What’s new in machining titanium

Departments - Mike’s Tooling Insights

Cutting tool companies are looking at different substrates and enhanced coatings.

October 5, 2022

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Recently, I was asked a question from one of our readers: “Where do you see carbide cutting tool development for machining of metal additive manufactured material, in particular titanium?”

This is a difficult question. Most, if not all carbide cutting tool companies budget their research and development (R&D) on products and services that’ll have the greatest return for them and their investors. However, they reserve somewhere from 2% to 5% for blue-sky development that includes new products and technologies that aren’t in the marketplace today.

When we look at additive manufacturing (AM), it’s allowed us to generate part geometries that before were almost impossible to produce. While this is very exciting, the tolerances that we can hold still aren’t sufficient, and therefore, we need subtractive manufacturing as well.

In speaking with some cutting tool companies, I asked what they’re developing for titanium machining. Most, if not all of them, are looking at different substrates and enhanced coatings. None of these are really going to make quantum leaps in metal removal of titanium. The ability to coat sharp edges has been around for quite some time now. So, most companies are still looking at old technology with new coatings, but that’s about it.

Some companies are looking at what I’ll call exotic cutting tool materials for machining titanium. These folks are using some nontraditional cutting tool material to increase the metal removal rate more effectively on titanium. As you know, there are several different types of titanium, and they all act differently to heat. Some tend to work harder in front of the tool, some become brittle, and some want to weld themselves to the cutting tool during the cutting process. However, in some tests, they’re able to run higher speeds and not face the same issues we have today with uncoated or coated carbides.

While it’s impossible to say when we’ll have a new cutting tool for titanium, I’m sure one is on the way. Titanium is growing in popularity due to its light weight and superior strength. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a magic cutting tool answer today, but I promise one is being worked on, so always stay in touch with your favorite cutting tool supplier and continue to work with them and their team for the best results in tough-to-machine materials.

CMR Consulting

Mike Ramsey, president of CMR Consultants, retired from Kennametal Inc. as vice president, global machine tool industry sales, after 39 years of service in sales and marketing. He can be reached at miker2468@aol.com.