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Tooling Technology Past, Present and Future

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

The history of cutting tools goes back a ways—a long, long way. Our prehistoric ancestors were pretty good at making stone tools, and the technology has improved from there. I saw how much on a February visit to the Deutsches Museum in Munich, which has an exhibit on the history of machining. One fun fact: hand lathes were used as early as 1,600 B.C. Holes in two short posts anchored in the ground held the workpiece, which was turned using a cord. I wonder how many rpms they produced.

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An early turning machine, as shown in the Deutsches Museum.

Fast forward to today, when tooling and workholding has advanced just a bit, as you’ll read in this Special Issue.

In “Replaceable-Tip Tools Get Permanent Spot in Shop Inventories” on page 12, Contributing Editor Geoff Giordano explains how using a range of replaceable-tip tools with a smaller number of steel body holders improves operational and cost efficiencies by cutting down on inventories of unique solid-carbide tools. The versatile tools also reduce setup times.

Likewise, workholding techniques, materials, and strategies have evolved in response to more complex parts, improved machining capabilities, and emerging connectivity requirements, as Contributing Writer Frank Burke explores in “Innovations in Workholding” on page 22. Growing demand for components machined from conventional and newer hard materials means more aggressive machining with higher speeds and feeds, prompting the development of new, advanced workholding designs.

Getting tools and toolholders ready for machining is also changing. For example, shrink-fit tooling is expanding, no pun intended, as you’ll find out in “Shops Use Shrink-Fit with Presetters for Toolholding Efficiency” on page 32, by Contributing Editor Ilene Wolff. Shrink-fit provides the cutting tool with lower runout, stronger gripping torque, greater balance, slimmer profile, and extended reach. Combined with presetting—in separate machines or combination units—it improves machining productivity and accuracy.

Our final feature explores how to choose toolholding wisely. Many job shops cling to traditional, inexpensive tooling systems, as Senior Editor Bill Koenig explains in “How to Choose the Best Toolholding System for Your Shop” on page 38. But newer machine technology, such as multiaxis, performs better when advanced (and more expensive) toolholders are deployed.

Human history tracks closely to how well we use—and improve—our tools. I look forward to seeing what’s next!

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