Wednesday, August 5, 2015

News: Ceramic tools that can keep cool

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Machining specialists at the Nuclear AMRC in Rotherham are investigating the use of ceramic cutting tools with high-pressure coolant, a combination which could deliver significant improvements in production efficiency.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, The £25m Nuclear AMRC is a joint initiative with industry, The University of Sheffield and The University of Manchester's Dalton Nuclear Institute, and is designed to help build and enhance the UK's civil nuclear new build industry.

The Nuclear AMRC is the focal point for the civil nuclear manufacturing industry in the UK. Part of the government's High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the centre helps to develop capability and competitiveness in the nuclear supply chain through process manufacturing innovation and R&D, driving up quality and reducing cost.

The Nuclear AMRC is working with cutting tool specialist and tier one member Sandvik Coromant to test the type of tooling that uses ceramic inserts in industries such as aerospace. With excellent wear resistance at high cutting speeds on hard-to-machine heat-resistant alloys, they are often used without any coolant, to maintain the localised heat required to cut alloys such as Inconel.

Coolant can still bring benefits to ceramic machining by increasing tool life, but its delivery has to be carefully managed to avoid fracturing caused by thermal shock.

The project is focusing on Inconel, a nickel-based heat-resistant alloy widely used in reactor components and jet turbines. Initial trials on the Nuclear AMRC's Hermle C60 mill-turn centre have shown that the concept of combining ceramic inserts with high-pressure coolant is sound, delivering a significant increase in metal removal rate.

The ongoing project will aim to define optimal cutting conditions for a range of materials and applications, and to build a business case to show the cost and time advantages of the technique.

Eva McLeod, project engineer at the Nuclear AMRC, said: "Inconel's superior yield and tensile strength make it extremely difficult to machine effectively. This research will expand our knowledge of new machining techniques, develop effective methods of machining difficult materials, and help us understand more about the benefits of using ceramic inserts such as improved surface quality and reduced machining time."

Steve Weston, advanced machining application centre manager for Sandvik Coromant, added: "Working in partnership with the Nuclear AMRC provides a perfect collaborative environment to identify, design, test and deliver a fully optimised component solution."

Nuclear AMRC website
Sandvik Coromant website

Images: Nuclear AMRC

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