Machinists today can create some of the most complex, efficient, and precise parts ever made. However, with precision comes complexity. This is especially true in the choice of cutting tools used in today’s five, six, and seven-axis CNC-driven machine tools. The old tried-and-true methods of engineers exploiting years of experience while searching paper catalogs, ordering a tooling package, and creating a CAM program using nominals and approximations are beginning to fade.
For example, an individual cutting tool manufacturer might have 50,000 tools in its catalog, according to Chuck Mathews, managing director of MachiningCloud (Camarillo, CA). “You add all that up worldwide, and there is something like one million cutting tool items in the world one could choose from,” he stated. “The average professional on the shop floor only wants access to his 200 or so tools.” Not only is there too much choice, but manufacturers need more data about each cutting tool. “Today’s tolerances mean you really need an accurate, 3D CAD model of the tool for toolpath programming and validation,” explained Mathews, far more than the few dimensions available in a paper catalog. “Getting these CAD models can get very time consuming.” Recommended speeds and feeds are also important in creating the right program and selecting the right toolholder to meet tolerances, avoid chatter or optimize tool life.