News > Assembling the Jigsaw Puzzle of Special Cutting Tools
Assembling the Jigsaw Puzzle of Special Cutting Tools
Assembling the Jigsaw Puzzle of Special Cutting Tools

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Christa Kettlewell
Allied Machine and Engineering

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When opening a jigsaw puzzle box, one is faced with many choices. Is it best to separate the puzzle pieces by shape? By color? Should the outside edges be constructed first? What are the best techniques to create the image? Like the process of assembling a jigsaw puzzle, creating special tooling challenges Allied Machine’s application engineers to solve the puzzle of tool development where the tool works more efficiently and effectively than standard tooling in unique holemaking and hole finishing operations. Additionally, their online utility, Insta-Quote, allows customers to design, quote and order special tooling more quickly for simpler tooling requests. While specials can be an excellent solution and provide great return on investment, the process of understanding an end user’s needs for the tool is an in-depth one.

Solving any puzzle must begin with a basic plan. In order to optimize the current process, Allied Machine’s application engineers categorize the end users’ needs. Ultimately, these needs go beyond a standard item simply not getting the job done. One of the greatest circumstances where it is beneficial to invest in special tooling is saving time and money. For example, application engineers can develop specials for combining operations, so instead of having six tools complete an application, three tools now suffice. Similarly, end users may need to lower tooling costs. If they are using a large solid carbide drill that must be reground, the end user may want to invest in an indexable type custom tooling that would save costs. A final category where special tooling may be beneficial is in the assessment of the end users’ workshop, machine operators and machines. Knowing the capabilities of these will determine how worthwhile investing in custom tooling can be.

Once the circumstances of investing in specials are understood, the foundation of the puzzle begins to be solved. Constructing the edge pieces of the custom tooling puzzle starts with a detailed conversation with the end user. The application engineers must first understand the application itself before working on a solution. After this, a solution can be constructed based on a variety of factors. Knowing more about the material, for example, allows the geometry, substrates and coatings to be more tailored to the application. What is the material hardness? Are there any surface treatments? Specific grades? Machine capabilities are equally as important. End users must share the strength of their gearing, the torque and horsepower capabilities of the spindle as well as the specifics on the coolant being used.

Another key foundational piece is understanding the project at hand. If it is a new project for the end user, how quickly do the tools need to be pushed through production? Conversely, if it is an existing project, are there other issues that need resolved like cycle time, chip formation or number of tools? Knowing the end goal or what the end user is trying to accomplish is of the utmost importance. All in all, the more Allied Machine’s application engineers know about the reasons for and the needs of the application, the better they can tailor the design of the custom tooling.           

As these parameters are established, it is much easier to fill in the inside pieces of the puzzle—how tooling processes can be combined into one tool. One of Allied Machine and Engineering’s standard product lines, AccuPort, is often utilized for this. Three to four operations could be combined into one tool in instances where spot faces are smaller than the standard or the minimum thread length is longer than what the standard tool produces. The Superion burnishing drill is another one of Allied Machine’s products that is often used when combining functions to create custom tooling. The specific geometry of this drill allows better surface finish and hole size than what a standard high penetration drill might produce. Finally, adding a back chamfer and top chamfer to a hole can also be done when utilizing special tooling. Instead of drilling a hole and using different tools for the back and top chamfer, the company’s application engineers can combine that operation into one tool with the T-A back chamfering tool.

Still though, every puzzle comes with its challenges, making the completed picture much more difficult to come by. With custom tooling, end users are often hesitant to take the plunge based on the cost. Specifically, this is often looked at in terms of cost per hole. Yes, a special can be supplied that gets the job done quicker, but if it is only 20% faster and costs 30% more, is it worth it?  Ultimately, decreased cycle time, increased production and decreased tooling inventory make this investment worth it. Lead time is also rather important. Because manufacturers and machine shop owners must meet their customers’ deadlines, they may continue to use multiple tools for the application since these are the tools they know will complete the job. Support from Allied Machine’s application engineers or their field sales engineers is key to easing the concerns of the end user and putting the final pieces into the puzzle.

Clearly, strategy is important when completing a puzzle, and while Allied Machine and Engineering’s application engineers execute effective strategies for developing customized tooling, the company also offers other strategies in the form of their free online utility, Insta-Quote. Here, end users are guided through the simple process of tool design and receive a printed quote with a PDF drawing of their special tooling solution. Upon approval, the order is processed and delivered by a local Allied Machine distributor and is given a unique item number for revisions to the tool and future ordering. While more complex requests are fulfilled by application engineers, this utility is ideal for end users who need a tool body that is longer, deeper or shorter to miss a fixture or who need special forms or a special geometry for difficult-to-machine materials.

Whether it is developing custom tooling for long boring applications into the hull of a submarine or creating a custom tool that overcomes the limited working envelope in a steam turbine, Allied Machine has the answer to solve the puzzle. While special tooling may seem as intimidating as a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, Allied Machine’s holemaking and hole finish experts and efficient utility, Insta-Quote, make putting the pieces together that much easier.

Contact technical support and our application engineers for more details.