Lowering Your Grades – Avoiding an Excess of Carbide Inserts

Thumb through a typical tooling catalog or talk to a typical tooling salesman and you will probably come away with the same feeling-that you need more carbide inserts.

It is overwhelming how many different grades, shapes and styles of carbide inserts are available today. There seems to be an “ideal” insert for just about every job and material imaginable. One well-known toolmaker offers 54 different grades and 22 styles of chipbreakers.

What are all those inserts for? More importantly, how many different types of inserts do you really need? Probably fewer than you think and fewer than what makes sense economically.

It’s easy to understand how the average machine shop can overdose on carbide inserts. To illustrate this point, consider the case of a fictitious shop, which we’ll call XYZ Precision.

XYZ operates a small lathe department and machines a wide variety of workpieces made from a handful of different materials. The shop’s toolcrib contains CNMG inserts for rough turning, DNMGs for finishing and VPGRs for profiling. Each style is available with a variety of nose radii and assorted chipbreakers.

Additionally, XYZ stocks several widths of cutoff and grooving inserts, as well as threading tools for both internal and external work. And, like most shops, XYZ drills and bores holes. These applications require it to carry an assortment of inserts for indexable drills and boring bars.

Wait, there’s more. On the advice of its local tooling salesman, XYZ buys a different grade of carbide for each of the five materials it machines.

Given the materials it cuts and the many operations it performs, XYZ found that, in a fairly short time, it had acquired hundreds of different carbide inserts. This means that it has thousands of dollars invested in inserts and thousands more tied up in the necessary toolholders, boring bars, shims, screws, clamps and storage cabinets.

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