A Unique Situation for Manufacturers
In the automotive world, manufacturers must produce what the consumers want in-order to be successful. In recent years, what the consumer wants is a decent sized car, plenty of power, and great gas mileage. To meet those demands, manufacturers have been reducing weight everywhere possible including the engine. To put it plainly, engineers are tasked with designing smaller, lighter engines that can outperform the larger heavier engines they are replacing. This can be achieved with performance upgrades such as turbo chargers that use the energy from exhaust gases to force fresh air into the engine under pressure, which increases power. But those tricks can only go so far and manufacturers are now demanding more results from their suppliers.
The suppliers of metal castings to auto manufacturers have come face to face with an interesting problem that they really have no control of. Auto manufacturers demand smaller, lighter parts that can outperform the older version. To be able to produce such parts, suppliers have begun developing different types of metal that are stronger yet still have the same (or better) capabilities as the much heavier parts they are replacing. The problem with this rises when those suppliers go to machine these new metals. The new metal alloys, mainly steel, contain various compounds that improve overall strength, rigidity, elongation, etc. but they are so much stronger that it is posing a problem during machining. Long story short, as the metal technology increases at a rapid pace, the cutting tools used to machine them are slowly falling behind. When it comes to machining, time and tool life is what can make or break your profit. The faster you can machine a part the faster you can get the next part in the machine. But on the other hand, the faster you machine, the faster your cutting tools wear out and need to be replaced.
As metal technology advances, machine shops and other auto manufacturer suppliers are finding it difficult to find that balance. Machine at higher feed rates and replace tools more often? Or extend your tool life with lower feed rates but increase man hours? There are cutting tools out there designed for high performance machining that can withstand the demands being placed on them, but they can be quite expensive.
The answer seems to be in cutting tools with inserts, such as the one pictured above. This allows the user to simply replace the small insert (the cutting face) when it is worn out with a new one. This provides savings over replacing the entire tool every time one wears out. It also allows the tool manufacturers to develop new metals for inserts that allows the user to choose which insert is best for the material being machined. Fortunately for us at CPM Industries, we work with aluminum, iron, and magnesium so we haven't had such a problem. But like all products, as time goes on the technology advances so it will be interesting to see what new alloys are produced.