PCD Tooling for Aluminum Machining

Polycrystalline Diamond. PCD. That's what we're talking about today. Why? Because it's an important subject as we see things shifting in various industries. Let's take the transportation segment for instance. More and more vehicles with electrical engines are coming on the market, needing lightweight components made of aluminum. So, the share of aluminum parts is higher today than ever.  Aluminum is a soft material, requiring sharp cutting edges to avoid built up edge and gumming, especially when machining aluminum with low silicone content. On the flip side, aluminum with high silicone content wears on carbide quickly. Using PCD tools, high speeds and feeds enable highest productivity and long tool life in these types of materials.

Kennametal PCD Tools

Just to put things into perspective, in drilling and reaming operations, these tools consistently perform at cutting speeds of up to 900 meters per minute. In milling, PCD tools can be performed at an incredible 6,000 meters per minute higher than non-PCD tooling, always depending on the machine capabilities of course. All the tools we run today are part of our standard offering and our off-the-shelf tools. From this PCD face mill to these drills and reamers, and those PCD end mills here as well – all of them have extremely sharp cutting edges and low friction rake surfaces.  

PCD Tools in Action

Okay, let's show them in action. First operation is face milling with this 75 millimeter diameter milling cutter. We are taking two layers off, each time with a depth of cut of 5 millimeters. 

Next, we're drilling two rows of three holes each: three blind holes in the first row and three through holes in the second row. 

Now, we're reaming the right and the left hole in the first row with close to 9,000 rpm. 

In the next operation, we're side milling with more than 16,000 rpm and 0.15 millimeters per tooth feed rate. 

Now, we're lowering just the feed per tooth to 0.04 millimeters and take a full slot through the second row of holes. 

Helical interpolation of a 40-millimeter hole with a 20-degree ramp angle is next. Cutting speed is still above 16,000 rpm. 

Opening it up to 42 millimeters with a PCD reamer is next, before we create a pocket.  

Finally, we're repeating the helical interpolation and ending the sequence of operations with full slot from the outside into the block. 

Wow, that was fast. Total machining time of these 10 operations was a little under two minutes. 

Increased Productivity & High Quality Surface Finishes

Let's get it out of the machine and take a close look at the surfaces. Nice. That's a mirror-like surface right here. Also the two holes in the front of the block look and feel extremely smooth. There's a clear visual difference between these two holes and the hole in the middle. All right. Considering the cutting speed, the productivity gains with PCD tools versus non-PCD tools are huge. Also, the achievable surface quality is far superior to conventional carbide tooling. 

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