Drilling an ultra-precise hole can be tough. Material behavior, surface irregularities, and drill point geometry can all be factors leading to inaccurate holes. A Spot Drill, if used properly, will eliminate the chance of drill walking and will help to ensure a more accurate final product.
Choosing a Spot Drill
Ideally, the center of a carbide drill should always be the first point to contact your part. Therefore, a spotting drill should have a slightly larger point angle than that of your drill. Common drill point angles range from 118° to 140° and larger. Shallower drill angles are better suited to harder materials like steels due to increased engagement on the cutting edges. Aluminums can also benefit from these shallower angles through increased drill life. While these drills wear less and more evenly, they are more prone to walking, therefore creating a need for a proper high performance spot drill in a shallow angle to best match the chosen drill.
If a spotting drill with a smaller point angle than your drill is used, your drill may be damaged due to shock loading when the outer portion of its cutting surface contacts the workpiece before the center. Using a drill angle equal to the drill angle is also an acceptable situation. Figure 1 illustrates the desired effect. On the left, a drill is entering a previously drilled spot with a slightly larger angle than its point. On the right, a drill is approaching an area with an angle that is far too small for its point.
Marking Your Spot
A Spotting Drill’s purpose is to create a small divot to correctly locate the center of a drill when initiating a plunge. However, some machinists choose to use these tools for a different reason – using it to chamfer the top of drilled holes. By leaving a chamfer, screw heads sit flush with the part once inserted.
What Happens if I Use a Spot Drill with an Improper Angle?
Using a larger angle drill will allow the drill to find the correct location by guiding the tip of the drill to the center. If the outer diameter of a carbide drill were to contact the workpiece first, the tool could chip. This would damage the workpiece and result in a defective tool. If the two flutes of the drill were slightly different from one another, one could come into contact before the other. This could lead to an inaccurate hole, and even counteract the purpose of spot drilling in the first place.
Avoiding CNC Drill Walking With a Spotting Drill
Few CNC machining applications demand precision like drilling. The diameter hole size, hole depth, part location, and finish are all important and provide little recourse if not up to specifications. That said, accuracy is paramount – and nothing leads to inaccurate final parts faster than drill walking, or the inadvertent straying from a drill’s intended location during the machining process. So how does drill walking occur, and how can one prevent it?
To understand drill walking, think about the act of striking a nail with a hammer, into a piece of wood. Firm contact to a sharp nail into an appropriate wood surface can result in an accurate, straight impact. But if other variables come into play – an uneven surface, a dull nail, an improper impact – that nail could enter a material at an angle, at an inaccurate location, or not at all. With CNC Drilling, the drill is obviously a critical element to a successful operation – a sharp, unworn cutting tool – when used properly, will go a long way toward an efficient and accurate final part.
To mitigate any variables working against you, such as an uneven part surface or a slightly used drill, a simple way to avoid “walking” is to utilize a Spotting Drill. This tool is engineered to leave a divot on the face of the part for a drill to engage during the holemaking process, keeping it properly aligned to avoid a drill from slipping off course.
When Won’t a Spot Drill Work for My Application?
When drilling into an extremely irregular surface, such as the side of a cylinder or an inclined plane, this tool may not be sufficient to keep holes in the correct position. For these applications, flat bottom versions or Flat Bottom Counterbores may be needed to creating accurate features.