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The ‘Dragon’ Comes to Texas Machine Shop

(Left to right) Ceratizit’s Greg White with LaserWeld’s Brent Perry and Brian Matzig. (All images provided by Ceratizit)

Mechanical engineer Brent Perry is always on the hunt for more effective ways to crank out machined parts. That attitude paid off recently after speaking with Greg White, a sales representative for Ceratizit USA Inc., Warren, Mich. “Greg used to call on me at my previous job, and I always had great luck with his end mills and drills,” said Perry. “So when he asked me if I’d like to test out a new product, I said, ‘Sure, send some over.’ I’m really glad that I did.”

A former employee of ICOTEX Industrial Components in Conroe, Texas, Perry took a position last year with LaserWeld Inc. of nearby Katy after ICOTEX, a machine shop, went out of business. As it turns out, however, he’s right back where he started. That’s because LaserWeld acquired the assets of the defunct machine shop, then charged Perry and three co-workers with keeping the production floor running.

Since its founding in 1995, LaserWeld has delivered more than 5.5 million parts. Shown here is its Conroe, Texas shop, one of two facilities LaserWeld operates.

Established in 1995, LaserWeld provides an eclectic mix of services. The company lays claim to more than 5.5 million delivered parts and “87 incredible employees” between its two facilities. As the name implies, the manufacturer laser welds a variety of parts but also offers MIG and TIG welding. LaserWeld also offers laser-powered 3D tube profiling; bending and cutting of plate and tube stock; finishing operations such as powder coating, painting and shot blasting; together with a range of design and engineering services.

Each plate has four M10 × 1.25 threaded holes. In this operation, an 8.7 mm drill was fed at 635 mm/min (25 ipm) with a spindle speed of 4,500 rpm while held in an ER 32 collet chuck.

There’s also a full-fledged machine shop filled with Mazak, Okuma and Haas equipment–some capable of machining parts up to 4 m (13.12') in length. It’s here that Perry put Ceratizit’s latest offering to the test: a four-flute, solid-carbide drill that reportedly offers H7 or better hole quality and positioning accuracy of 0.03 mm. According to the company, the WTX-HFDS, with its proprietary “Dragonskin” coating, is the first such drill on the market.

Perry had the perfect part on which to try the new drill: a forklift component made of 1018 low carbon steel known as a double-chamfer flat bar. Each contains four M10 × 1.25 threaded holes, which at that time were being pilot drilled on a Haas vertical machining center using a well-known brand of modular tooling. The 8.7 mm drill was being fed at 635 mm/min (25 ipm), with a spindle speed of 4,500 rpm while held in an ER32 collet chuck. Tool life was “okay, but not great,” despite the use of 300 psi high-pressure coolant.

Ceratizit’s WTX-HFDS four-flute drlll has independent coolant holes for maximum chip control and heat resistance.

“We immediately pushed the WTX-HFDS up to 50 ipm, and it cut great,” said Perry. “We got at least 4,800 holes out of each drill, which was a lot better than the old tools. Even after a drill began sparking a bit towards the end, it still seemed to work just fine. But we replaced it anyway just to be safe. We’ve since used the WTX in a bunch of different parts, the most recent made out of A500 structural steel. On that job, we still haven’t replaced the drill—it just keeps on going.”

The WTX-HFDS isn’t LaserWeld’s first experience with Dragonskin, a patented PVD coating that Ceratizit claims “protects and strengthens” the cutting edge. In another application, Perry was milling a series of features into another forklift part, a C-shaped, A36 steel channel several feet long. Here again, the machine tool was one of the company’s Haas verticals, this one with a 50-taper; however, the end mill was clamped in a hydraulic toolholder.

An operator clears chips from a Haas VF-6 at LaserWeld’s Conroe shop.

Unhappy with the part’s 45-minute cycle time, he reprogrammed it to use high-efficiency toolpaths with stepovers of 1.5 mm and an axial tool engagement of nearly 60 mm. He also swapped out the legacy end mills for one of Ceratizit’s ¾" (19.05 mm) five-flute Series P556 solid-carbide cutters. At a feed rate of 3,500 mm/min and 4,000 rpm, performance was quite good, he noted, with each end mill delivering 80 parts before needing replacement.

Finished forklift components, known as double-chamfer flat bars, made of 1018 low carbon steel.

Far more important than tool life, however, is cycle time. What once took the better part of an hour to machine could now be completed in 8.5 minutes. “It was a huge improvement,” said Perry. “Granted, I can’t attribute all of it to the Ceratizit end mills, but they certainly played an important role. As I said, I’ve used them in the past and always had excellent results, and we’re now seeing similar performance from their four-flute drills. Long story short, we love their drills and end mills, and we especially love Dragonskin. They’re great tools.”

For information on LaserWeld Inc., visit or call 713-935-0815. For more information on Ceratizit USA Inc., visit or call 800-783-2280.

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