Cutting Tool Supplier Uses AM Technology to Produce New, Innovative Tools

KOMET® GROUP is using Renishaw metal additive manufacturing technology to produce new ranges of innovative cutting tools. The AM process has produced major advantages in these tools. Keep reading to find out what they are, and also, to discover a way for your shop to try out new AM technology -- without making a major investment.

Germany's KOMET GROUP is one of the world's leading suppliers of precision cutting tools and has supplied innovation to the machining industry for almost 100 years. The company specializes in the fields of high-precision drilling, reaming, milling, threading and process monitoring. In addition to developing, manufacturing and distributing tooling products, the company also analyzes customers' production processes, and then develops tailored solutions to help them achieve greater efficiency.

Dr. Reinhard Durst, Research and Development Manager for hard metals at KOMET GROUP

 

 

With such a strong focus on innovation and continuous development, it was perhaps inevitable that KOMET GROUP staff would come up with some tooling designs that were too expensive, or even impossible, to make with conventional manufacturing methods. As a result, Dr. Reinhard Durst, Research and Development Manager for hard metal tools at KOMET GROUP, has been investigating the potential of additive manufacturing for tooling production and the equipment available on the market for several years.

Lease AM Equipment from Renishaw

Dr. Durst has been working with Renishaw for the last year, "because its offer has convinced us from a technical as well as an application point of view." This transfer of knowledge and know-how is inherent throughout Renishaw's new and growing network of Additive Manufacturing Solutions Centers.

Before buying the machine outright, customers can lease the latest Renishaw equipment at a Solutions Center and work independently on their projects. Renishaw staff are always available to provide advice on the use of the machines. In this way, potential customers can familiarize themselves with additive manufacturing technology, with expert help on hand, and discover how it might meet their specific requirements, without the need for a large up-front investment.

The new design freedom from additive manufacturing technology is helping to develop even more innovative tool solutions.

 

 

"We are aiming for a win-win situation," explained Ralph Mayer, the manager responsible for additive manufacturing services at Renishaw GmbH. "With our support, the customer shortens their learning curve and reduces the number of potential mistakes to a minimum. We only raise the question of purchasing a system when the customer is clear that it will provide added value for them. At the same time, we gather valuable information about the needs of the industry, which we can use to develop our machines and technology further.

"Parts produced with additive manufacturing can reach up to 99.9% consistent structure, just like rolled or cast metal components," explained Mr. Mayer. “However, the correct strategy must be applied for every component. Our strength lies in our skill in analyzing the technical challenges of our customers' components and working with our customers to find the most effective solution."

Renishaw's metal additive manufacturing system uses laser powder bed fusion technology in an inert argon atmosphere. An extremely thin bed of metal powder is laid down and areas that will form the component are melted using a high-performance ytterbium fiber laser and then solidified on cooling. This process is repeated with layers of metal powder, typically between 20 and 60 µm thick, until the part is finished. The thinner the layers, the better the accuracy and surface quality of the finished part.

Komet-Renishaw Partnership Leads to Innovative Tooling

The first of the projects handled jointly between Komet and Renishaw was the development of a new range of PCD (Poly-Crystalline Diamond) screw-in milling cutters. The main bodies of the cutters are manufactured on a Renishaw metal additive manufacturing system, with multiple bodies produced during each cycle of the machine, and then fitted with PCD blades and screwed onto their tool holders.

Renishaw laser powder bed fusion technology

 

 

The use of the Renishaw technology to manufacture the tools allows geometries to be produced that would be almost impossible by conventional means.

"Thanks to the additive process we have been able to place many more PCD blades on each tool," explained Dr. Durst. "We have changed the arrangement of the blades and achieved a substantially greater axis angle. Compared to conventional milled tools, we have greatly shortened the grooves. These changes mean that the tool is a lot more productive for the user."

For example, with a 32 mm screw-in head, the number of grooves and blades has been increased from six to ten, achieving a feed rate that can be up to 50% higher.

In addition, the ability to optimize the paths of the coolant channels ensures that each cutting edge is supplied precisely with coolant through a separate channel, while the external design of the bodies helps to ensure that chips are removed reliably from the face of the tool.

KOMET JEL® screw-in cutter

 

 

AM also offers the potential to reduce component weight since material can be used only where it is necessary for the optimum functionality in the component. It also outperforms conventional production methods in terms of delivery time for any special or experimental tools needed by Komet's customers.

"The ability to freely design the internal and external tool geometry alone means that excluding this additive process from our future plans would be inconceivable," predicted Dr. Durst. "It gives us the ability to increase tool performance and productivity to such a great extent that it creates considerable added value for our customers."

Dr. Durst considers the decision to work in partnership with Renishaw to be fully justified. "It is not easy for a company that is new to metal additive manufacturing technology to work out the best laser parameters on its own," he claimed. "Renishaw has contributed a wealth of knowledge to help us find the parameters that are needed to produce a good tool. The new design freedom from additive manufacturing technology and the cooperation with Renishaw is helping us to develop even more innovative tool solutions."

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