WFL overcomes the challenges of titanium machining

August 11, 2023 - 07:30am
Thanks to WFL's own spindle development, the cooling lubricant can be directly fed to the cutting edge through the milling spindle at a pressure measuring up to 200 bar. This ensures rapid, continuous removal of swarf.

The aviation industry represents an important market segment for WFL Millturn Technologies GmbH & Co. KG. This industrial sector increasingly requires ever more materials that are deemed to be difficult to machine. Titanium machining in particular is a field in which WFL shines with its wealth of expertise.

Material with particular properties
Titanium has always placed particular demands on tools and machines during the cutting process.

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Top: Thanks to WFL's spindle development, the cooling lubricant can be directly fed to the cutting edge through the milling spindle. Above: As well as the Millturn complete machining centers, WFL provides software solutions in the form of tailored machining strategies, process design, and programming.

In recent years, titanium 3.7165 has become prevalent among lightweight materials as a material with outstanding properties, especially in the aviation and space industries and also in the medical sector. It is one of the most frequently used titanium alloys, containing 6% aluminum and 4% vanadium.

This alloy, normally referred to as Ti6Al4V, exhibits a very good combination of strength, corrosion resistance, and capacity to withstand stresses. Although this material does have good empirical values and cutting data, processing it remains one of the supreme disciplines in machining.

The titan of all metals
New titanium alloys are constantly being developed for special applications and these are often based on specific customer requirements. Several WFL customers require Titanium 5553 (Ti5Al5V5Mo3Cr) for the production of landing gear in the aviation industry.

This material stands out due to improved properties of strength and toughness. It is also less sensitive to structural changes during heating. This material is indeed one of the real Titans in the field of machining and takes its name from Greek mythology.

Ti5553 is at present one of the hardest materials on the market to machine. A cutting speed of 45 m/min should not be exceeded when it is being processed as shear stresses of up to 2,780 N/mm² can develop at cutting speeds as low as 60 m/min.

Challenges in titanium machining

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Titanium 5553 (Ti5Al5V5Mo3Cr) is required for the production of landing gear in the aviation industry. It has improved properties about strength, toughness, and increased heat resistance. However, it is currently one of the most difficult-to-process materials.

Problems like point heat due to poor heat conduction and associated chemical changes in the material (embrittlement at higher temperatures) and the formation of built-up edges occur to a greater extent with this material than with other titanium alloys.

Therefore it is important that cutting speed, feed rate, and penetration depth are matched to one another accurately when working with Ti 5553. The use of suitable cooling lubricants is just as important as the correct cooling strategy. A quick and continuous removal of the swarf must be guaranteed; the heat dissipation occurs to a much greater extent via the tool.

Removal of the forging skin, referred to as "elephant skin" by experts, is an additional challenge with this material. The upstream forging process and the resultant thermal and metallurgical influences give this skin a very high level of surface hardness.

The low modulus of elasticity means that titanium tends to evade the pressure of the tool and fuse with the cutting edge. The machining should therefore, as already mentioned, occur at a low cutting speed but with a relatively high and even feed rate. Vibration-free, clamped, sharp tools must be ensured in any case. High-speed steels with a high cobalt content, carbide, or Stellite are used as cutting materials.

Experience is the decisive factor
All this shows that titanium calls for a lot of experience in the selection and use of the tools as well as the machining strategies.

The ability to cater to critical aspects of machining during manufacture must be demonstrated as early as the design phase. For example, it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that different material thicknesses in the blank workpiece require modified machining strategies. Heat affected zones must also be taken into consideration together with the cutting forces which occur.

Materials that are hard to cut like titanium have influenced the development of the WFL machines. WFL provides individual solutions for exactly these kinds of demanding applications. These also cover aspects such as cooling and production strategy as well as the actual machine.

"To be able to offer WFL customers reliable solutions, WFL has developed components which make it possible for us to match the design of the machine precisely to the relevant application case," said Reinhard Koll, Head of Application Engineering at WFL.

Related Glossary Terms

  • alloys


    Substances having metallic properties and being composed of two or more chemical elements of which at least one is a metal.

  • corrosion resistance

    corrosion resistance

    Ability of an alloy or material to withstand rust and corrosion. These are properties fostered by nickel and chromium in alloys such as stainless steel.

  • cutting speed

    cutting speed

    Tangential velocity on the surface of the tool or workpiece at the cutting interface. The formula for cutting speed (sfm) is tool diameter 5 0.26 5 spindle speed (rpm). The formula for feed per tooth (fpt) is table feed (ipm)/number of flutes/spindle speed (rpm). The formula for spindle speed (rpm) is cutting speed (sfm) 5 3.82/tool diameter. The formula for table feed (ipm) is feed per tooth (ftp) 5 number of tool flutes 5 spindle speed (rpm).

  • feed


    Rate of change of position of the tool as a whole, relative to the workpiece while cutting.

  • hardness


    Hardness is a measure of the resistance of a material to surface indentation or abrasion. There is no absolute scale for hardness. In order to express hardness quantitatively, each type of test has its own scale, which defines hardness. Indentation hardness obtained through static methods is measured by Brinell, Rockwell, Vickers and Knoop tests. Hardness without indentation is measured by a dynamic method, known as the Scleroscope test.

  • high-speed steels ( HSS)

    high-speed steels ( HSS)

    Available in two major types: tungsten high-speed steels (designated by letter T having tungsten as the principal alloying element) and molybdenum high-speed steels (designated by letter M having molybdenum as the principal alloying element). The type T high-speed steels containing cobalt have higher wear resistance and greater red (hot) hardness, withstanding cutting temperature up to 1,100º F (590º C). The type T steels are used to fabricate metalcutting tools (milling cutters, drills, reamers and taps), woodworking tools, various types of punches and dies, ball and roller bearings. The type M steels are used for cutting tools and various types of dies.

  • modulus of elasticity

    modulus of elasticity

    Measure of rigidity or stiffness of a metal, defined as a ratio of stress, below the proportional limit, to the corresponding strain. Also known as Young’s modulus.

  • swarf


    Metal fines and grinding wheel particles generated during grinding.


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