The promise of additive manufacturing will be found in products that are designed for additive manufacturing—that is, products that take full advantage of the geometric freedom that 3D printing can realize. A recent successful example of this relates to milling cutters. Komet’s “Revolution” line of milling tools includes tool bodies made through metal additive manufacturing to realize design features including a flute density higher than what is practical to achieve on coventionally manufactured tools. When it comes to cutting edges made of PCD (polycrystalline diamond), more flutes on the tool translates directly to faster feed rate. Thus, Komet is actually using additive manufacturing to make subtractive manufacturing more productive.
Company director of production Cullen Morrison sees making tool bodies through 3D printing as being the way of the future, at least for PCD. This cutting tool material often can take advantage of all the flutes it can get, he says. It is capable of such high material removal rates in the materials it typically cuts—aluminum and carbon fiber composite—that the number of flutes can be the limiting factor on feed rate and productivity. This is increasingly true as facilities using this tooling adopt modern machine tools with high acceleration rates. However, obtaining a high number flutes is problematic in cutter bodies made through machining, because the small pockets resulting form high flute density have to be milled out painstakingly using light cuts with small tools. Additive manufacturing offers a more efficient option.