Page 39 - 2021 CNC West April-May
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Combatting these challenges can be done a few ways— one of those being understanding machine conditions. While machine type does play a small factor, machine condition is more detrimental. Machinists must ask themselves, is the spindle rigid? Is the alignment reasonable or near zero run- out on a lathe? Knowing these factors can greatly benefit or cause significant issues when trying to machine stainless steel. Additionally, running through the tool coolant provides significant tool life advantages over flood coolant. Ultimate- ly, due to its alloying elements, more torque and horsepower is required to drill stainless than typical steel or aluminum materials.
These challenges in stainless applications can also be re- solved by working with a more aggressive geometry to at- tempt to get the chip to form. In austenitic stainless like 316, it is best to use a geometry with a higher rake angle to pro- duce a more manageable chip; however, when working with a harder material such as PH stainless, this method is not ef- fective. In this instance, increasing the rake angle causes the cutting edge to weaken—in turn reducing tool life.
Nevertheless, the benefits of stainless are so numerous that it is beneficial to overcome these challenges when pos- sible. Corrosion resistance is one of the key benefits of stain- less steel. Because a number of grades of stainless are highly corrosion resistant, it is the material of choice in applications where weather or corrosive materials will be in direct con-
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tact. For example in the energy industry, electrical wiring that is run through the ocean for offshore wind farms is made out of stainless steel or a high temp alloy material because of its corrosion resistance, which does not allow salt water to nega- tively impact it as it does other materials.
The food industry is another industry where stainless steel is often used. Stainless steel’s chromium composition, which must be a minimum of 10%, is highly reactive to oxy- gen environments. This forms a strong, unreactive barrier on the surface of stainless steel, making it the material of choice for the food industry. Finally, the naturally high strength of stainless steel as well as its resistance to corrosion and weath- er make it a vital material for the aerospace industry in terms of precision parts, fittings, and other components.
All in all, stainless steel is not a material that can be brought into a machine shop to machine straightaway; every aspect must be reviewed prior to machining stainless steel. Not only do machinists need to firmly understand the differ- ent grades of stainless and their properties, but they also need to examine machine capabilities. Yes, tool ear and excellent chip formation are challenges that one will face when drilling stainless. Fortunately, these can be managed through proper coolant usage and correct choice of insert geometries, coat- ings and substrates.
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