In principle, machining large parts involves the same cutting action and chip formation process as small or mid-size parts. However, large dimensions demand a specific approach to machining, and manufacturers need to plan technological processes and choose more effective cutting tools to produce heavy parts that take up a lot of space.

Transporting a part inside a shop-floor, mounting and clamping it in a machine tool, and machine set-up are major challenges. Workholding massive and large parts is no easy task, and often requires non-standard solutions. Machining large parts involves removing a lot of material that may cause significant deformations due to unrelieved stresses. Another factor, which leads to dimensional problems, is thermal expansion caused by heat generation during cutting: the large sizes make it much more sensitive compared with more standard-sized workpieces. The necessity to remove a significant material stock requires appropriate chip evacuation to prevent the chip re-cutting, which negatively affects the applied cutting tools.

The key for overcoming the difficulties lies in technology, based on effective process planning and utilising the most suitable machine tools, optimal workholding, and minimal part relocation. Single set-up machining represents an absolute ideal for machining a large part, and producers from fields such as power generation, aerospace , railway, die-and-mould making, and heavy industry make every effort to achieve this ideal. Cutting tools play a meaningful role in reaching the target.

A distinct feature of these industries is their substantial consumption of large heavy-duty tools, mostly indexable, intended for productive removal of large quantities of material, especially in rough and semi-rough machining operations.

Large-part manufacturers expect the same from cutting tools as any other producer using metal cutting technologies: excellent performance, good tool life, and high reliability. The latter two are especially essential because the large sizes lead to increased machining time, but replacing a worn tool in the middle of a pass and unpredictable breakage of the tool during cutting are totally unacceptable. To meet the requirements of large-part manufacturers, cutting tool producers provide various solutions, based on both standard and special designs. As a leading company in the cutting tool industry, Iscar’s years of accumulated knowhow and experience have proved advantageous in developing efficient solutions to these challenges.

Heavy-duty facing

It is hard to machine a large part without face milling operations. Rough and fine machining of free and bounded planes and preparing datum surfaces require various indexable face mills. Iscar’s standard face mills possess nominal diameters up to 315mm, while special tailor-made tools might feature higher values. The inserts are mounted in face-mills and vary in cutting geometry as they are intended for machining different groups of material. Significant removal of machining stock by milling is primarily an issue for the production of large parts from steel and cast iron, and slightly less from titanium and aluminium.

Iscar’s line of standard face mills includes many tool families for large-part manufacturing. HeliTang T465 features cutters with a 65° cutting edge angle and carrying tangentially clamped inserts. The robust design enables productive machining with a depth of cut up to 19mm. The HeliDo 890 family features 89° face mills with lay-down square double-sided inserts. These efficient mills are indispensable in milling a plane near the shoulder, and offer an important economic advantage: the square inserts provide eight indexable cutting edges for depth of cut up to 9mm.

Extended flute, extended effect

Indexable extended flute ‘long-edge’ cutters are considered winning tools for productive rough milling. In manufacturing large parts, they excel in machining deep shoulders and cavities. Extended flute cutters are also utilised in ‘edging’ – milling wide straight edges, a common operation for various processes, from machining slabs and ingots, to primary contouring.

Iscar’s line of indexable extended-flute cutters varies in design configuration, integrating a shank- and arbor-type mounting method, and a radial or tangential insert clamping principle. These tools work in hard cutting conditions amid significant mechanical and thermal loading. Intensive material removal requires the appropriate volume of a tool chip gullet to ensure effective chip evacuation. The situation can be dramatically improved by applying Iscar’s extended flute cutters carrying inserts with chip splitting geometry to divide a wide chip into small segments. As a result, cutting forces are reduced, vibrations are stabilised, and thermal problems are eased.

Although 90° tools are the most commonly used cutters, machining large parts also requires rough milling of inclined and 3D surfaces, for which Iscar provides a family of tapered extended flute cutters with 22.5°-75°cutting edge angles. In some cases, particularly die-and-mould making, combined rough and shoulder milling is needed. The DropMill 3 extended-flute ball-nose mills were designed specifically for such applications.

Producing large-size aerospace components from hard-to-machine titanium alloys is an extremely metal-intensive process with a significant buy-to-fly ratio. The eventual weight of a part may be only 10%, or even less, of the original weight of a workpiece. The XQuad extended flute cutter family, one of Iscar’s newest products, is intended for high-efficiency milling of deep cavities and wide edges in titanium parts. These tools are suitable for machining with high-pressure coolant supply, which significantly increases productivity and improves tool life. The tools have already proved themselves: for example, component producers have achieved a metal removal rate (MRR) of 700-1000 cubic centimetres per minute by using an 80mm diameter XQuad cutter.

In railway engineering, combine mills are used to ensure simultaneous machining on several areas of the part. These mills incorporate an extended cutting edge, formed by a set of successively mounted indexable inserts.

Productive fast runner

High-efficiency machining by indexable extended flute cutters and large-diameter face mills can be likened to the work of a heavy excavator digging sand with a big bucket. The full sand bucket, operated by a powerful engine, slowly moves a large volume of waste material. At the same time, there is an alternative method for efficient excavating. Imagine a more compact track trencher with a rapidly moving digging chain. Each link of the chain removes a small volume of sand but does it fast. In metal cutting, this trencher is a high-feed mill, which machines at shallow depths of cut but with a feed per tooth that is far higher than the usual rates – millimetres as opposed to tenths of millimetres.

Fast-feed mills are applied mainly to rough machining of plane faces, cavities and 3D surfaces. These tools are more typical in manufacturing large parts from steel and cast iron, though high-feed milling (HFM) titanium and high-temperature alloys is not uncommon today.

Iscar has a wide choice of fast-feed mill families, intended for cutting various materials in different applications. Iscar’s HFM cutters encompass tool families in diameter ranges of up to 160mm that can meet the most demanding customer’s requirements.

High-feed milling requires machine tools with high-speed feed drive. Large-part manufacturers often have heavy, powerful but slow machines that are not suitable for high-feed face milling. For these customers, Iscar developed moderate-feed (MF) cutters. Compared with fast-feed mills, MF cutters feature a higher cutting-edge angle; they move slower but machine at higher depths and need more power to make them suitable for applying to heavy machines.

Large parts are often made from difficult-to-cut materials such as hard and high wear-resistant steel or cast iron. The welded part structure and the process of repairing worn parts by spraying fillers or soldering, add materials that are not easy-to-machine either. High-speed milling (HSM) resolves these issues. Originally applied in die-and-mould making, HSM was developed as a productive method of milling hard steel that led to decreasing a part relocation, lessening set-up, minimising manual finish and polish, and, as a result, reducing cycle time. HSM features a small-in-diameter tool that rotates at high speed and mills material at shallow, light cuts.

The most suitable HSM tool is a solid carbide endmill and Iscar’s Multi-Master family of assembled endmills, which carry cemented carbide exchangeable heads, also represents a viable option. Iscar’s line of solid carbide endmills offers various multi-flute tools in diameters of up to 20mm, intended for HSM of materials with hardness up to HRC 70. Decreasing machining allowances due to the production of more accurate workpieces for large parts, for example by using precise casting or moulding, opens new opportunities for HSM.

Exchangeable heads change the dynamics

In many cases, manufacturing large parts is small-volume and even individual. In this context, minimising machine tool downtime has critical importance. Intelligent process planning to reduce set-up time can help solve this issue. Each time a worn cutter is replaced, additional measuring and CNC program corrections are required, which increases downtime.

Iscar’s families of rotating assembled tools with exchangeable heads – Multi-Master mills and SumoCham drills – enable substantial decreases in downtime. Face contact between a head and a tool body ensures that the head overhang is within strict tolerance limits, resulting in high dimensional repeatability of the assembly. Replacing a worn head does not require additional set-up operations or removal of the tool from a machine.

U-turn with turn milling

Turn milling, the method of cutting a rotating workpiece by a face milling cutter, is a good option for machining heavy rotary parts. In turning, cutting speed is a function of rotating velocity. If limitations of its working characteristics mean the main drive of a machine tool does not allow rotation of large masses with the required velocity, then the cutting speed is far from the optimal range and turning performance will be low. Turn milling offers an effective solution to the above difficulties. When turning large eccentric parts like crankshafts, off-centre masses of the parts cause unbalanced forces that adversely affect performance. Turn milling features low rotary velocity of a part, which prevents this negative effect.

The majority of Iscar’s indexable face milling cutters are suitable for turn milling. The success of their application depends on cutter positioning with respect to the machined part, choosing optimal geometry of inserts, and cutting data calculation. Iscar’s specialists in the field studied turn-milling kinematics and developed an appropriate methodology for defining these parameters.

Reliable performance

Machining large parts is a time-consuming process, during which the tools cut material for a long period, and this means tool reliability, stability, and predictable wear are high-priority issues. A sudden tool failure may seriously damage the part and even cause its rejection. A cutting tool manufacturer has a limited choice of instruments for improving reliability, including advanced tool design, progressive cutting material, and technological development. Effective utilisation of these instruments is the key to successful large-part machining, and Iscar’s recently introduced range of new tools and carbide grades provides that key.