. Yes, we can give starting values to some known standard composites, but we prefer to work with customers to provide a holistic solution rather than an ‘out of the box’ tool with data.”

So, what kinds of technology developments does Aspinall foresee in the composites tooling arena going forward?

“We are seeing increasingly more robotic systems being used for the trimming and drilling of composite materials, and I can see this area growing based on advancements in robotics and flexibility. Quickgrind can manufacture tooling with air blast and through-coolant for minimum quantity lubricants which can aid this process.

“Many companies machining composites have the mentality that expensive polycrystalline diamond (PCD) tooling is the only suitable tooling for their materials. Quickgrind is developing carbide tooling with the most suitable geometry and coating to provide a matching performance, whilst being a more cost-effective solution.”

Outstanding in its field

According to Aspinall, what differentiates Quickgrind from the competition is the company’s in-depth knowledge of different cutting geometries, grades of carbide and coatings that can be used for machining different composite materials.

“What really sets us apart is that we do not sell our clients tools ‘off the shelf’. Instead, we prefer to work with our clients and develop the perfect tool with the correct diameter, flute length, reach, etc. All with the most suitable cutting geometry and coating for the application after considering machine capability, toolholding and fixturing. We work with customers to produce the perfect solid carbide cutting tool using our ‘Infinite Possibilities’ programme.”

Mark Aspinall, technical support manager at Quickgrind
Mark Aspinall, technical support manager at Quickgrind

So, does Aspinall think that Quickgrind’s long-standing partnerships have brought huge benefits, particularly as these trusted relationships can lead to a better way forward for all?

“By working with our clients, Quickgrind has built up long-standing relationships and we are seen as a tooling partner, not just a supplier. Quickgrind’s customers know that we are always striving to improve our products and services and we are never happy simply standing still. One of the reasons we do not have massive stocks of the same tools is so that if we can improve what we offer our clients, we can introduce the improvement relatively quickly.”

Finally, where to next for Quickgrind?

Over the years, much has been made about the benefits of sinusoidal machining strategies on CFRP to benefit from the full flute length of a cutting tool whilst reducing heat. Quickgrind is working on cutting geometry that will incorporate this methodology into the cutting tools.

“Quickgrind has also developed a range of geometries and coatings on drills and cutting tools for the machining of epoxy tooling material seeing results of three times the life of tooling commonly used for the manufacture of fixtures and mould tools,” concludes Aspinall. “These tools are currently being tested at key manufacturers and will be released once the products are proven.”

Mark Aspinall and Quickgrind’s commercial director, Tim Darch will be attending JEC World Paris in April and you look forward to meeting companies interested in forming a partnership with the leading cutting tool company.



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