Equipment and ToolingMachining

Why so cross? Cross-hole drilling can test a machinist’s mettle

Drilling cross-holes in some parts is no big deal. These are often simple parts, such as aluminum valve bodies, where the holes aren’t too deep and meet on-center, and the customer can live with a small burr at the intersection.

On the other end of the spectrum are P-2 tool steel injection molds for complex medical devices, with more holes than a block of Swiss cheese and tolerances that make even veteran machinists weep.

Even simple cross-hole drilling presents challenges, including high tool wear, poor chip evacuation, difficult-to-remove burrs and tool deflection that can snap the toughest of drills. But there are ways to turn the bane of holemaking into a more bearable task.

According to Dan Habben, applications engineer at Sumitomo Electric Carbide Inc., Mt. Prospect, Ill., cross-holes are always a problem child. “Probably the best tip I can give is this: don’t do it!” laughed Habben, who works with automotive suppliers and sees cross-holes in everything from transmission housings to hydraulic valves for diesel engines. “Our customers cut a lot of die-cast aluminum and gray cast iron, and one of the main problems we see, especially with aluminum, is burrs. In hydraulic systems, it’s important to get a clean hole. Any chips or hanging chads left in the workpiece might pass into the hydraulics, damaging a valve or pump.”

One possible cure is effective edge preparation on the drill, together with appropriate feed and speed modifications. “We usually recommend a corner clip in this case,” Habben said, “meaning a 45° chamfer on the outer margin of the drill, together with a small edge prep, say, a light T-land or a hone of around 0.003 ” to 0.004 ” on the cutting edge. And it’s especially important to use a sharp tool.”

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