New growth in composite tooling

New growth in composite tooling
New growth in composite tooling

In a Q&A session, David Kerr, Group vice-president of Dimar Tooling talks about the company's development of cutting tools for composites in the aerospace industry.

In a Q&A session, David Kerr, Group vice-president of Dimar Tooling talks about the company's development of cutting tools for composites in the aerospace industry. Q: Can you give us an introduction into Dimar's involvement and history in the aerospace sector?

Dimar is one of the largest producers of cutting tools for industrial applications, mainly in the wood cutting sector. Our involvement in the aerospace sector started two years ago with the development of a new range of tools for cutting composite materials.

We manufacture cutting tools for most composite applications, including end mills, hogger tools, drilling and sawing tools. They include solid carbide and CVD coated versions to suit most industry requirements.

Q: What are the particular challenges when it comes to machining composite materials used in the aerospace sector?

The main issues when machining are from carbide degradation resulting in poor tool performance and reduced tool life. There are different factors to be considered when setting machines up for cutting and drilling applications, however, within the aerospace sector, fibre delamination is a major concern. Dimar has experienced engineers who will provide specific information to assist with machine set-up.

Q: What was the main reason for launching your range of composite cutting tools?

We were receiving more enquiries from customers looking for tools to cut composite materials. From there we developed an R&D plan in which we undertook due diligence into the dynamics of the market and created a range of tools that we believe add real value for the customer.

The aerospace sector is forecast to grow significantly over the next 10 years and with it the demand for industrial consumables. We are active within the industry and supplying tools to leading aerospace producers, with results that prove our added value claims. However, we are continually looking at improvements and working closely with customers to improve performance and reduce cost. The tooling cost within the industry can be substantial and we believe there will be pressure on producers to reduce cost, whilst still improving performance.

Q. Your composite cutting tool development has drawn on your experience of making cutting tools for woodworking. What are the crossovers between the two? Due to the abrasive nature of wood composite materials, it led us to understand the impact on carbide performance. From there we were able to develop proprietary grades of carbide that offered significantly longer tool life.

We believe we have an advantage over other tooling producers who have classically supplied into the sector. Many of the other producers are still using grades of carbide that offer low tooling life and subsequent higher cost.

Q. Is the development of one cutting tool for all materials ever possible or desirable?

It's unlikely there will only be one cutting tool due to the demands of different applications. There will be greater demand for material, machinery and consumable producers to work closer together to ensure technologies are developed together. There can on occasion be a disconnection between such producers and this can cause problems when it comes to cutting performance. It is crucial that application producers work closely with cutting tool producers.

Q. How does the interaction between yourself and your customers work when finding a tooling solution?

The challenge is to create some capacity within the manufacturing process to allow for testing. We have had success in the aerospace industry, particularly with our burr tools, where we have witnessed as much as four times greater tool life against an existing solution. Our experienced engineers typically develop close working relationships with customers, where we can fully understand the requirements and deliver optimum performance and reduce the overall cost of tooling.

Q. What future developments are Dimar pursuing in terms of new cutting tool development?

We see the importance of developing our grades of carbide for certain applications and also coatings for other tooling applications. Our goal is always to improve cutting tool performance, extend tool life and ultimately reduce the overall costs.

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