In the fiercely competitive business of plastic injection mold making sometimes small changes can bring big rewards. One example of this is through the proper selection of carbide cutting tools.
Carbide suppliers are continually developing improved cutters, both solid and indexable. Faster cutting speeds, higher metal removal rates, better surface finishes, longer tool life, decreasing cutter costs and ease of use are some of the areas that are constantly being improved.
Not so long ago nearly all indexable carbide cutters were of the larger, roughing types and these worked very well, and still do. Newer substrate materials, cutter geometries and coatings have now made these cutters more competitive with their cousin; the solid carbide end mill.
Indexable carbide cutter advantages
Productivity demands are being constantly pushed; faster, better, more! And all this at smaller profit margins.
Tungsten carbide costs keep going up and indexable cutters simply use less carbide.
Quality expectations are higher all the time. Not only are you supposed to make plastic injection molds faster, cheaper, with less skilled help; but you must also improve the quality of the mold and molded part.
New cutter technologies are always in development to aid in the quest for improvements.
Indexable insert cutters use less tungsten carbide
Most of the tungsten carbide in the world comes from China, which raises many questions for the metalworking industry. This vulnerability is causing management to rethink their dependence on solid carbide cutting tools.
Nature has only a limited amount of tungsten carbide, and concerns about it’s limited supply are beginning to be heard. Leading carbide suppliers, such as Kennametal and Sandvik have initiated recycling programs to help metalworking companies have their carbide cutters either reground or recycled. This is a win/win situation for all parties.
Due to the increased pressure to improve every aspect of metal cutting, engineers have made significant progress in developing indexable insert cutters that can often replace the old stand-by solid carbide cutters.
Indexable cutters come in every variety
The array of indexable insert cutter choices available is seemingly endless. You can find all manner of drills, reamers, spot-facers, cut-off tools, turning cutters, plunging endmills, profiling cutters, facing mills, broaches, slotting cutter, ball end mills, deep hole drills, and whatever else you might want to imagine!
Old biases are hard to overcome
In spite of the fact that indexable insert cutters very often out-perform their solid carbide counterparts, it can still be difficult to make a change. After all, the performance of what you have been using is known, even if it is not so great.
Since tungsten carbide costs are rising, are in limited supply and are controlled by China, it makes sense to minimize the amount of carbide you are using. This can only save money.
If the performance of an idexable insert cutter equals or exceeds that of the solid carbide cutter, why not make a change or at least try it out?
Solid carbide cutters certainly have a very secure place in injection mold making, and always will. Yet consider this typical scenario: the drill or cutter chips or dulls, which they always will. Your only practical option is to replace the cutter and continue. The entire tungsten carbide cutter is disposed of, wasting huge amounts of material and money.
Indexable insert cutters, on the other hand, can be indexed and indexed, and indexed.