CNC tooling manufacturers plan for a boom

john_englishWith housing starts strengthening, manufacturers of CNC tooling are planning for a period of sustained growth in the woodworking world. So far, the major emphasis seems to be at the lighter end of the tooling scale and often on sets of cutters.

For example, in June, Amana Tool released two new CNC tooling product lines. The first is their collection of polycrystaline diamond (PCD) router bits that were specially designed for particleboard, MDF, veneer, hardwood, plywood and melamine. The bits are ideal for cutting, jointing and rabbeting in these materials. According to the company, the “high-grade PCD helps ensure the cutting edge lasts up to 100 times longer than standard carbide, making the bits an economical choice for industrial projects.” What’s especially appealing about PCD is that it can be sharpened without sacrificing profile dimensions. And the new bits feature up-down shear action for cutting double-sided material, as well as a solid carbide plunge point. They start at about $140 for the smallest cutter, DRB-200, which is a 1/2” straight bit with 1” depth of cut and 1-3/8” shaft. Also available in 1/2” are a 1” depth by 1-3/4” long shaft and a 1-3/8” depth by 1-3/4” shaft. The line includes 5/8” diameter bits, too, in both 1” and 1-5/8” depths, and two 3/4” diameter cutters in 1” and 1-3/8” depths.

cuttingedge1The other Amana innovation this summer is AMS-130, an eight-piece carbide sign-making router bit set. Specially designed for creating decorative work, the cutters work in wood, plastic, acrylic, aluminum, composites and solid-surface materials.

“Amana created this premier router bit set to enable sign-makers to quickly and easily build a basic collection of popular CNC sign-making router bit profiles,” Amana Tool technical director Frank Misiti says. “The set comes in a reusable hardwood storage case with a clear lid. Users can add on to the initial set with any of the In-Groove line’s 30 available knife profiles, such as V-shaped tips that can also be used to engrave aluminum, brass and copper. The kit comes with a tool body and a 30-degree knife; a solid carbide upcut spiral-ball nose (designed to eliminate tool marks in plastic and solid surface materials); and plastic and aluminum “O” flutes (designed for use in acrylic materials such as Plexiglas, lucite, nylon, ABS, PE, acetal, PET, HDPE, UHMW, polycarbonates and polypropylene, plus wood and solid surface materials). The aluminum-cutting “O” flutes provide superior cutting results in aluminum, brass, copper and other non-ferrous metals. Both the plastic cutting and aluminum router bits are specially designed with a right-hand Helix to eject chips upward, helping to eliminate chip weld in plastic materials.

“Also in the kit are a carbide-tipped V-groove bit that can be used with an edge guide to chamfer and bevel edges and a carving/engraving bit that’s ideal for fine-line engraving in wood and composite materials. And there’s an insert V-groove tool that uses a high-grade carbide knife that lets a shop rotate the insert for a brand-new cutting edge when the first side shows wear.”

The eight-piece sells for about $250. For information, visit www.amanatool.com.

Multiple component cutters

Last fall, Techno Inc., based in New Hyde Park, N.Y., introduced a new nested-based tooling kit that is perfect for cabinetry applications. These multiple component cutters are designed to create the interlocking shapes needed for cabinet and drawer making, or to surface spoilboards for faster table planing and also to rout through layered materials for larger surface removal. The kit has a 2-1/2” surface cutter with replaceable inserts, a couple of 3/8” compression bits, two 1/4” downcut spirals, a 1/4” compression bit and 5mm boring bits. It’s designed for use in soft and hard plastics, solid hardwood, composites, MDF and laminates.

cuttingedge2“One of our main selling points with this nested-based tooling kit,” sales manager Ray Jakes says, “is that you only have to purchase one kit to meet your cutting needs. Our kit provides a complete compilation of cutters that can help make any shop more productive.” For information, call 800-819-3366 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

After many years of selling product directly from Germany, T-Tool USA was established in August 2008 and operates out of a warehouse and office facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It is a distributor for all products manufactured in Germany by T-Tool Precision GmbH, and Zollmann GmbH. T-Tool’s latest innovation is the SuperSpeed collet chuck. With extended lengths available (in models HSK-63F and HSK-63E) the new chuck offers flexibility for 3-4-5 axes CNC machining of aluminum, composites, plastic and, of course, wood. For information, visit www.t-toolusa.com.

Chuck Hicks of Southeast Tool in Conover, N.C., just added new carbide-tipped flat bottom cutters. The three-wing cutters answer the annoying problem of having a nut below the body of the tool by recessing a hex head locking screw into the body so it’s flush. The flat bottom tools are available in 1/4” and 1/2” diameter shanks with longer length arbors if needed. For information, visit www.southeasttool.com.

Listening to its customers

LMT Onsrud LP operates out of a 64,000-sq.-ft. facility in Waukegan, Ill. The company began producing router bits in 1946 and has recently introduced four new upcut ballnose bits in 3-, 6-, 10- and 12mm widths. Prices range from about $35 to $95. Onsrud also has a new 1/4” solid carbide two-flute downcut bit that features its Marathon coating ($42), a new 1.720” Hogger (item 32-200, which retails for about $450) and a 1/8” solid carbide two-flute upcut with a coating that’s designed for glass-reinforced plastics ($69). While woodshops serving the boatbuilding industry might find that cutter useful, traditional cabinet shops should be pleased to hear that the company has also released a 3/8” solid carbide two-flute compression tool with the Marathon coating – one that is designed specially for double-sided laminated and/or veneered wood composites.

cuttingedge3Last year, Onsrud introduced balanced single-flute spiral-cutting tools to run at extremely high speeds, because shops using CNC routers for sign-making have turned so much to high-speed spindles. The advantage, of course, is an increase in feed rates. Traditionally, multiple flute tools have been naturally balanced by design. But single flute spiral tools are naturally unbalanced because of the location and amount of carbide that is removed during the grinding process.

“The market is demanding a balanced single-flute spiral cutting tool,” marketing manager Jennifer Neubauer says. “We listened to our customers and now are offering balanced tools up to 60,000 rpm.”

If you’re not in the market for new cutters right now and just need a source for repairing existing tools, General Cutting Tools in Chicago (www.cuttingtoolschicago.com) might be the answer. Founded in 1978, it has been supporting CNC operators for more than 30 years. The founder was born and raised in Gdansk, Poland, and his education was deeply influenced by both German and Polish tool and machine makers. He was taught traditional, high-precision, high-quality methods of tool design and manufacture and, when he moved to Chicago in the 1970s, his desire was to marry the quality and craftsmanship of European cutting tools with American know-how. The concept was to supply affordable, yet world-class, tooling. Unlike most tooling distributors, the company still has a fully staffed and equipped tool shop, so late last year they issued a press release that said:

“Broken or damaged tooling repair is far, far less expensive than purchasing new. Send us your broken or damaged tools and we can save you up to 85 percent over purchasing a new tool holder.” The company repairs boring bars, end mills, drills, cutters, ball nose and helical end mills, cartridges, face and slab mills, Mueller reamers, counterbores, spade drills, V-flange tooling, double feed indexable porting tools, lathe and groove tools, and step drills.

cuttingedge4Across the pond

Sometimes it pays to look at what our neighbors are doing, too. Cutter Shop Ltd., based in Hampshire, England, can be found online at www.cutter-shop.com. The site features spoilboard cutters, made by the Vortex Tool Co., used for surfacing MDF, particleboard and balsa core. The straight-face design provides a fast and clean cut. The body has been designed so the insert remains in place and doesn’t pivot on the cutter. These tools are available in two- or three-wing geometries and 1/2” or 3/4” shank diameters. The company also offers Vortex spoilboard cutters with a newly developed integrated tool design. This series is a solid one-piece unit with a taper built into the tool, a design that is intended to reduce wear and tear on the machine spindle. This version, the 8000 series, has either a 3” or 4” diameter cutter and both come with 3/4” shanks and three wings.

Let’s hope the manufacturers are right and that this projected housing boom extends well into the future. Tooling is expensive and it would be nice to have our cutters wear out from use long before the cost of the machine is fully depreciated.

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue.

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