Friday | 29 April, 2011 | 8:41 am

Rock and roll

By Lauren Duensing

April 2011 - Tough materials require tough tools. As the demand for super alloys has grown in the aerospace, energy and forging industries, companies need a precise way to cut and machine these materials - all while creating very little waste.

Houston Precision Process LLC specializes in the precision cutting and machining of super alloy stainless material, which Howard Lane, vice president of HPP, saw as an essential component to the marketplace.

"I retired from a large forging company young and eventually wanted to get back to work," says Lane. "I saw a need for a band saw shop that could cut nickel-based metals because of the cost savings from using a narrower-kerf blade. There is close to 5 pounds difference in kerf in an 8-inch round piece of Inconel from abrasive cutting to band saw cutting. I gave it a try and the results were well received."

Efficient cuts
Because HPP specializes in alloys that are difficult to cut, the company always is "looking for ways to improve cutting efficiency and precision," Lane says.

One way companies can process super alloys is abrasive wheel cutting and grinding; however, this method can cause work-hardening of the material. These types of metals are poor conductors of heat, and the accumulated high temperatures often interfere with the cutting process or damage the piece. This can be extremely expensive because the cost for raw materials and alloying components is high. Abrasive wheel cutting also can produce heat-affected zones, increased kerf and heavy machine maintenance and downtime.

However, Simonds International, Fitchburg, Mass., a manufacturer of cutting tools and products for the industrial marketplace, can provide a technology that makes it possible to use band saw cutting on aerospace alloys efficiently. SineWave uses a rocking motion to force each tooth of the band saw blade to penetrate the workpiece and generate a self-feeding action that delivers faster cut times.

"Before SineWave, processors of aerospace alloys were forced to use abrasive wheels to cut their bars of material because traditional band saws were incapable of cutting them effectively," says David Miles, vice president of sales and marketing, Simonds International.

"The original version of SineWave was developed and patented many years ago and called SiNamic," says Dale Petts, global product manager, metal products, Simonds International. "The SineWave had been built with that patent serving as the foundation. The original version was the answer to cutting stainless and tool steel grades that tend to be difficult to cut with standard or carbide-tipped band saw blades. These materials, when machined, are prone to a condition called work-hardening when cut."

Petts says band sawing easily causes work-hardening because the continuous contact of the saw’s teeth sometimes does not penetrate the material properly. As a result, he notes, "the work-hardened surface becomes even more difficult to penetrate, thus causing the blades to wear out even more rapidly."

SineWave’s ramping motion works to offset this condition "by creating a change of the cutting plane by altering the back edge of the blade as it rests against the fixed plane of the upper machine guides," he says. "This creates a smaller contact area for the teeth on the opposite side of the blade, allowing them to penetrate with less pressure."

Custom engineering
SineWave has advantages on materials beyond aerospace alloys. It can be used on blades cutting high chrome, tool, die, stainless and nickel-based steels, along with titanium and other exotic metals, and it can be used on almost all band saw machines. It can be supplied on all M42 bi-metal and carbide-tipped band saw blades from 1 inch to 31/8 inch and used with light, moderate or aggressive cutting action.

"SineWave technology was born by taking the SiNamic idea to an entirely new level that is custom engineered for every user and specifically to each of their machines," Petts says. "This computer-calculated refinement optimizes the contact area, the number of teeth engaged and the penetrating force available for the teeth to pierce the material surface. In fact, the penetration force required by the machine with the new SineWave technology is in most cases actually lower than with conventional blades while still cutting faster."

Petts points out there are numerous customer benefits, depending on the application and the need. For instance, it allows band saw blades to cut materials they were formerly unable to cut and reduces downstream finishing operations with the improved surface finish, elimination of a heat-affected zone and improved cut accuracy.

In addition, for "customers using carbide-tipped blades as the answer to cut faster or fend off heat-induced failure, using SineWave technology on bi-metal blades can actually be less expensive per blade than carbide-tipped products, yet still able to obtain cut times that are as fast or faster than when using carbide.

"Typically, we find that the more difficult the application, the more radical the benefit associated with the SineWave technology," Petts says. "Free-machining materials benefit relatively little because they are easy to cut. Although SineWave technology may not be the answer for every cutting application, being able to cut faster with less pressure while also experiencing longer blade life with a smoother surface finish are a compelling combination of benefits given conventional thinking on tooling of this type."

Increase blade life, save money
Instead of adding shift work, overtime or additional capacity to meet demand and reduce costs, companies can use SineWave to improve their performance by increasing productivity.

"I learned about SineWave from Roland Hayes with Industrial Diamond Products, who is our local Simonds distributor," Lane says. "I had worked with Roland for 30 years during my time at the forging company. After he told me of the success Simonds had been having cutting Inconel with SineWave, I decided to give it a try.

"When I tried the SineWave technology, I was sold," he continues. "We got much better blade life with the SineWave and achieved more productivity. In some cases, it doubled the life of the blade."

According to Simonds, in a series of competitive trial runs, using the company’s carbide-tipped triple chip blade with SineWave technology delivered a 5:1 cut ratio. With continued testing, SineWave achieved more than 100 cuts per blade on HPP’s toughest materials.

"We experienced an immediate improvement in efficiency, ease of recycling, improved cuts, reduction in down time and material use," says Lane. According to HPP’s cost savings analysis, SineWave saves nearly $1 million for every 40,000 pieces cut. "With Simonds’ products, training and support, we have effectively doubled our square inches cut per blade," Lane says." MM

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