Cutting Tool Engineering
July 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 7

Improved Holemaking Boosts Profits

By CTE Staff

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Courtesy of OSG Tap & Die

A blank for an H-13 tool steel extrusion die is set up on a turning machine at U.S. Alloy Die. Below: OSG’s Hy-Pro Carb Drills feature a point design and flute geometry that reduce thrust forces and chip size to enhance chip evacuation.

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Most shops that survived the Great Recession and are taking advantage of the recent uptick in manufacturing don’t rely on luck. They constantly look for ways to improve their processes and profit margins, even on long-standing, money-making jobs.

And continuous improvement doesn’t necessarily require large capital equipment investments. By taking the time to reevaluate their machining processes, many shops improved productivity and emerged from the downturn in better shape than before it started. Often, a knowledgeable tool distributor can become a valuable partner in such efforts.

A case in point is U.S. Alloy Die Corp., Cleveland. In business since 1955, the company manufactures carbide and tool steel dies and punches for the fastener, medical, automotive and aircraft industries. Brad Honacki, CNC production manager, said U.S. Alloy Die is essentially two shops: one side grinds carbide tooling and the other side uses CNC lathes and other equipment to produce tool steel dies and tooling components.

One long-standing job involved producing H-13 tool steel extrusion dies via turning, drilling and boring. The high-volume job runs every day on two shifts, sometimes on more than one machine. “I’ve been here 13 years, and we’ve had that job the entire time,” Honacki said. The dies, punches and other components that make up the job are used to produce hot-forged steel valves used in engines at multiple automotive OEMs.

“When I started, we were using HSS drills at 50 sfm to make the holes in the dies,” Honacki recalled. “When we switched to AlTiN-coated HSS drills, we went to 60 sfm at the same feed per revolution and thought that was great.”

When Art Panfil, technical sales representative for industrial distributor Shop Supply & Tool Co. Inc., Eastlake, Ohio, learned U.S. Alloy Die was still applying the coated HSS drills to produce holes in the extrusion dies, he saw an improvement opportunity. The dies required spot drilling and pecking. The drills ran at a spindle speed of 979 rpm and a feed of 0.004 ipr. The result was a 50-second drilling cycle time to produce one 15⁄64"-dia., 1.092"-deep hole.

“My job is to make recommendations that ultimately save my customers time and money,” Panfil said. He convinced U.S. Alloy Die to try Hy-Pro Carb carbide drills from OSG Tap & Die Inc., Glendale Heights, Ill., on the extrusion dies. The tools have a large negative radial rake angle, which provides a stronger cutting edge, coupled with large lip thickness and wide chip pockets, which stabilize cutting and improve chip evacuation.

After reviewing the “dos and don’ts” of using solid-carbide drills with Panfil, U.S. Alloy Die was ready to try the drills in production. In the 30-HRC H-13 material, the carbide drills ran at a spindle speed of 4,000 rpm, a cutting speed of 245 sfm and a feed of 0.007 ipr without spot drilling or pecking. Holemaking cycle time dropped to less than 3 seconds, and production increased from 20 to 48 pieces per hour.

“My jaw almost hit the floor when I saw that thing work,” Honacki said. “The new drill increased our productivity by 240 percent.”

That gain prompted U.S. Alloy Die to try the drills on the punch/coin portion of the valve tooling, which forms the actual head of the valve. Results were similar—holemaking time decreased from more than a minute to 6 seconds. “On top of that, tool life increased more than five times, from 200 to more than 1,100 pieces,” Honacki said. CTE

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