Carbide end mills are extremely hard, durable, and long-lasting. That is (on the latter point) provided you don’t abuse them and know how to take care of them.
End mills, in operation, are subject to extremely torsional stresses and high temperatures. They’re hardworking tools, but all tools have limits. Cutting bits and end mills that experience excess stress can shatter, ending their useful lifespan in a fraction of a second and potentially damaging a project.
Observe these best practices to keep your carbide end mill set’s tools in fighting shape for longer.
1. Don’t use carbide end mills that are longer than required by the milling application.
Use carbide mills that are only as long as required for the job. The longer a carbide end mill is, the more likely it will be to deflect or bend. Stresses often multiply in proportion to the length of the tool, increasing the chances of breaking a mill mid-use.
2. Run your end mills at the proper speed.
Exceeding recommended operating speeds is a nearly sure-fire way to break the end mill. Even if the mill resists the stresses of higher speeds, it can create smaller-than-recommended chip sizes which will hamper chip evacuation, which can overheat the mill and cause premature wear of the cutting edges.
Running too low is also problematic, as this can cause deflection, which may break the bit. It can also result in a rougher finish or complicate chip evacuation, which causes the issues mentioned above.
3. Push end mills at the recommended feed rate.
Feed rates are also important and like speed can impact the efficacy and lifespan of a carbide end mill.
Pushing tools at faster than recommended feed rates can break the mill outright, but going too slow can overheat the mill and cause premature wear.
Also, pushing mills at a lower-than-recommended feed rate can also hinder shop efficiency.
4. Consider using a coolant.
There are a variety of coolants on the market, including but not limited to synthetic and semi-synthetic oil-based cutting fluids, water-based cutting fluids, and even compressed air.
When used properly and delivered in the appropriate format (for instance, as a mist or a high-pressure liquid), coolants can reduce friction, increase cutting efficiency, minimize wear, and extend tool life.
However, applying the wrong coolant or delivering it improperly can actually increase the risk of damaging tools, so be aware of that.
5. Use the right tool-holding technique.
Using the wrong tool-holding technique can increase the chances of runout, shattering, and other problems.
A strong, secure connection between the machine and end mill is essential not only to the quality of the finished product but also to minimizing stress on the tool shank. There are special tighteners on the market that promise a more secure fit and increased performance. Consider using one of these.
6. Listen to the manufacturer
High-performance carbide end mill manufacturers produce end mills that are precision-engineered for specific cutting applications, tool speeds, and specific media as well.
They prescribe recommendations for running parameters, at which they arrive through extensive testing. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and reach out to them directly if you have questions.
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