From Boeing 787s to new Navy destroyers, fiber-reinforced composites are gaining in use. As production scales up, more-efficient manufacturing remains a focus. One key to that efficiency is tooling for composites. These molds and forms give the final shape to a part, and are often integral to their final curing.
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A self-described “river rat” during his teenage years, Herbert B. Voelcker grew up in the small town of Tonawanda, NY, just north of Buffalo, where as a young man he grew to love the water, boats, and steam engines. His early fascination with how things worked eventually led him to study mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA), and to embark later on a greatly varied technical career highlighted by his research into the mathematical foundations for 3-D solid modeling.
Edge finishing is a relatively new term in manufacturing. It’s a new and deeper focus on what many used to call deburring, edge honing, edge preparation, edge prepping, burring, chamfering, or edge blending. Edge finishing goes beyond any of those definitions. Deburring, which is often considered wasted effort by managers, wrongly carries a negative connotation. In reality, deburring and edge-finishing processes add many benefits to parts—they create highly desirable edge quality—the quality most products need.
It’s getting harder to imagine any market that isn’t benefiting from the latest developments in parts manufactured from advanced composites. “Advanced composites will arguably dominate consumer and production products, especially in the near future,” says Bert Erdel, industry consultant and executive technology advisor, Morris Group Inc. (Windsor, CT), “as they have begun to gain wide acceptance in solving energy-related issues.”
The machining challenges for two of the most advanced concepts in cutting tool materials are pretty well known. Cubic boron nitride (CBN) tools of varying designs are being used to cut hardened ferrous metals with or without interrupted cuts, as well as welded and clad metals.
Workholding techniques using a magnetic field, a vacuum, or an adhesive can be effective alternatives to clamps. When these techniques are used, more part area is available for the cutting tools, thin parts can be held, and initial setup can be fast and simple. Plus, there is a potential for smoother surfaces and a shorter overall production cycle.
High-pressure water can simultaneously clean and deburr a workpiece, and hybrid systems can include mechanical deburring in the process.
Overall, there are two overriding customer needs: reducing cycle time and machine downtime. They want higher feed rates and depth of cut for greater metal removal.
When a tool breaks during a machining operation, the part being processed is often destroyed, and sometimes the machine is damaged. Aerospace parts are often complex shapes, manufactured from exotic materials that require prolonged machining cycle times. Therefore, a scrapped part is a significant loss in raw materials and value-added machining.
Cutting tool developments are a key driving force in manufacturing productivity, accuracy, and quality. At Sandvik Coromant (Fairlawn, NJ) one of the main trends influencing cutting tool design is developing cutting tools for small-part manufacturing, particularly the medical industry, which is seeing a phenomenal growth of 10 – 20% annually.