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Ons Size Fits All

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Fifteen years ago I wrote an article for CTE called “Lowering your grades.” It argued that shops could save money by reducing insert inventory. The premise was that the productivity gains realized through use of the “perfect” insert for any given material would be eaten up by the setup time needed to change that insert and make the necessary feed and speed adjustments, program tweaks, tool registration and test cuts.

That argument still carries weight with some metalworking professionals. Shops that turn a range of materials can find themselves adrift in a sea of cutting tool choices. Many struggle with bloated tooling inventories, insert obsolescence and cutting tools that get used for a single job, then spend eternity collecting dust in a forgotten corner of the toolcrib.

The good news is that insert costs haven’t changed much since then. Due to improved manufacturing techniques, an 80° diamond that sold for $10 in the Reagan era is just a few dollars more today. And because cutting tools have improved, that insert will run longer than its predecessor from the 1980s, making it more likely you’ll hang on to it once that 10-piece Inconel job is done.

My previous article used the example of a popular toolmaker with 54 grades of carbide. Today, that company offers twice as many grades and an even larger variety of shapes, edge preparations, nose radii, chipbreakers and through-coolant options. Of course, choice is a wonderful thing, but some might say: “Stop the madness.”

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