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Cutting-Edge Precision

By ANCA Ltd.

From a conventional machine operator to the founder of a company that manufactures high-precision cutting tools. Such has been the career path for Kumar Arumugam Naidu, a passionate cutting toolmaker who launched Santhosh Sharp Tools—now known as SST Cutting Tools—in the middle of the global recession in 2008.

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SST Cutting Tools employs four ANCA machines—including the fully automatic FX5 linear unit—at its facility in Bengaluru, India. (All photos provided by ANCA and SST)

Naidu comes from a humble background. At an age when most children enjoy their school days, he worked part-time to make ends meet. At age 18, Naidu started working as a machine operator in Bengaluru—India’s IT and manufacturing hub. Motivated to learn more, he went back to school in pursuit of an engineering degree.

“I wanted to learn the fundamentals of mechanical engineering, the functionality of the latest machines and various advantages of grinding applications,” he recalls. “I used to work for 10-12 hours during the day and attend classes in the evening.”

CNC Friendly

Naidu’s hard work paid off well. Starting with a single tool and cutter grinding machine, SST has enjoyed sustained growth over the years and now manufactures customized tools for aerospace, defense and automotive applications.

With a goal of taking the company to the next level, Naidu continued to educate himself and forged key industry partnerships. At the top of the list is ANCA Ltd., which provides SST with high-end grinding machines.

“I started with one conventional machine and used to regrind tools,” Naidu recounts. “My work was received well in the industry, and soon I added more conventional machines and operators. But we were not able to speed up the process and procure orders that needed high precision.”

At that point, Naidu decided to invest in a CNC grinding machine. The problem? Without any direct experience, he didn’t know where to begin—other than wanting the best available system.

“I evaluated several global brands and found ANCA to be best suited for my application,” Naidu says. “More than anything, I needed a user-friendly machine, as none of the team members, including me, had any experience with CNC grinding machines.”

Enhanced Output, Greater Efficiency

SST added an ANCA FX3 with linear-scale technology, which can produce tools with an accuracy of three microns. “We were amazed by the machine’s output and speed,” Naidu says. “Our efficiency and accuracy went up. Now we’re out in the market looking for precision cutting-tool requirements.”

As orders increased, SST expanded and began construction on its factory in 2016. “We were small players, but I always maintained one thing—never compromise on technology. Moving to the new factory in 2017, we added a Zoller tool inspection machine, which could measure any kind of tool profiles with the accuracy of one micron,” he explains.

With help from ANCA’s application engineers, SST began producing customized tools. But the influx of precision cutting-tool orders presented the company with new challenges.

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Kumar Arumugam Naidu, who launched Santhosh Sharp Tools in 2008, has grown SST to more than 30 employees.

“We received several repeat orders and a lot of new inquiries,” Naidu says. “We needed to enhance our efficiency further by reducing setup time.”

The SST team discussed the issue with their counterparts at ANCA, which suggested the supplier’s fully automatic FX5 linear machine. “I saw the demo, observed all the features, and opted for it in March 2018,” Naidu says. “It was the perfect match for my requirements. The machine is equipped with a two-wheel changer that helps us reduce the number of setups.”

SST added one more advanced version of the FX5 in 2019. The machine is fully automatic and provides high accuracy and an in-process measuring camera, according to the partners.

“The iView camera is a wonderful option that makes the production of complex profile tools very simple,” Naidu adds. With the help of the iView camera, we started manufacturing fir tree cutters, which is more value-added in our list of products.”

Meeting Requirements; Improving Quality and Accuracy

One of the most important and challenging activities for cutting tool manufacturers is to prepare precision blanks with close tolerances. The right blank can define the overall cutting tool.

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With the help of ANCA’s CNC grinding machines, SST can provide a variety of high-precision cutting tools.

“With time, customers have also become very demanding,” Naidu notes. “They want a cost-effective and accurate product on time. However, in 2021 the volume of orders we had in our current setup needed an upgrade, especially for the preparation of blanks. I wanted to reduce the blank preparation time with 100% accuracy and decided to opt for the ANCA four-axes CPX blank preparation machine.”

The CPX Linear is capable of achieving a surface finish better than 0.2 Ra with a runout of less than two microns. The new machine replaced five hydraulic cylindrical grinding machines, which Naidu says allowed SST to run operations with one machine and a single operator. “With the addition of a CPX Linear, we can make tools in a few hours, thereby meeting urgent requirements,” he adds.

The goal, according to Naidu, is for SST to become “a world-class manufacturer of cutting tools, and provide services to a customer’s speculated time with zero defects and a high degree of accuracy.”

The company specializes in customized cutting tools such as:

  • Drills with sizes ranging from 1 to 25 with the L/D ratio of Ø X 12;
  • End mills with sizes ranging from 0.8 mm to 25 mm and two to 12 flutes; and
  • Reamers and holemills, with sizes ranging from 1 mm to 25 mm within the tolerance of 0.002 mm.

Additionally, SST works with threading tools, boring tools, ID and OD grooving tools, pico bars and angle-grooving tools.

More Growth Ahead—at Home and Abroad

After close to 15 years of operations and many happy customers in India, SST is eying exports and expanding its infrastructure to accommodate more machines. The company’s initial 3,000-sq-ft (279-sq-m) facility is growing vertically, adding five floors for a total of 15,000 sq ft (1,394 sq m). “We are looking forward to adding more ANCA machines in the coming days,” Naidu enthuses.

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Producing the right blank can define the overall cutting tool, according to ANCA. The company’s CPX linear machine is shown here.

“We have big plans for the future. However, it is worth looking back at the journey and remembering all that has worked in our favor,” he adds. “Choosing ANCA was one of the best decisions in my career. ANCA has not only enhanced the efficiency and productivity of SST Cutting Tools, it has also given our confidence the much-needed boost.”

The partnership has resulted in multiple ANCA Tool of the Year entries for SST, showcasing the shop’s skill and creativity, according to ANCA. The companies also teamed up during the global pandemic to help provide vital life-saving equipment.

“When COVID cases were at their peak, we did our small bit by helping the Indian government make ventilator parts quickly with the help of our ANCA machines,” Naidu says. “Since the project was related to medical equipment, the accuracy and surface finish needed were high and the turnaround time was short. We acted quickly, gathered all our technical staff and halted all our other projects. I am glad we were able to play a small role in the fight against Corona.”

Naidu commends ANCA’s technical know-how and outstanding service throughout the companies’ relationship. “Whenever we faced any technical hurdles, the team would quickly respond,” Naidu continues, noting that ANCA’s support helped prevent any major project delays.

“In fact, there have been instances of executives from ANCA flying to Bengaluru from Australia to help us better understand the machine’s features,” Naidu notes. “I am looking forward to working with ANCA. They are our growth partner—not just a vendor.”

For more information on ANCA, visit https://machines.anca.com/ or call 248-926-4466. For more information on SST Cutting Tools, visit https://sstcuttingtools.myshopmatic.com or call 080-2839-3340.

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