Removing Metal

Some things remain the same. But there are also significant changes in the area of cutting metal.

The nature of metal removal in the auto industry is more of the same and more of what has not been done in any notable volume.

The former is the burgeoning use of aluminum for things ranging from engines to suspension components. There will be, so the people we talked with in the cutting tool industry believe, an on-going use of aluminum throughout the industry. Which, from the point of view of an insert, typically means there will be a high positive design, which has the result of reducing the number of cutting edges on the tool. And while there is this increase in the use of aluminum, there is, we’re told, still a lot of cast iron machining continuing.  But in this arena, there are some changes coming, like an increase in the use of CGI—compacted graphite iron. While this is not unfamiliar to people who are machining things like blocks for diesel engines, this has not been the case in light-duty gasoline engines, but a change may be on the way. And while it might seem that the learnings from the diesel engine machinists would be readily ported over to the gas engine guys, the word is that there is a difference in the way the two tend to machine, with the former being more conservative and the latter being more aggressive, so there needs to be changes to the tools, everything from the geometries to the coatings to the substrates.

And as for the more of what has yet to be done in any notable volumes, the word here is that carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) components are going to present a whole lot of challenges to those who are responsible for machining the strong, light material. Here, there may be some things that can be gleaned from companies like Boeing and Airbus, which have been using CFRP as a matter of course for some time now. And while on the subject of aerospace, which has long been using superalloys and other exceedingly difficult-to-machine materials in engines and other components, as auto engines are downsized and turbocharged, there may be the use of combinations of materials, including the tough-to-machine alloys, so it might be worthwhile for auto manufacturing engineers to take a closer look at what their brethren in aero are up to.

And in the mean time, the cutting tool manufacturers will continue to produce the types of tools that will allow increased metal removal rates. Like some of the products you’ll find here.*

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*Special thanks to Sandvik Coromant and Walter USA.