Trying to save money on CNC lathe tooling can cost you thousands in wasted time and poor quality products. Of course nobody wants to carelessly spend money on anything, but if you are going to invest in a CNC lathe you need to invest in quality tooling. Injection mold making requires high performance tooling, if the mold making process is going to succeed.
Personally I have witnessed this happen on several occasions. One shop had a high-end CNC lathe yet almost no tooling whatsoever. The machinist was extremely skilled yet much of his skill was wasted on time-consuming setups.
Lathe tooling for EDM
No matter what type of EDM tooling you use, System 3R, Erowa or Hirschmann, it is highly recommended to invest in lathe tooling for electrode manufacturing. Obviously it is a waste of time and manpower to simply use a collet or 3-jaw chuck to hold the electrode.
The beauty of integrated tooling is that you can easily move from CNC lathe to CNC machining to CNC EDM, all without realignment. Talk about time and labor savings!
CNC Lathe Insert Tooling
Carbide tooling comes in an almost endless array of geometry, coatings, substrates, and price. A reputable supplier, such as Sandvik, OSG, Ingersoll or Iscar will carry a complete line of cutters and provide technical support for nearly any application.
Another excellent choice for many applications is the ceramic insert. These are extremely hard, brittle and durable. Used properly a ceramic insert cutter produces an extremely fine surface finish and accuracy.
I have worked on molds with dozens of shut-offs that were hard machined, and they all required a great deal of hand fitting in the end. The reason: the wrong tooling for hard milling. All the cutter wear means metal that has to be removed by stoning, filing, EDM, or grinding.
Cutting inserts made from either CBN (Cubic Boron Nitride), Cermet or Ceramic are the best choice for hard turning. Because CNC lathes are so flexible they can produce highly detailed contours and superior surface finishes, if the correct insert is used.
If you want high quality hard turning applications you have to have the right tooling and machine. Most of the time, CBN tooling will be the most dominant choice. However, Cermet and Ceramics are also very useful.
I’ve been fascinated about CNC tooling, so I’ve been doing some research about what it is. I thought you made a good point in your article how trying to save money on inferior lathe tooling inserts can be cost you more since your finished product won’t be as high of quality. This makes it sound like investing in good tools from the beginning is the smart move to make.