The Benefits of CoreHog’s Assembly Style Tooling in Composites


Harvey Performance Company brand CoreHog, which focuses on the manufacturing of the world’s most advanced composite and honeycomb core cutting tools, fully stocks an array of “Assembly Style Cutting Tools,” which allow a machinist to build the perfect solution for their specific application’s needs. In doing so, a cutting tool can be optimized for specific materials, densities, and manufacturing styles to increase efficiency, decrease costs, and provide unbelievable machining flexibility.

Corehog tooling for machining composites

How Does Assembly Style Tooling Work?

CoreHog’s Assembly Style Tooling works by taking multiple pieces and tool components, and assembling them together to create one finished cutting tool. The concept of assembling a completed tool allows machinists greater flexibility in choosing cutting edges that are best suited for their application or material type. Further, this type of tooling is often utilized by machinists because it’s often a less expensive alternative to solid round, non-assembled tooling, as a machinist would only need to replace the cutting end components when they begin to dull, and not the arbors or shank pieces.

CoreHog’s offering of Assembly Style Tooling includes Small Size, Medium Size, and Large Size Finishing Tools, as well as Valve Cutters and Modular Rebating Tools. The way in which each system is built varies by tool type.

Finishing Tools for Composites

Small Size Finishing Tools

Optimized to machine small, closed features in composites, such as pockets, joggles, and closed walls, Small Size Finishing Tools are engineered for the superior finishing of honeycomb core materials. This configuration includes a Small Coreslicer with three different edge options: Smooth, Sawtooth, or Staggered Tooth, and an optional Small CoreHogger. The right edge style for the Coreslicer depends largely on the material you’re working in. While a Smooth edge style works well in lighter density honeycomb core materials such as Kevlar®, Nomex®, and Aluminum, Sawtooth and Staggered Tooth options work best for honeycomb core materials with densities of 6 pounds or higher, such as aluminum core, Kevlar®, or Nomex®.

Corehogger Assembly Guide


Key Benefits: Eliminating the risk of material wrapping around the spindle by disintegrating them as they approach the face of the slicer.

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Medium Size Finishing Tools

Designed for finishing honeycomb core materials, this assembly style CNC tooling is engineered for shaping smaller complex surfaces, bevels, and external radii. For this configuration, a Medium CoreHogger and a Medium Coreslicer must be utilized and fastened with a screw. Similar to the Small Size Finishing Tool options, this assembly can be used with a Smooth, Sawtooth, or Staggered Tooth Coreslicer edge.

CoreHog Medium Corehogger Assembly Guide

Key Benefits: This Medium Size Finishing Tool offering includes both carbide and high speed steel options. The carbide version is uncoated, whereas the high speed steel version is TiCN coated for extended tool life and improved wear resistance.

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Large Size Finishing Tools

Designed to vastly reduce cycle times while finishing honeycomb core materials, this assembly style tooling removes large volumes of material quickly, while providing excellent surface finish and keeping tool pressure and heat low.


Large Size Finishing Tools require a slightly more complex configuration. This type of modular tool features an Arbor, which includes a washer and screw; Large CoreHogger; and Large Coreslicer. For this assembly, four types of Coreslicer edge options are available: Smooth, Sawtooth, Staggered Tooth, or Wavy. Wavy style options are best utilized in heavier density types of Kevlar®, Nomex®, and Aluminum Core, and are engineered to be useful when machining parts that contain bond lines.

Corehog large corehogger assembly guide

Key Benefits: The Arbors in this configuration are heat treated and finish ground for extremely tight tolerances in runout, concentricity, and perpendicularity. With tighter tolerances, harmonics are minimized while longer tool life and better part finish are observed.

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Valve Cutters


Different from CoreHog’s Finishing Tools, Valve Cutters are assembly tooling engineered for machining honeycomb core materials and finishing thin features, such as bevels and knife edge parts. To build a Valve Cutter, utilize an Arbor, a Valve Stem Slicer, and a screw to fasten the two together. Similar to Small and Medium Size Finishing Tools, the Valve Stem Slicer can feature a Smooth, Sawtooth, or Staggered Tooth edge profile.

Corehog valve cutter assembly guide

Key Benefits: The Stem design of CoreHog’s Valve Stem Arbors is optimized for free flowing applications, eliminating grabbing when machining Honeycomb Core Materials.

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Modular Rebating Tools


Machinists may opt to use a Modular Rebating Tool if they are aiming to reduce setup, minimize cost per cutter, and obtain flexibility with varying sandwich panel configurations. For this configuration, an Arbor connects to a Core Insert, Skin Insert, and is fastened with a screw. Here, the Arbor, which features a .500” shank diameter and a 3” overall length, can be paired with multiple sizes of Core Inserts. As of September 2022, CoreHog’s offering of Core Inserts range in diameter from .875” to 1”, with a length of cut spanning from .160” to .312”. All Inserts feature TiAlN coating, which provides high hardness and high temperature resistance. Finally, the Skin Insert features a ½” diameter, and provides a machinist with the option of DLC or CVD Coating. While DLC coating provides optimal performance, true crystalline CVD diamond coating works to significantly extend tool life.

Corehog modular rebating tool guide

Key Benefits: The complex geometry of Sandwich Panel Cutters – Arbors helps to reduce tearing, flagging, and fuzz, while providing a rebated area to allow for edge filling or fasteners, later on.

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For more information on CoreHog’s Assembly Style Tooling, visit its website at corehog.com.

End Mill and Milling Troubleshooting Guide

An end mill has an expected lifespan determined by its usage, material specificity, and coating. For machinists, premature wear and tool breakage are easily avoidable headaches. These issues can lead to poor part finishes, machine downtime, and even scrapped parts. Understanding the problems these tools face in the spindle is a key first step in troubleshooting these issues, if they occur.

Premature Tool Wear

end mill with coolant

Causes

Premature tool wear in end mills is one of the most common issues a machinist will face. Tool wear is often an issue when cutting speeds are faster than recommended for the tool, or, interestingly enough, when the speed and/or feed of the end mill is too light.

In addition, hard and naturally abrasive materials wreak havoc on cutting tools when proper tool coatings are not utilized. Coatings play a myriad of roles for a cutting tool, and cutting operation, including providing wear resistance and aiding in the efficiency of chip removal.

Other common causes of premature wear include the usage of incorrect helix angles, or chip re-cutting.

Solutions

Solving these problems is quite straightforward. In the cases of cutting speeds and feeds being incorrect, machinists have several options. First decreasing the spindle speed will correct cutting speeds being too fast. Secondly, adjusting speeds and feeds by consulting with the manufacturers speeds and feeds charts will allow for proper tool usage. This will also solve chip re-cutting issues, and will adjust depth of cut (DOC) and/or coolant/air to properly clear chips from the part. Finally, selecting the proper helix angle and coating for the job will get the best lifespan and performance out of the cutting tool.

End Mill Edge Chipping

chipped end mill

Causes

End mill edge chipping is commonly seen within aggressive and rigid machining. Machinists will find this when their feed rate is too aggressive in both the continued machining and on initial cut. Aggressive DOC is another common cause of tool chipping.

Solutions

Edge chipping is an easily solved issue for machinists. Reducing the overall and initial feed rate will decrease the aggressiveness of the cut. Decreasing axial and/or radial depth of cut is another solution for overly aggressive tool paths.

Regarding rigidity, if the tool itself is the issue, machinists should change their tool holder, hold the tool shank deeper, or use a shorter tool. Re-fixturing the workpiece and/or improving the overall setup can also solve this problem. Lastly, machinists should check their spindle for run-out.

Tool Breakage

broken end mill

Causes

Much like edge chipping, tool breakage can occur during aggressive feed rates and excessive depths of cut. Similarly, extreme tool overhang is a major driver in tool breakage. Chip packing is also commonly found during a tool fracture and breakage. Another primary cause of breakage is found when an end mill is excessively worn.

Solutions

Reducing feed rate and axial/radial DOC is crucial to solving tool breakage issues. This shows the machinist that their tool paths are too aggressive for the structure of the chosen tool. For issues related to overhang, a machinist should hold their shank deeper or even opt for a shorter tool.

There are several solutions for chip packing that include adjusting speeds and feeds, and increasing coolant or air pressure to properly flush chips. Tools with fewer flutes and deeper valleys flush chips much easier. In this case, opting for a tool with fewer flutes can also combat chip packing. Finally, choosing to regrind a tool sooner will solve tool breakage due to excessive wear.

Chip Packing

Causes

As chip packing is a driver for tool breakage, solving this issue early is key to machining success. This is caused by aggressive speeds and feeds that are beyond the tool’s capabilities. Also, flute gullets that are too small for the produced chips will lead to packing. Finally, insufficient coolant volume and pressure won’t allow for chips to properly evacuate.

Solutions

To start, machinists should consult the manufacturers’ speeds and feeds charts for the tool and consider decreasing them. Using an end mill with fewer flutes will prevent packing by allowing chips to properly evacuate. Increasing coolant volume and pressure, along with repositioning the nozzle closer to the point of cut, will also aid in proper evacuation.

Chatter

Causes

Tool chatter, or chattering, is an easy way to scrap a part in the machine. Chattering can occur prior to breakage, so the solutions to these problems are very similar. While it is not possible to completely avoid vibrations, minimizing them is pivotal for a successful machining operation.

Rigidity and aggressive toolpaths are common in issues of tool chatter at the spindle. This lacking of rigidity is not limited to the tool itself, but can also be attributed to instances in the workpiece and machine tool. Also, choosing improper tool geometry can lead to instances of unnecessary vibrations.

Solutions

Reducing speeds and feeds, as well as axial and/or radial DOC, is pivotal in solving tool chatter issues. When poor rigidity is the cause, machinists must determine where this is coming from. Changing the tool holder, holding the shank deeper, and using a shorter tool will often solve these issues. Machinists should also check their spindle for run out in cases of rigidity. Finally, re-fixturing the workpiece and/or improving the overall setup will help if that is the cause.

Burs

Causes

Burs are common in machining and cause machinists to painstakingly hand deburr a part after completion. While this is common, there are several causes for excessive burs in a part. First, incorrect speeds and feeds in machining can cause burs, as can dull end mill edges and incorrect helix angles.

Solutions

If burs are present in machining, one should first start by consulting proper speeds and feeds for a tool, and consider decreasing them during machining. Finally, using a climb milling machining strategy, and changing to the correct helix angle, will pay off.

Poor Finish

Causes

Proper part finish is crucial to success for all machinists. On the other hand, poor part finish often leads to scrapped parts and headaches.  This is usually caused by feed rates that are too aggressive and speeds that are too slow for the tool and material. In terms of feed rates, aggressive depths of cut mark up parts, leading to poor finishes. Finally, properly sharpened tools in perfect scenarios lead to fantastic finishes. When tools face excessive wear, the part finish will suffer.

Solutions

Reducing feed rates and depths of cut is critical to ensuring a proper part finish. Increasing tool speed (RPM) will also aid in leaving a better finish on the part. Finally, using a properly sharp, or timely reground tool, will alleviate part finish headaches.

Poor Dimensional Accuracy

Causes

Accuracy of part dimensions is paramount to a machinist’s and shop’s success. When poor dimensional accuracy is plaguing a job, there are several areas machinists should investigate. Aggressive depths of cut, tool rigidity, and machine tool rigidity are all common causes of inaccuracy.

Solutions

Reducing axial and/or radial depths of cut is an important first step towards solving dimensional accuracy problems. If a lack of rigidity is the issue, a machinist should check, inspect, and repair the machine, tool, tool holder, and fixtures. Also, using a tool with more flutes can solve for this issue.

Overall, there are several milling issues that can impact even the most seasoned machinists. Properly identifying the problem is a critical first step in accounting for these problems. Once the problem has been identified, understanding the leading cause behind it will lead to understand the proper solution.

3 Ways Tool Coatings Increase Tool Life

Cutting tools are commonly found with an ultra-thin molecular compound coating applied to its cutting surfaces. These coatings are engineered to combat against forces that wear down your cutting tools and lead to catastrophic tool failure. Not only are coatings created for cutting specific materials, but they also limit heat and friction and enhance the performance of your tool. When selecting a coated tool, the machinist must consider how the material and desired cutting operations may break down the cutting edges of the tool, to determine which coating will best serve their needs. Before those decisions can be made, one must understand how coatings increase a tool’s cutting abilities. The following is an in-depth look into the benefits provided by tool coatings and how they work to improve tool life and performance.

What Is a Coating?

Tool coatings consist of organic and inorganic compounds which are applied and adhered onto the substrate using Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) or Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD). Compounds are deposited onto the tools in layers until a desired thickness is achieved.

Coated cutting tools provide three main functions:

  1. Provide a thermal barrier between the tool and workpiece
  2. Improve tool lubricity
  3. Increase tool wear resistance

With the proper utilization of these three features, cutting tools can be pushed much harder, run with faster cycle times, and last longer.

1.      Provide a Thermal Barrier Between the Tool and Workpiece

Heat mitigation is essential in machining, as excessive tool and workpiece heating during cutting operations can be detrimental. As the carbide tool’s temperature rapidly increases, its hardness decreases, resulting in greater wear and burn out. Thermal conductivity is a material property used to measure a material’s ability to retain or transfer heat energy. For example, tungsten carbide has a thermal conductivity of 88 W/m.K at 20°C. This means at room temperature, 20°C (68°F), an uncoated carbide tool can conduct 88 Watts of thermal energy per meter with a temperature gradient measured in Kelvin. The materials used in tool coatings do not conduct heat as well with thermal conductivity rates as low as 4.5 W/m.K. This means that a coating with a thermal conductivity of 4.5 W/m.K, the coating would transfer 19.56 times less heat than tungsten carbide.

An experiment showcasing the thermal abilities of coatings is shown below. Both an AlTiN Nano coated tool and uncoated tool were turning 4340 steel at a speed of 155 m/min (508.5 ft/min) and 200 m/min (656.17 ft/min), at a feed rate on 0.5 mm/rev (0.019 in/rev) and a depth of cut of 3.5 mm (0.138 in) [1]. No coolant was used.

uncoated tool thermal gradient

Figure 1: Thermal gradient of the cutting tip of the uncoated tool [1].

tool coatings thermal gradient

Figure 2: The above images, found in a study titled “Experimental Study and Modeling of Steady State Temperature Distributions in Coated Cemented Carbide Tools in Turning,” written by Amol Thakare and Anders Nordgren, showcase the effects of cutting tool speed and tool deformation on temperature distributions in unworn (left) and worn (right) tool.

Comparing the two tools, it is clear that the coated tool absorbs far less heat than the tool without a coating. With lower thermal conductivity rates, tool coatings create a thermal barrier between the carbide and workpiece. This greatly decreases the internal temperature of the carbide as the heat generated during the cutting operations is redirected into the chips and workpiece. With lower temperatures, faster cutting speeds can be attained. Looking at the thermal gradients above, the uncoated tool running at 155 m/min and the coated tool running at 200 m/min roughly have the same surface temperature. This means the coated tool can run 22.5% faster than its uncoated counterpart.

2. Coatings Increase Tool Lubricity

Another key to limiting heat generation and keeping cutting smooth and chatter-free is to decrease the amount of friction between the cutting tool and workpiece. Frictional force is the resistance to motion, and in the case of cutting tools, the force opposing the lateral and radial movements of the tools as it cuts through the workpiece. This opposing force is determined by the coefficient of friction, often denoted as the Greek letter Mu (μ). The friction coefficient is the ratio between the force required to move one surface across another, divided by the pressure between the two surfaces. Minimizing μ is how coatings decrease the overall frictional forces involved in cutting operations because the force of friction is directly proportional to μ.

An example to show how much a coating can reduce the coefficient friction during cutting operations, over an uncoated carbide tool, is shown in the study performed by the University of Technology of Malaysia. In this experiment, 1040 carbon steel was turned at 60 mm/min (2.36 in/min), a depth of cut of 1 mm (0.04 in), a feed rate of 0.06 mm/rev (0.0024 in/rev), and a repeated length of cut of 100 mm (3.937 in) until the tool cut a total length of 1000 m (3280.84 ft) [2]. The coated tool had a TiCN coating, a coating similar to the more popular AlTiN coating. Below are the results:

Figure 3: The above image, found in “Friction and Wear Characteristics of WC and TiCN-coated Insert in Turning Carbon Steel Workpiece,” displays the friction coefficient of the TiCN coated tool and uncoated tungsten carbide tool.

As seen in figure 3, the TiCN coated tool had a much lower coefficient of friction than the uncoated tool. This lower coefficient decreases the frictional forces experienced during cutting operations, reducing heat generation, giving a better part finish, and extending tool life.

Selecting a coated tool with high lubricity would also be ideal for cutting materials with low melting temperatures, as well as materials that generate a tremendous amount of heat during machining, such as high hardness alloys. In materials with low melting points (such as aluminum or other non-ferrous metals), high friction can cause heat generation and sticking of chips. These chips can then cause chip packing in flute valleys and galling on the cutting edge. This galling is called built up edge (BUE) which creates a thicker edge and can break down the tool. With lower friction coefficients, it is more difficult for chips to stick to the tool and for BUE to occur. When cutting materials that would generate high temperatures (such as stainless steels and aerospace alloys), keeping frictional forces at a minimum, will reduce heat generation, and result in smoother cutting, preserving the tool’s cutting edges.

3.      Tool Coatings Increase Tool Wear Resistance

Adding a coating with a high microhardness rating increases a cutting tool’s ability to resist wear and avoid permanent deformations. In the cutting industry, cutting tool grades for tungsten carbide range from grades C1 to C14, depending on what the cutting operation the tool will be performing. Between grades C1 to C14, tungsten carbide has a Vickers Hardness (HV) ranging from 760 HV to 1740 HV. Tool coatings have higher microhardness ratings than tungsten carbide. Adding a coating can increase a tool’s hardness anywhere from 2213 HV using a TiN coating, to 9993 HV with the CVD diamond coating. While a TiN coating would not be chosen solely for its hardness, it shows that even the coating with the lowest hardness is still harder than bare tungsten carbide. By making the cutting tool significantly harder, the ratio of workpiece hardness to tool hardness increases. Increasing the tool’s hardness will allow it to shear off chips and remove material with greater ease, especially against high abrasive materials, while the tool maintains its structural integrity against the extreme forces experienced during cutting operations.

The benefits of increasing tool hardness with its improved performance are demonstrated in an experiment done by Afyon Kocatepe University. In this experiment, a 2 flute micro end mill with a cutting diameter of 4 mm was slotting into Inconel 718 at 20,000 rpm, with a feed rate of 5 micrometers per flute, a depth of cut of 0.2 mm and a length of cut of 120 mm [3]. This cut was performed using both an uncoated and AlTiN coated (3620 HV hardness) carbide end mill with no coolant. Below are optical comparator images of the two tools showing their wear and deformations.

Figure 4: The image above from “An Experimental Investigation of the Effect of Coating Material on Tool Wear in Micro Milling of Inconel 718 Super Alloy,” showcases an uncoated cutting tool.

Figure 5: The image aboves from “An Experimental Investigation of the Effect of Coating Material on Tool Wear in Micro Milling of Inconel 718 Super Alloy,” showcases the difference a coating can make on a cutting tool. Figure 4 displays an uncoated cutting tool, and figure 5 displays a cutting tool with AlTiN PVD coating.

Looking at the two tools, it is evident that the uncoated tool experienced significant flank and crater wear, which resulted in the flaking of its cutting edges. As this tool performed its cuts, flank wear occurred first. This wear happened directly at the cutting edge as the abrasive Inconel alloy began to breakdown the tool. As the flank wear increased past the cutting edge and into the rake face of the tool, crater wear formed. Crater wear is characterized by its depth into the tool. As chips slid across the rake face and increased this crater, pieces of the carbide tool began to flake off, forming a new, weaker cutting edge. This new edge is blunt and will not be capable for cutting the workpiece properly, and will continue to break apart until catastrophic tool failure occurs.

Flank and crater wear are two types of mechanical tool decay that are a direct result of the abrasiveness of the workpiece material. Increasing the microhardness of the cutting tool can combat against these abrasive modes of tool wear. This is proven in figure 5, as the AlTiN PVD coated end mill held up much better in comparison to the uncoated tool as it experienced minimal flank wear. As the coated tool performed its cuts, the only detectable wear was a microfracture along one of its cutting edges, and peeling of the AlTiN coating. The protection provided by the coating against abrasive wear is evident in this example, and with this protection, tool life is significantly increased.

The Benefit of Tool Coatings During Machining

Combining the three main advantages of a tool coating, thermal resistance, increased lubricity, and higher microhardness, not only does the tool perform better, but it lasts longer. Minimizing thermal and abrasive tool wear can substantially prolong tool life.

Citations

      [1] Thakare, Amol, and Anders Nordgren. “Experimental Study and Modeling of Steady State Temperature Distributions in Coated Cemented Carbide Tools in Turning.” Procedia CIRP, vol. 31, 2015, pp. 234–239., doi:10.1016/j.procir.2015.03.024.

      [2] Talib, R.J., et al. “Friction and Wear Characteristics of Wc and Ticn-Coated Insert in Turning Carbon Steel Workpiece.” Procedia Engineering, vol. 68, 2013, pp. 716–722., doi:10.1016/j.proeng.2013.12.244.

[3] Ucun, İ., Aslantas, K., & Bedir, F. (2013). An experimental investigation of the effect of coating material on tool wear in micro milling of Inconel 718 super alloy. Wear300(1-2), 8–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wear.2013.01.103

Harvey Tool Coatings: Maximizing Tool Performance

Proper tool coating plays a large role during the selection of a CNC cutting tool. At Harvey Tool, coatings are optimized for specific materials and alloys to ensure the highest tooling performance, possible. Each coating offers a unique benefit for the cutting tool: increased strength, enhanced lubricity, heat resistance, and wear mitigation, just to name a few.  

In Benefits of Tool Coatings, the method of applying coatings to tools is examined. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at each Harvey Tool coating to examine its key properties, and to help you decide if it might add a boost to your next CNC application.

Harvey Tool offers a wide range of tool coating options for both ferrous and exotic materials, as well as non-ferrous and non-metallic materials. In the Harvey Tool catalog, coatings are often denoted in a -C# at the end of the product part number.

Harvey Tool Coating Gallery

Harvey Tool Coatings for Ferrous and Exotic Materials

TiN

TiN, or Titanium Nitride (-C1), is a mono-layer coating meant for general purpose machining in ferrous materials. TiN improves wear resistance over uncoated tools and aids in decreasing built-up edge during machining. This coating, however, is not recommended for applications that generate extreme heat as its max working temperature is 1,000 °F. TiN is also not as hard as AlTiN and AlTiN Nano, meaning its less durable and may have a shorter tool life.

Harvey Tool 46062 Tin Tool Coating

Harvey Tool 46062-C1

AlTiN

AlTiN, or Aluminum Titanium Nitride (-C3), is a common choice for machinists aiming to boost their tool performance in ferrous materials. This coating has a high working temperature of 1,400 °F, and features increased hardness. AlTiN excels in not only dry machining, due to its increased lubricity, but also in machining titanium alloys, Inconel, stainless alloys, and cast iron. To aid in its high heat threshold, the aluminum in this coating coverts to aluminum oxide at high temperatures which helps insulate the tool and transfer its heat into the formed chips.

altin tool coating 823816-C3

Harvey Tool 823816-C3

AlTiN Nano

AlTiN Nano or Aluminum Titanium Nitride Nano (-C6) is Harvey Tool’s premium coating for ferrous applications. This coating improves upon AlTiN by adding silicon to further increase the max working temperature to 2,100 °F while also increasing its hardness for increased tool life during demanding applications. Due to its penchant for demanding applications, AlTiN is recommended for hardened steels, hardened stainless, tool steels, titanium alloys, and aerospace materials. These applications often create high levels of heat that AlTiN Nano was designed to combat.

altin nano tool coating

Harvey Tool 843508-C6

harvey tool coating zoomed in

Tool Coatings for Non-Ferrous and Non-Metallic Materials

TiB2

TiB2, or Titanium Diboride (-C8), is Harvey Tool’s “bread and butter” coating for non-abrasive aluminum alloys and magnesium alloys, as it has an extremely low affinity to aluminum as compared to other coatings. Aluminum creates lower working temperatures than ferrous materials, so this coating has a max working temperature of of a suitable 900 °F. TiB2 prevents built-up edge and chip packing, further extending its impressive tool life. TiB2 is not recommended for abrasive materials as the carbide is slightly weakened during the coating process. These materials can cause micro fractures that may damage the tool at high RPMs.

TiB2 can be found on a wide variety of Harvey Tool 2 and 3 flute tools as the premium option for high performance in aluminum alloys.

tib2 tool coating

Harvey Tool 820654-C8

ZrN

ZrN, or Zirconium Nitride (-C7), is a general-purpose coating for a wide variety of non-ferrous materials, including abrasive aluminum alloys. This tool coating is a lower cost alternative to diamond coatings, while still boasting impressive performance through its high hardness levels and overall abrasion resistance. ZrN has a max working temperature of 1,110 °F with strong lubricity in abrasive alloys. This coating is best suited for abrasives, such as brass, bronze, and copper, as well as abrasive aluminum alloys that should not be used with TiB2.

zrn tool coating

Harvey Tool 27912-C7

CVD Diamond Tool Coatings

CVD Diamond, or Crystalline CVD Diamond, is a process where the coating is grown directly onto the carbide end mill. This process dramatically improves hardness over other coatings, improving tool life and abrasion resistance while also allowing for higher feed rates. The trade-off for increased wear resistance is a slight rounding of the cutting edge due to the coating application. Due to its increased wear resistance, CVD is best suited for highly abrasive materials such as graphite, composites, green carbide, and green ceramics. Similarly, these tool coatings have a max working temperature of 1,100 °F, meaning they are not well suited for ferrous applications.

Harvey Tool’s CVD Diamond Coating Options:

diamond tool coatings
Amorphous, CVD 4 μm, CVD 9 μm, PCD Diamond

CVD Diamond (4 μm)

The 4 μm is thinner than the 9 μm allowing for a sharper cutting edge, which in effect leaves a smoother finish.

CVD Diamond 9 μm)

The 9 μm CVD tool coating offers improved wear resistance over the 4 μm CVD and Amorphous coatings due to its increased coating thickness.

Amorphous Diamond

Amorphous Diamond (-C4) is a PVD diamond coating which creates an exceptionally sharp edge as compared to CVD. This coating aids in performance and finish in abrasive non-ferrous applications, as it allows for greatly improved abrasion resistance during machining, while still maintaining a sharp cutting edge necessary for certain abrasives. Due to the thinness of the coating, edge rounding is prevented in relation to CVD diamond tooling. Amorphous Diamond is best suited for use in abrasive plastics, graphite, and carbon fiber, as well as aluminum and aluminum alloys with high silica content, due to their abrasiveness. The max working temp is only 750 °F, so it is not suited for use in ferrous machining applications.

Harvey Tool 809362-C4

PCD Diamond

PCD Diamond, or Polycrystalline Diamond, is a tool coating that is brazed onto the carbide body. In comparison to the other diamond coatings, PCD does not face the same challenges of other coatings as it pertains to rounded cutting edges, as these edges are ground sharp. PCD has the edge benefits of Amorphous Diamond with the abrasion resistance of CVD Diamond. PCD is the thickest diamond layer offered by Harvey Tool, and excels due to its incredible hardness and abrasion resistance. This tool is best suited for all forms of abrasive, non-ferrous materials including abrasive plastics, graphite, carbon fiber, and composites. Similar to the other non-ferrous tool coatings, PCD is not suited for ferrous applications due to its working temperature of 1,100 °F.

pcd diamond

Harvey Tool 12120

Tool Coating Summary

When deciding on a coating for your application there are many factors to be considered. Different coatings often cross several applications with performance trade-offs between all of them. Harvey Tool offers a “Material Specific Selection” that allows users to choose tooling based upon what materials they are working with. Further, Harvey Tool’s technical team is always a phone call away to help in finding the right tool for your specific applications at 1-800-645-5609. Also, you can contact Harvey Tool via e-mail.

Octane Workholding – Featured Customer

Located in Danville, Pennsylvania, Octane Workholding has a long history spanning back to 40 years. This family business started in the 1980s, welding farm equipment and doing general repairs. As time went on, Octane Workholding began shifting toward building bespoke equipment. As the equipment became more complex, machining became a larger part of their business, starting with manual machines and working towards CNC machining. They started to realize the amount of knowledge that they would need to learn to master CNC machining. After machining thousands of parts and gaining experience, they learned what tools were needed to succeed as Machinists and started their journey. They developed value-added products for their own use that are now available for everyone and provide educational materials that are aimed at lessening the steep learning curve of this trade.

Octane Workholding has dedicated years to mastering their CNC abilities. We were able to get in touch with Derek Pulsifer, President of Octane Workholding, to discuss how they got started, current business, and so much more!

How did you get started with Octane Workholding?

Basically, I grew up in our family shop but did not start working full time until after college. Things were heavily fabrication-oriented with only a few manual machines. After a few years running manuals myself, it was decided we would go the CNC route. Teaching myself to be a Machinist was often a struggle with no formal training or peers to reference. Being a family machine shop and working alongside Octane Sr., it could be a lot like an episode of Orange County Choppers. Most of what I share today was learned through thousands of hours of researching and learning the hard way. 

How did you get from welding farm equipment and doing repairs, to manufacturing workholding setups?

Like many things in life, things progressed and customers’ needs shifted. Our fabrication shop has built a lot of equipment for the food, pharmaceutical, and power generation industries for several years. As we gained more customers, things slowly shifted toward more job shop-oriented work. Jobshop work is a surefire way to gain experience quickly. As a Machinist, there were many times I went in search of a solution for common problems we faced. After finding solutions that didn’t fit us, I designed the products we now make today. Thousands of unique parts and decades of experience later, we knew what shops like us were probably encountering as well. Octane Workholding was created to provide solutions to common machining problems. We continue to offer quote-based work to customers through our machine shop in addition to Octane Workholding. We are Craftsmen.

What machines do you currently have in your shop?

We have several manual machines from the classic 1960’s Bridgeport to heavy-duty Cat50 verticals. The machine I actually began on is an old South Bend lathe. Production sawing, Roll Grooving, Shears, Press Brakes, Waterjet Cutting, Welding, and Rolling machines. We also have various new CNC machinery from lathes to verticals. 

What CAM/CAD softwares do you currently use?

I program with both Mastercam and Solidworks. We use Autocad products for 2D applications like Waterjet Cutting. The advent of Fusion 360 has really benefited the industry by bringing affordable software to everyone. I would like to experiment with more CAD/CAM systems to help those who come to us with specific programming questions related to Fusion 360 etc.

What materials are you most often working with?

We primarily work with stainless steel, but no material is too difficult to work with. Materials and SFM are a bit like speed limits on the road, Hastelloy is like a 25 MPH zone, and Aluminum is like the Autobahn. Superalloys require patience and the right recipe.

What sets Octane Workholding apart from the rest of the competition?

I think people appreciate honest companies that actually engage with their customers.  Treating every customer with the same respect, no matter the size of their company. Social media has made helping anyone that needs it, a message away. Whether individuals buy our products or not, we believe the whole industry benefits from the freely available educational materials.

Can you talk about the coolest/most interesting project you have worked on?

We do a lot of neat work but one project especially was great to work on. It is also one of the few that can be made public. Making 11.00″ Custom Scissors for the first time. These Scissors quickly became an obsession once work began on them. Programming them was the first step. Machining them without creating time-consuming custom fixtures was the next challenge. Once they were machined the real fun began.

Having never made Scissors or Knives professionally, I knew the next part would be a learning experience. After ordering some fine grit belts for our sanders, the polishing and sharpening had begun. To begin, I went about polishing the handles and rough sharpening to establish a reference edge on the blades.

Having some paper on hand it was time to give them a try. Success, they cut paper! Now for the real test, they were being created to cut plastic bags. Dread started to creep in as the first cut simply folded the bag in half. This was not good. Ok, what is wrong here? These feel razor-sharp, but they are paperweights at this point. Back to the drawing board. After doing some research on the great UK makers continuing this art, a hollow grind seemed like the solution.

What do we have that can do a hollow grind? A small wheel will put a deep radius if brought back to the blade. I have to make a large wheel so the hollow grind can be shallow. I’ve got it, a faceplate adapter mounted to the Old South Bend, some sandpaper glued to the outside should work! So it began, the journey into learning to hollow grind.

After hours of making things worse and worse, I cannot bring the grind from edge to edge smoothly. Some more research and it seems the technique is to “turn the key”. Wow, it feels unnatural but it works! Finally, a successful hollow grind is performed.

Now for the real art of Scissormaking, the Putter- (fine Scissor Craftsmen which I am not) must sharpen and skillfully assemble them. The final act is to bow the blades carefully such that the edges intersect. They must meet perfectly along the length of the blade as they cross.

One more test, they cut the plastic bag as it passed right through it. This was one of the best moments in my career as a Machinist.

What are your current product offerings?

Our best-selling product is our t-slot cover, The Octane Chip Guard. We also currently offer mounts that offset your Renishaw Tool Setter. Table space is a premium for any milling machine. When the Tool Setter is outside the work envelope, additional work holding or parts can be placed. 

We also offer a T-Slot Drop in Workstop, our drop in workstops can be added at any time, even when access to the end of the t-slot is blocked. This adds a lot of flexibility to set up parts, especially if you forgot to add them beforehand (has happened more than I care to admit). There are a lot of products waiting to be released, but the demand for our t-slot covers has taken priority for now.

Having machined thousands of parts with unique setups, a product that enabled quick changeovers was essential. Cleaning a t-slot is a job Machinists have dreaded for a very long time.  Being silicone, it is extremely easy to trim a piece to fit any setup. Setting up a job for production requires only a few extra minutes to place our t-slot covers. One big problem with vertical machining centers is chip evacuation. Not only does covering the t-slot prevent chips from ever entering the groove, but it actually promotes flushing of every corner of sheet metal. Flood coolant normally is trapped within the grooves, which prevents any chance of the chips being evacuated. Unattended operation is always the goal with any CNC machine, our Chip Guard allows an operator to open the doors to a clean machine. In-process chip fans or automatic washdowns are possible. Safety is also a big issue for any shop. Most Machinists have encountered a chip ricocheting from the t-slots back at their eyes. The color options add a sleek look to any machine. We also offer black for an incognito approach.

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

Manufacturing is all about process reliability. You may save a few dollars on a tool, but end up paying dividends when said tool fails unexpectedly. A quality tool that increases performance or extends unattended operation, is critical.

Can you talk about a time that Harvey Tool or Helical products really came through and helped you?

Aside from Harvey having tools available as standard, which would be a custom item for the majority of companies. We buy chamfer mills regularly for finishing bevels. The angle being accurate is paramount for finishing. If the angle is off at all, a step can be felt on the finished face. Being confident that a tool that is programmed to cut a feature is accurate, saves us a lot of time. We also rough some heavy stainless steel beveled rings. The heavy chips accumulate due to the 2.00” length of cut., so the solution to this problem was the following chipbreaker endmill – 5 FLUTE, CORNER RADIUS – CHIPBREAKER ROUGHER, VARIABLE PITCH (APLUS).  We are all familiar with the corncob style roughing endmills, which actually create chips that are too small, causing those chips to end up getting into the coolant tank. Helical chipbreaker endmills create a swarf that is the perfect size, as it fits neatly into a container for recycling. The other added benefit is tool life. The bevel rings tend to trap the swarf inside themselves, which can lead to recutting chips that were destroying tool life. The chips were able to be evacuated easily which lead to a 4x’s increase in tool life and a process we could walk away from confidently.

We noticed the education section on your website, not too many companies will add these sections, why do you feel it is important to spread knowledge?

The world saw more technological advancement in 100 years than in all recorded history through manufacturing.  While I may not be part of the next great advancement for humanity, perhaps teaching an aspiring Engineer, will lead to one. Providing the tools for brilliant individuals to go out and make an idea a reality, is something we are committed to. Future generations need to understand how critical manufacturing is to our way of life. 

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

Learn cad/cam first. Watching YouTube tutorials and educational content likes ours can help accelerate the learning curve. Becoming proficient as a programmer and designer can lead to higher starting salaries. If you can walk into a shop with some knowledge of programming, you may bypass a lot of the red tape companies might present to a new employee. Machining is often the easiest part, work holding and programming are often the biggest hurdles. Not everything has been invented yet, perhaps your niche will be making ornate pens, flashlights, knives, firearm parts, etc., creative designs are always in demand. Many successful businesses started in a garage with a hobby machine. Designing your own products can lead to a booming business that can sustain your family and eventually your employees’ families. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the In The Loupe community?

We are adding more and more educational material to our website.  It’s definitely worth bookmarking for anyone interested in learning more about this trade.

  • Speeds and feeds for turning, drilling, surface finish charts, etc.
  • Threading data like you would find in the Machinist’s handbook, but easier to find and read.
  • Educational articles on topics like quoting, lathe education, mill education etc.
  • Fun DIY projects you can make, like a tap follower.
  • Programming examples and curriculum are in progress with more information being added.

To learn more about Octane Workholding find their website here. Also, you can follow them on Instagram @octane_workholding.

The 3 Critical Factors of Turning Speeds and Feeds

Many factors come into play when determining a proper turning speeds and feeds and depth of cut strategy for turning operations. While three of these factors – the ones we deemed to be among the most critical – are listed below, please note that there are many other considerations that are not listed, but that are also important. For instance, safety should always be the main focus of any machining operation, as improper cutting tool parameters can test a machine’s limits, resulting in an accident that can potentially cause significant bodily harm.

Machine condition, type, capabilities, and set-up are all significantly important to an overall successful turning operation, as is turning tool and holder selection.

Turning Speeds and Feeds Factor 1: Machine Condition

The condition of your machine should always be considered prior to beginning a machining operation on a lathe. Older machines that have been used for production operations where hard or abrasive materials are machined tend to have a large amount of backlash, or wear, on the machine’s mechanical parts. This can cause it to produce less than optimal result and may require that a tooling manufacturer’s recommended speeds and feeds parameters need to be dialed back a bit, as to not run the machine more aggressively than it can handle.

turning speeds and feeds

Factor 2: Machine Type and Capabilities

Before dialing in turning speeds and feeds, one must understand their machine type and its capabilities. Machines are programmed differently, depending on the type of turning center being used: CNC Lathe or Manual Lathe.

CNC Lathe Turning Centers

With this type of machine, the part and tool have the ability to be set in motion.

CNC lathe turning centers can be programmed as a G96 (constant surface footage) or G97 (constant RPM). With this type of machine, the maximum allowable RPM can be programmed using a G50 with an S command. For example, inputting a G50 S3000 into your CNC program would limit the maximum RPM to 3,000. Further, with CNC Lathe Turning Centers, the feed rate is programmable and can be changed at different positions or locations within a part program.

Manual Lathe Turning Centers

With this type of machine, only the part is in motion, while the tool remains immobile.

For manual lathe turning centers, parameters are programmed a bit differently. Here, the spindle speed is set at a constant RPM, and normally remains unchanged throughout the machining operation. Obviously, this puts more onus on a machinist to get speed correct, as an operation can quickly be derailed if RPM parameters are not optimal for a job. Like with CNC lathe turning centers, though, understanding your machine’s horsepower and maximum feed rate is critical.

Factor 3: Machine Set-Up

turning speeds and feeds proper tool setup
Excessive Tool Stickout. Digital Image, Hass Automation. https://www.haascnc.com/service/troubleshooting-and-how-to/troubleshooting/lathe-chatter—troubleshooting.html

Machining Conditions

When factoring in your machine set-up, machining conditions must be considered. Below are some ideal conditions to strive for, as well as some suboptimal machining conditions to avoid for dialing in proper turning speeds and feeds.

Ideal Machining Conditions for Turning Applications

  • The workpiece clamping or fixture is in optimal condition, and the workpiece overhang is minimized to improve rigidity.
  • Coolant delivery systems are in place to aid in the evacuation of chips from a part and help control heat generation.

Suboptimal Machining Conditions for Turning Applications

  • Utilizing turning tools that are extended for reach purposes, when not necessary, causing an increased amount of tool deflection and sacrificing the rigidity of the machining operations.
  • The workpiece clamping or fixturing is aged, ineffective, and in poor condition.
  • Coolant delivery systems are missing, or are ineffective
  • Machine does not feature any guarding or enclosures, resulting in safety concerns.

Cutting Tool & Tool Holder Selection

As is always the case, cutting tool and tool holder selection are pivotal. Not all turning tool manufacturers are the same, either. The best machinists develop longstanding relationships with tooling manufacturers, and are able to depend on their input and recommendations. Micro 100, for example, has manufactured the industry’s highest quality turning tools for more than 50 years. Further, its tool holder offering includes multiple unique styles, allowing machinists to determine the product that’s best for them.

lathe tool holder
Pro Tip: Be sure to take into consideration the machine’s horsepower and maximum feed rate when determining running parameters.

Bonus: Common Turning Speeds and Feeds Application Terminology

Vc= Cutting Speed

n= Spindle Speed

Ap=Depth of Cut

Q= Metal Removal Rate

G94 Feedrate IPM (Inches Per Minute)

G95 Feedrate IPR (Inches Per Revolution)

G96 CSS (Constant Surface Speed)

G97 Constant RPM (Revolutions Per Minute)

R & S Machining – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of R & S Machining

Located in St. Louis, Missouri, R & S Machining specializes in 4 & 5 axis machining and manufacturing of aerospace components. Since R & S was founded in 1992, they have instilled a spirit of hard work and determination to exceed customer expectations. Equipped with up-to-date machines and automation, R & S Machining has high-quality equipment to keep them as efficient as possible to stay ahead of the competition. The highly skilled men and women operating the manufacturing facility are committed to a high quality standard to meet all customer requirements. Because of this commitment, R & S Machining has been able to expand its facilities in the past four years by more than 225,000 square feet.

We were able to get in touch with Matthew Roderick, the lead programmer for R & S Machining. Matthew took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about R & S Machining, and how the company continues to grow.

Photo Courtesy of: R & S Machining

Can you tell us a little about R & S Machining?

R & S Machining is dedicated to continual improvement and growth. We strive to buy very high quality machines and tooling. We also equip most of our machines with automation. Whether it is a bar feeder, pallet changer, FMS, or robot, nearly all our machines have some form of automation to increase our lights out production. In the past 4 years, we have built a new facility and purchased a new facility. We have grown by more than 225,000 square feet and 35 employees in this timespan. With the backing of our ownership, continued success and relationships with our customers, very dedicated employees, and high-quality reliable manufacturing equipment, we are in a league of our own and continue to strive towards our goal of becoming the powerhouse manufacturing company of the Midwest.

R & S Machining currently uses Hermie, Okuma, Makino, and Kenichi machines in the facility, while utilizing CAM/CAD software such as Siemens NX, Catia, and Mastercam.

How did R & S get into Aerospace and Defense Manufacturing?

Our president worked at Boeing for 10 years. When he left to start his own company, we were given an opportunity with the Boeing Company to manufacture aerospace and defense components based on the quality of work that our President produced during his time with them. We continued to produce high quality products with an emphasis on on-time delivery and the rest is history.

Photo Courtesy of: R & S Machining

What sets R & S apart from the rest of the competitors?

We take on all the work that our competitors no quote or refuse to do. The complexity of parts that flow through this shop is like no other place. We believe there is no other company that can produce the complexity level of parts that we make in the time frames we are given by our customers.

Customer satisfaction is maintained through effectively applying the quality system. Continued training and process review enable R & S Machining to meet customers’ ever-changing requirements. 

What is your favorite project you have had come through the shop?

We manufacture Inlet Ducts for a variety of Fighter Jets. The complexity of these parts is unmatched and the creativity in programming the parts in the CAM system has to be at its peak. Some of these parts require programs of 600+ toolpaths with a majority of them being full 5axis simultaneous paths. Then, when you get to see the machine throwing a 1,100 pound block around like it’s nothing at 2000 IPM in full 5axis simultaneous motion, it’s pretty humbling.

Photo Courtesy of: R & S Machining

What is your connection with the Missouri SkillsUSA Competition?

SkillsUSA is a nonprofit national education association that serves middle school, high school, and college/postsecondary students preparing for careers in trade, technical, and skilled service (including health) occupations. SkillsUSA’s mission is to empower its members to become world class workers, leaders, and responsible American citizens. It emphasizes total quality at work—high ethical standards, superior work skills, lifelong education, and pride in the dignity of work.

Over the past 4 years, we have had many of our employees participate and win in the competition. We have had 5 employees win the district championship, 5 employees win the state championship, and 3 employees win the national championship.

Photo Courtesy of: R & S Machining

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

We rely on high quality tool performance to meet the tolerancing demands of our customers. Our tolerances range from hole tolerances of +.002″/-.001″, thickness tolerances of +-.01″, profile tolerances of .03″, critical hole tolerances of +-.0002″, and critical hole true position tolerances of .007″. We also rely heavily on lights-out run time overnight, so having a high quality tool that you know is still going to be cutting effectively in the morning and throughout the night is critical to our operation.

We had a 50+ quantity stainless steel job that we were only getting 2-3 parts per tool using tools from a different manufacturer. We changed our tool to a Helical endmill and left everything else the same and made over 30 parts before having to change out the tool.

Photo Courtesy of: R & S Machining

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

There are tons of cool and flashy things out there, but you can not skip the fundamentals. They are the building block to your entire career and they are the concepts you will use every single day. Use the technology to further your skills, not the basis of your skills. At the end of the day, you always have to know feeds and speeds, depth of cuts, work holding, and what you can get away with.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the In The Loupe community?

Helical tooling is unmatched in the HEM hard metal category. These tools have changed the way we manufacture parts and give us the confidence we need to accomplish our high precision and complex parts.

If you want to see what is next for R & S Machining or reach out and ask them some questions, you can follow them on Instagram @randsmachine.

Schon DSGN – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

In 2012, engineer Ian Schon wanted to put his skill for design to the test. He decided to challenge himself by designing a normal, everyday item: a pen. His goal was to take the pen from the design concept to manufacturing it within his own shop. Ian designed his pen how he thought a pen should be: durable, reliable, compact, leak-proof, and easy to use. Most of all, though, he wanted the pen to be of a superior quality, not something easily lost or thrown away.

With the design concept in place, Ian started his work on engineering and manufacturing his new pen. He made many prototypes, and with each discovered new features and additions to better his design. Today, Ian manufacturers his pens through local fabrications in Massachusetts, using local supplies. He makes them from 6061 Aluminum, unique in that it molds to its users’ hand, over time. His pens are designed to outlast its user and be passed on through generations.

Ian was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his manufacturing success.

Schon DSGN silver wrist watch with black band
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

What sets Schon DSGN apart from competition?

I think I have a unique approach to designing and manufacturing. I design things that I like, and make them the way that I want to.  I don’t rush things out the door. I’m not thinking about scale, growth, making a big shop, etc. I just want to live a simple life where I make cool objects, sell them, and have enough time in the week to sneak out into the woods and ride my bike. This ethos takes the pressure off a lot, and that makes the workflow freer without as much stress as I had in my past career as a product development engineer.

This workflow isn’t for everyone. it’s not a winning combo for massive business success, per se, and if you audited me you would tell me I’m holding back by not scaling and hiring, but I like it. I see myself as a hybrid between artist and entrepreneur. I love doing things start to finish, blank paper to finished part on the machine. Owning that entire workflow allows for harmony of engineering, machining, tooling, finishing, R+D, marketing, etc. Further, it ensures that I don’t miss critical inflection points in the process that are ripe for process evolution and innovation, resulting in a better product in the end.

I’m sure the way I do things will change over time, but for now I’m still figuring things out and since I work largely alone (I have one amazing helper right now assisting with assembly, finishing, and shipping) I have lots of flexibility to change things and not get stuck in my ways.

Also, by working alone, I control the music. Key!

schon dsgn turning metal on lathe
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

Where did your passion for pens come from?

My friend Mike had a cool pen he got from a local shop and I was like “man I like that,” so I made one with some “improvements.” At the time, in my mind, they were improvements, but I have learned now that they were preferences, really. I made a crappy pen on a lathe at the MIT MITERS shop back in 2010, and that summer I bought a Clausing lathe on craigslist for $300 and some tooling and started figuring it all out. I made a bunch of pens, wrote with them, kept evolving them, and eventually people asked me to make pens for them.  I didn’t really intend to start a business or anything, I just wanted to make cool stuff and use it. Bottle openers, knives, bike frames, etc. I made lots of stuff. Pens just stuck with me and I kept pushing on it as a project for my design portfolio. Eventually it became something bigger. Turns out my pen preferences were shared with other people.

Schon dsgn gold and copper metal pens
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

What is the most difficult product you have had to make and why?

Making watch cases – wow. What an awful part to try and make on a desktop Taig 3 axis mill and a Hardinge lathe in my apartment! I started working on machining watch cases in 2012, and I finished my first one in my apartment in 2015 (to be fair, I was working on lots of other stuff during that time! But yeah, years…). What a journey. Taught me a lot. Biting off more than you can chew is a great way to learn something. 

What is the most interesting product you’ve made?

When I worked at Essential Design in Boston I worked on the front end of a Mass Spectrometer. The requirements on the device were wild. We had high voltage, chemical resistance, crazy tolerances, mechanism design, machining, injection molding – truly a little bit of everything! It was a fun challenge that I was fortunate to be a part of. Biomolecule nanoscale analysis device. Try saying that ten times fast.

I have something fountain pen related in the works now that I find more interesting, and very, very complex, but it’s under wraps a bit longer. Stay tuned. 

Schon dsgn gold and copper metal pens
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

Who is the most famous contact that you have worked on a project with?

I have made watches for some incredible customers, but I unfortunately cannot talk about who they are. Most of my watch work outside of my own parts is also under NDA which is a bummer, but hey it was great work regardless.

Same thing with the pens. I know that some of my pen are in the touring cases of a few musicians, one of which is in the rock and roll hall of fame. But I have to keep it tight!

Before leaving to work for myself, I was part of a design team at IDEO in Cambridge that designed the new Simplisafe Home Security System. As an engineer and designer, I got listed on the patents. That wasn’t machining and was more design and engineering of injection molded plastic assemblies,  but it was still cool, though! Cutting my teeth in the design industry before machining helps me a lot with the creative process in the workshop. Lots of overlap.

What capabilities does your shop have?

I utilize Citizen L series sliding headstock machines to run my company. These are Swiss Machines (though made in Japan) with twin spindles and have live tooling for milling operations. I got into this type of machining after getting advice from friends in the industry and subcontracting my work to shops with these style of machines for 7 years.

Beyond the Swiss Machines, I have a new Precision Matthews Manual Mill, a Southbend Model A, a Hardinge Cataract Lathe, and a bunch of smaller Derbyshire lathes and mills. Most of these are for maintenance related tasks – quick mods and fixtures and my watchmaking/R&D stuff. I also have a Bantam Tools Desktop CNC machine on the way, a nice machine for quick milled fixtures in aluminum and nonferrous materials. I tested this machine during their development phases and was really impressed.

What CAM/CAD software are you using?

I use Fusion 360 for quick milled stuff, but most of my parts are programmed by hand since the lathe programming for Swiss work can be done without much CAM. I’m sure I could be doing things better on the programming side, but hey, every day I learn something new. Who knows what I’ll be doing a year or two from now?

schon dsgn turning wrist watch on lathe
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

What is your favorite material to work with and why?

Brass and Copper. The chips aren’t stringy, it’s easy to cut quickly and the parts have this nice hefty feel to them. Since I make pens, the weight is a big piece of the feeling of a pen. The only downside is I’m constantly figuring out ways to not dent the parts as they are coming off the machines! My brass parts are like tiny brass mallets and they LOVE to get dinged up in the ejection cycles. I ended up making custom parts catchers and modifying the chutes on the machines to navigate this. I might have some conveyors in my future….yeah. Too many projects!

schon dsgn disassembled wrist watch
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

It’s not just important, it’s SUPER important. As a solo machinist running my own machines, being able to call a tooling company and get answers on how I should run a tool, adjust its RPM, feed, DOC, or cutting strategy to get a better result is invaluable. I find that as much as I’m paying for tool performance, I’m also paying for expertise, wisdom and answers. Knowing everything is cool and all (and I know some of you out there know everything under the sun), but since I don’t know everything, it’s so nice to be able to pick up a phone and have someone in my corner. These tech support people are so crucial. Being humble and letting support guide me through my tooling challenges has helped me grow a lot. It’s like having a staff of experienced machinists working at my company, for free! Can’t beat that. Micro 100 and Helical have helped me tons with their great support.

schon dsgn multicolored fountain pens
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

When was a time that Harvey, Helical or Micro product really came through and helped your business?

The Helical team (shout out to Dalton) helped me nail some machining on some very wild faceted pens I was working on this month. When I switched to Helical, my finishes got crazy good. I just listened to recommendations, bought a bunch of stuff, and kept trying what Dalton told me to. Eventually, that led to a good recipe and manageable tool wear. It was great!

I also like how representatives from the Harvey/Helical/Micro family often cross reference each other and help me find the right solution, regardless of which company I’m getting it from. Nice system.

The quiet hero in my shop is my Micro 100 quick change system. It just works great. Fast to swap tools, easy to setup, cannot argue with it! Too good. 

Schon DSGN silver wrist watch with black band
Photo Courtesy of: Ian Schon, Schon DSGN

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

Find a mentor who supports you and challenges you. Find a good tooling company, or good tooling companies, and make good relationships with their tech support so you can get answers. Make good relationships with service technicians who can help you fix your machines. Be a good person. Don’t let yourself become a hot head under the pressure of this industry (since it can be hard at times!), cooler heads prevail, always. Be open to seeing things from other viewpoints (in life and in machining), don’t be afraid to flip a part around and start over from square one.

To learn more about Ian and Schon DSGN, follow them @schon_dsgn and @the_schon on Instagram and check out his website. And, to learn more about how Ian got his start in the manufacturing industry, check out this video.

TOMI Engineering INC – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of TOMI Engineering

Since its beginning in 1977, brothers Tony and Mike Falbo have made the focal point of TOMI Engineering to deliver quality, competitively-priced parts on time. TOMI Engineering has earned a reputation through the years as being a world-class manufacturer of precision machined components and assemblies for aerospace, defense, commercial and other advanced technology industries. They are fortunate to have the highest level of engineering, quality and programming personnel on staff, and, with over 40 years in the industry, there isn’t a problem TOMI hasn’t experienced.

With all the years of experience, TOMI Engineering has a lot of knowledge to share. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Tony and Mike Falbo to ask them about their experiences, techniques, tooling and a lot more.

green machined part from Tomi Engineering INC
Photo Courtesy of: TOMI Engineering

How was TOMI Engineering INC started?

TOMI Engineering, Inc. began in 1977 when we (Tony and Mike) teamed up and got a loan from our father to purchase our first machine.  The machine was used in the garage of our parents’ home, which still resides in Tustin, California.  Forty years, 20 current machines, and countless parts later, TOMI Engineering proudly serves the defense, airline, medical and commercial industries.  We machine just about any type of product thrown our way.  Over the years, we have made wing tips for the F16 fighter jet, enclosures for GPS housings, manifolds that help transport fluids, support frames for Gulfstream, cabin brackets for Airbus, ammunition feeders for tanks, and many, many others.

At TOMI Engineering, we aim to be a one-stop shop for our customers.  Once we receive blueprints, we can program, machine, deburr, inspect, process and assemble most parts.  We utilize a mixture of 3-and-4-axis machines in order to increase efficiency, which helps us to cut down costs to our customer.  In our temperature-controlled assembly room, we can assemble bearings, bushings, rivets, nut plates, gaskets and sealants.  We also hope to add additive machining to our repertoire soon.

What machines are you currently using in your shop?

Our 21,250 square foot facility houses 20 CNC machines.  Most of our machines are Kitamura, OKK and Okuma.  The purchase dates of these machines range from 1987 to December of 2019.  With our large machine diversity, we can machine parts smaller than a penny, and as large as 30 x 60 inches. Most of the material that makes its way through our shop is aluminum.  Whether it is 6061 or aircraft grade 7000 series, we aim to have most of our parts be aluminum.  However, we do see a large amount of 6AL-4V titanium, along with 17-4 and 15-5 steel. We are currently utilizing Mastercam 2020 for most of our programming needs and are staying up to date with software upgrades and progression.

Tomi Engineering CNC mill
Photo Courtesy of: TOMI Engineering

What sets TOMI Engineering apart from the rest of the competition?

We believe our greatest asset is our experience.  Here at TOMI, we have been machining parts since 1977.  In those 40-plus years, a lot of parts have come and gone through our doors and we have helped our customers solve a large array of problems.  Most of our machinists have been with us for over 10 years, while some are approaching 20 years!  Our programmers easily boast over 60 years of experience! With so many of our employees working together for so many years, it has really helped everyone to understand what helps us quickly machine our products, while being held accountable to the high standards of AS9100. 

Where did your passion for machining start?

We grew up with machines in our garage and it wasn’t until we needed money to pay for college that our dad realized he could show us the basics of operating a milling machine, which allowed us to pay our tuition while working at home in the evenings and weekends. Machining was more of a necessity than a passion at the time. However, after nearly 40 years in the business, it has been amazing to see the strides in technology from a Bridgeport Mill to the multi-axis lights-out machining that is available today.

My favorite part of the job has always been the flexibility it has allowed me. I had the opportunity to watch my kids grow up and be a part of their lives by going to their school plays, coaching them, and being home at night to help them with anything they needed. Most importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to work with my brother, my business partner, who also shares the same ideals about being with family, so we could always cover for each while the other was gone and spending time with their family. The business would not have worked without both of us understanding the importance of each other’s input. The challenge of running a business keeps me going, and working with all of the different personalities was an added bonus.

machined part from Tomi Engineering
Photo Courtesy of: TOMI Engineering

Who is the most famous contact that you have worked on a project with? What is the most interesting product you’ve made?

At TOMI, we do not work with specific individuals, so we can’t really name drop.  However, a vast majority of our work is for Airbus, Boeing, or the military. So it’s pretty gratifying to say that we supply parts to some of the biggest companies in the world and that our work helps to defend this country.

The most interesting product we have made here at TOMI is a GPS housing for a defense contractor.  This part encompasses everything that we can do at TOMI: precision machining, complex/multi detail assemblies, gasket assembly, and pressure testing fluid transportation components. 

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

High quality tool performance is important to us in many ways.  Purchasing high quality tools allow us to constantly achieve premium surface finishes, push our machines to the high speeds and feeds that they are capable of, and enjoy noticeably longer tool life.

Every part, day-in and day-out, is different.   Because of our vast array of products, our tools are always changing.  But when we are picking out Helical End Mills for Aluminum, we always go with their 3-flute variable helix cutters, and we have always been happy with them.

machined part from Tomi Engineering
Photo Courtesy of: TOMI Engineering

What sort of tolerances do you work in on a daily basis?

The tolerances we typically work with are ± tenths of an inch, as well as very tight true position cal louts. We can hold and achieve these close tolerance dimensions through our very experienced Mastercam programmers, as well as our superior quality department.  Our quality inspectors have over 30 years of experience in the industry and utilize two Zeiss Contura G2 coordinate measuring machines (CMMs).  While in their temperature controlled environment, the CMMs are capable of measuring close tolerance dimensions and are used to generate data for inspection reports.

Are you guys using High Efficiency Milling (HEM) techniques to improve cycle times? What advice do you have for others who want to try HEM?

Yes, we are using HEM techniques to improve cycle times while roughing to increase our MRR while increasing tool life. If you have CAM/CAD software that supports HEM, then go for it!  Machining Advisor Pro (MAP) is VERY helpful with the suggested speeds and feeds as a starting point.  Over time though, and through experience, we have learned that every single machine is a bit different and often needs a different approach with speeds and feeds.  Start with a smaller than suggested RDOC and physically go out to your machine and see how it sounds and what is going on.  Then, start increasing and find that sweet spot that your particular machine runs well on.  Many programmers in the industry will not take the time to go out and watch how their part is sounding and cutting on the machine and going out and doing that is the best way to really find out what you and the machine are capable of achieving.

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

Ask questions!  Don’t be afraid to talk to programmers and fellow coworkers about what is trying to be achieved and WHY the programmer is holding tolerances a certain way.  Learn from them and watch what every cutter is doing during your cycles.  The more you learn, the more you can contribute to the machining process and move up in your business.  Sometimes it takes just one good suggestion about the machining approach that can change the set-up process from aggravating to very easy.  Lastly, be open minded to new ideas and approaches.  As we said earlier, there are a ton of ways to make good parts in a constantly evolving industry.

Please take the time to check out the TOMI Engineering INC website or follow them on social media!

Titan Ring Design – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Trevor Hirschi, Titan Ring Design

Officially started in 2015, Titan Ring Design is a high quality machine shop that designs rings, as well as mechanical tie clips, art based designs, and freelance custom designs. While working at a machine shop that produced top notch parts for just about every type of field you can imagine, now owner of Titan Ring Design, Trevor Hirschi, noticed that the machining industry is mostly about cranking out a mass quantity of the highest quality parts as quickly as possible. This often resulted in compromised tolerances and part finishes, something Trevor aimed to change. Quality always comes first in his projects.

Whether you are looking for a band for an upcoming wedding, looking to replace or upgrade your current wedding ring, or just want something unique and beautiful, Trevor’s designs are different than anything else. Trevor was able to take the time and answer some questions for us about his business, machining techniques, tooling, and a lot more.

machined metal ring from Titan Ring Design
Photo Courtesy of: Trevor Hirschi, Titan Ring Design

How was Titan Ring Design started?

Titan Ring Designs is a part time, passion/hobby business of mine that I sort of started at the time I was ring shopping for a wedding ring back in 2013. I didn’t like what was available on the market and was inspired by a former Oakley designer to machine my own. I had been introduced to machining in High School at a technical college and had been working as a machinist since graduating in 2007, so I decided to make my own wedding ring. It sort of snowballed into my business in 2015, after finally deciding to make it official with a business license and some sales. Some further work experience in California for McWhinney Designs brought me greater motivation and encouragement to keep going and helped me get to where I am today. I now offer several different CNC Milled [wedding] rings, as well as a mechanical tie clip, some occasional art based designs, and freelance custom design and mill work. I also teach machining full time  at the same tech college I graduated from in my own education and enjoy sharing my knowledge and love for machining with those interested in the career.

machined propeller art from Titan Ring Design
Photo Courtesy of: Trevor Hirschi, Titan Ring Design

What capabilities does your shop have?

Custom Design in CAD/CAM, 3axis CNC Mill work, Small Scale Lathe Work, Tumbling, Finishing, Assembling, 3D Printing/Rapid Prototyping. I cut 6-4 Titanium primarily, but also work with Stainless Steel for fasteners, Aluminum and some Steel for fixtures, and Polycarbonate for prototyping ideas. I teach machining technology full time, so I have access to SolidWorks, MasterCam, Fusion360, and NC Simul. We currently have a Haas OfficeMill 3axis, Levin High Precision Instrument Maker’s Lathe, Prusa i3 MK2S 3D Printer in the shop.

What sets Titan Ring Design apart from the competition?

There are lots of people making interesting rings today, but most are done on lathes. Anyone can make a round part on a lathe. Very few of them make rings on a mill, and I feel that gives the opportunity to be creative and allows you to think outside the box more. I try to stand out in that field by offering something that makes you think about the value of the design process more by interrupting and challenging the norm. I also like to take on work that is outside of jewelry, but still highly design related. Most other ring makers stick with just rings.

Titan Ring Design machining facility
Photo Courtesy of: Trevor Hirschi, Titan Ring Design

What is your favorite part of the job and what other passions do you have?

Making cool stuff! Most machinists only end up making whatever comes through the shop, which can be cool, but most of the time you have no idea what you’re making, just some part for Customer X, Y, or Z. Being a small, design centered business, I get to come up with ideas for what to make next, and most of the time I start out making something that wasn’t ever intended to be marketed, it was simply something I wanted for myself that I found others were interested in too. I discovered machining in high school and fell in love with it when I started making parts for my dirt bikes and truck. I’ve been hooked ever since but I do have other passions. I’ve always had a big interest in LED lighting and flashlights. I’m perpetually working on different ideas for making one of my own, which will happen eventually. I’m also a bit of a health-nut and enjoy being outdoors and spending time with my family.

Who is the most famous contact that you have worked on a project with?

I made a ring for an NFL player once, but I don’t follow football and his name didn’t stick out to me so I’ve forgotten who he was. I also had the privilege of working for McWhinney Designs and made some truly remarkable products in the openable wedding ring niche market. I gained more skill in design, machining, craftsmanship, and engineering while working for Jeff McWhinney. We’re good friends and often work together to help each other when one of us gets stumped on something.

machined metal art from Titan Ring Design
Photo Courtesy of: Trevor Hirschi, Titan Ring Design

What is the most difficult project you have worked on?

I was commissioned to design from the ground up and machine was a custom set of all-titanium cabinet door handle pulls for a very high end wine cabinet. Each handle was an assembly of 32 pieces, all machined from billet 6-4 Titanium. They required over 400 individual CAM toolpath operations, 35 unique machine setups, and well over 300 hours to complete, including finishing and assembly. More than anything, it was extremely time intensive in programming, set up, and machine time. The design was a fair bit challenging in my mind and initial modeling, but didn’t compete with what it took to actually produce them. I grossly underestimated and underbid the job. But in the end, I really enjoyed making a truly one of a kind, Tour-De-Force product, even if it was completely overkill for its purpose. I enjoy making that kind of stuff, and the lessons you learn from it.

What is your favorite project you have worked on?

It’s really simple and was initially designed just because I wanted it for myself, but I have a mechanical titanium tie clip that I really enjoy making. It’s quite unique in that, as far as I know, to this day, it is the only CNC machined mechanical titanium tie clip you’ll find anywhere in the world. It puts a little bling in your formal attire, for those times you have to go full suit and tie.

machined metal band from Titan Ring Design
Photo Courtesy of: Trevor Hirschi, Titan Ring Design

Why is high quality tool performance important to you?

Because I cut mostly titanium, tools wear out quickly if you don’t have a rigid set up, the right coolant, proper feeds & speeds, and of course, high quality tooling. Harvey Tool makes such a wide variety of micro tooling that works so well in the industry of making small titanium parts, where I like to fit into. I’ve used a fair spread across Harvey’s offering and have always been impressed with performance and the feeds and speeds guides are top notch too. I had an application that required a .0035” internal corner radius which landed me with a .007” end mill. It’s still hard to comprehend tooling in this league. My machine actually recommends only tooling under 1/4” shank size, so I don’t get into Helical’s range too often. But I’ve used Helical 1/2” end mills extensively at other job shops and they are definitely made for eating metal. I was using another tool brand’s key cutters for some undercut hinges and would wear through them much more often than I thought was reasonable. When I finally decided to try Harvey’s key cutters, I was blown away with how much longer they have lasted me. Truly a game changer!

harvey tool end mills with Titan Ring Design machined tie clip
Photo Courtesy of: Trevor Hirschi, Titan Ring Design

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

Be creative. Machining is such a rewarding career that has limitless possibilities of what you can achieve. Follow your passion and have fun with it! If you end up in a dead end shop doing something you don’t like, go somewhere else. There are so many shops that need help right now and chances are good that you can find a better shop that suits your style.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the In The Loupe community?

To those machine shops out in industry, do whatever you can to be supportive of your local trade schools that are teaching the upcoming machinist workforce. They really need your support and in turn will bring you the employees you depend on.

Please take the time to check out Titan Ring Designs website or follow them on Instagram @titanringdesigns