Monocrystalline diamonds make the coating question “moot.”
Was asked a question “Why all the fuss about tool coatings? The base material and the tool geometry  do the work.”

Coatings can make the impossible possible.

We agree that the tool material and geometry are important determinants of success in production machining. See our original post here.  But tool coatings can play a critical role in assuring successful machining by

  • Significantly increasing tool life by minimizing wear;
  • Control built up edge (BUE);
  • Contol heat build up;
  • Increase the edge hardness.

To me, and I hope to you, ‘successful machining’ means  “more parts produced per day at lower cost per part.” Coatings help achieve this by increasing tool life (reducing tool cost component per part); by keeping machines running longer between changes (more parts per shift because more uptime per shift); and reducing variability of parts produced (BUE  and thermal variation requiring machine adjustments).
Advancing the idea from Diamond Coatings  (polycrystalline) to a Monocrsytalline Tool Insert, the folks at Paul Horn and  H10 worldwide  make the coating material into  the tool material- to make the impossible possible. The photo above shows an aluminum workpiece machined to a maximum surface deviation of Ra 0.010 μm; Rz 0.014 μm. It is an optical component machined from a single piece of aluminum, that I photographed at Paul Horn Technology Days last month.
Or how about this plastic workpiece- absolutely no tool marks or ‘frosting’:

Monocrystalline Diamond Coating Makes a Difference!

Polycrystalline diamond coatings are widely available. This monocrystalline diamond tooling was first shown to us by Horn USA at our 2010 National Technical Conference.  While diamonds are a non-starter for ferrous workpieces, they can be your key for  ‘brilliant machining’ on other workpiece materials such as aluminum, copper,  brass and bronze, nickel, precious metals, and  plastics like PVC, polycarbonate, acrylic.
But I guess it isn’t quite correct to call it a coating.

Mirror, Mirror from the cutoff...

Bloomberg News reports that the US Securities and Exchange Commission will let corporate whistleblowers collect as much as 30% of penalties when they report financial wrongdoing, even when they bypass companies’ internal complaint systems.

"Report to my company compliance folks? Yeah right..."

 Nightmare for management!
The SEC rejected requirements that whistleblowers make reports through companies’ internal compliance programs before going to the agency.
So much for fiduciary duty to one’s employer.
So much for all those internal systems mandated by Sarbanes-OxleyAct.
If you had a clue that something was amiss, would you report it to your company’s system, and perhaps make yourself vulnerable to become a target of vindictive or retaliatory management?
Or would you take your tip to the Lottery/Jackpot -uhh-SEC for a possible  windfall payout of 30% of penalty monies?
(Insert Final Jeopardy theme music here)
Managements will find themselves becalmed  and clueless as internal reporting systems are ignored by employees  in anticipation of  Lottery/ Jackpot, share of payout of  penalty dollars assessed by going straight to the SEC.
Welcome to the Orwellian world of “rewarding individuals who provide the agency with high quality tips that lead to successful enforcement actions.”
And say “Goodbye”  to any hope of creating any sort of functioning internal compliance  /reporting  culture.
Sorry management. There’s no way you can compete with a jackpot lottery reward for whistleblowing.
Note to congress- Now might be a good time to tidy up that Sarbanes Oxley Act now that the SEC has established the 2011 Whistleblower Lottery.

Guest Post- James Pryor II, ASH,Inc. Safety Consultants
One of the most frequently cited OSHA violations in precision machining is 29CFR1910.305 Wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use.
The citations do not center around the factory assembled equipment-they predominatly cover  how we install itin our shops the installation.
It is the installation where most problems arise.

Probably not the best install: look at electrical box and wiring...

Here are 6 points of installation concern:

  • Temporary Wiring
  • Temporary electrical power
  • Temporary electrical installations
  • Cable Trays
  • Cabinets, boxes, and fittings
  • Flexible cords and cables

The equipment installation is where most problems arise. Metal raceways, cable trays, cable armor, cable sheath, enclosures, frames, fittings, and other metal noncurrent-carrying parts that are to serve as grounding conductors are a few of the areas covered in this standard.

In most shops there are three magic bullets that can make a job go better:

  • Tool Coatings
  • Tool Geometry
  • Tool Substrate (material)
    Are you guilty of magical thinking?

Magic bullet number 1- Coatings
Tool coatings are important technologies that help us get longer tool life, thus longer operating uptime and therefore more billable production (dollars) per day in our shops. But, just as cold medicine is not the cure for heart attacks, tool coatings are not always the solution for an underperforming job. On a job with interrupted cuts, the tool material- its strength and grain structure are often far more important than coating on the tool. But if the last problem that the shop had was cured with a new “super coating” you can bet that  that new coating will be first to be suggested on this newest problem at hand.
Magic Bullet Number 2- Geometry
Geometry is a critical component of every machining operation. Geometry is the determinant of power required, as well as strength of the tool edge and the setup. Geometry has an important role on surface finish, and in confined spaces (deep holes, parting off, grooving, etc.) the ability to control the chip with geometry alone is an important means of assuring success. While rake angles tend to be fairly typical for certain work-piece materials, there are situations where a change in geometry can solve the problem of chip clogging, rough finish, or poor tool life. Once a shop has “learned” that changing geometry can make a problem go away in a material, they tend to over generalize that lesson. While it is likely that the geometry change was effective because of the particulars of the operation, not just because of the work-piece material, changing angles jumps to the head of the line the next time a shop runs into difficulties, especially if it is the same material. Geometry and chip control is a crucial aspect of machining success, particularly in deep holes, grooves, bores and cutoffs, but it is not the only one.
Magic Bullet Number 3- Substrate and Material issues
What the tool (or work-piece) is made of is another area that can mean success or failure to a difficult job. The advent of micrograin carbides was an event celebrated by machine shop owners everywhere, and developments in this area continue to improve our bottom lines. The same too, for work piece materials. Once a shop finds out that supplier “A’s” material machines fine on a job, they immediately prefer it, often times without identifying which aspects of the provision of the material are aiding their production. Some suppliers have multiple process paths to make some items, and service centers often shop the world for price or delivery, bringing the full range of global variability to bear on your job. Consistency in supply is important, but it goes well beyond the name on the tag, to parameters of the processing and sourcing of the material itself.
It’s not a single magic bullet. For each workpiece material, feature to be produced, machine tool, there is an optimum combination of tool substrate, geometry, and coating to produce the part to print with a minimum of downtime and management hassle. Looking for a magical single solution is generally the wrong approach.

Fischer Special Tooling President Kevin Johnson and PMPA  Executive Director Mike Dufffin are prominently featured in a report on the recovery of manufacturing in Ohio by WCPN reporter Mhari Saito which aired this morning.
Here is a link to the radio broadcast and transcript.
Link to Fischer Special Tooling.
PMPA Business Trends Reports.


To help you ensure safe and healthful working conditions in your establishment.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has identified and sent letters (OSHA LETTER) to approximately 14,600 workplaces with the highest occupational injury and illness rates and is urging the employers to take action to remove hazards causing the high rates.
The employers are those whose establishments are covered by Federal OSHA and reported the highest “Days Away from work, Restricted work or job Transfer injury and illness” (DART) rate to OSHA in a survey of 2009 injury and illness data. For every 100 full-time workers, the 14,600 employers had 2.5 or more injuries or illnesses which resulted in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer. The national average is 1.8.
The letter encourages employers to consider hiring an outside safety and health consultant, talking with their insurance carrier, or contacting the workers’ compensation agency in their state for advice. An excellent way for employers with 250 or fewer workers to address safety and health is to ask for assistance from OSHA’s on-site consultation program. The consultation program is administered by state agencies and operated separately from OSHA’s inspection program. The service is free, and there are no fines even if problems are found. The letter tells the employer where the OSHA consultation program in that state may be contacted. The data collected were designed to provide establishment specific injury and illness information.
Sound Familiar? That’s because they did the same thing last year.
OSHA Link (on this page is a link to a .zip file with who was sent the letter this year.)

Got a press release from Federal EPA a few days ago. It seems they were proud of their “consulting.”
Imagine that, I thought.
Imagine if the EPA consulted with Manufacturers and the regulated community.

Imagine consulting and working together.

Strikeouts and  substitutions mine.
“EPA Releases Final Policy for Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes  Manufacturers
“WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final policy on consultation and coordination with Indian tribes Manufacturers.  EPA is among the first of the federal agencies to finalize its consultation policy in response to President Obama’s first tribal leaders summit in November 2009, and the issuance of executive order 13175 to establish regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal Manufacturers officials in the development of federal policies that have tribal Manufacturers implications.  
“EPA is dedicated to strengthening our collaboration with tribes  Manufacturers and ensuring that they have a voice and a seat at the table on the issues that touch their health and their economy,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “President Obama has directed agencies across the federal government to revisit and update the ways we work together with tribal nations Manufacturers, a step that is critical to meeting the needs of today and ensuring our communities are cleaner, healthier and more prosperous heading into the future.” 
“The final policy builds on EPA’s 1984 Indian  Manufacturing? policy and is intended to make good on the Obama administration’s commitment to strengthen tribal partnerships Manufacturing by establishing clear agency standards for the consultation process, to promote consistency and coordination. The policy establishes a new, broader standard for the types of actions that may be appropriate for consultation and makes clear the two-way nature of government-to-government consultation by inviting tribes Manufacturers to request issues for consultation.  Actions that may be appropriate for consultation include developing standards, guidance, policies, permitting decisions, and activities under international agreements. The policy also establishes a management, oversight and reporting structure that will help ensure accountability and transparency by identifying responsible individuals in each office and requiring EPA program and regional offices to identify actions appropriate for consultation at least twice a year.”
Original News Release
Imagine. “Identify  actions appropriate for consultation at least twice a year.”

Graphic credit  thanks, Spraygraphic  

Here is a post to print out and put in your tool box for reference if you work in the shop…
It’s the machinists in the shop that get a first sense of “Something is Different” or “Something Changed” when a new batch of material is put into production. In my experience, these are the five things to check to confirm that it is a purchasing/ supplier issue rather than the machining process out in the shop.

  1. Different Supplier
  2. Different Process
  3. Different Than Ordered
  4. Different Deoxidation
  5. For Machining- Significantly Different Sulfur

Different Supplier-Different suppliers can have different processes, recipes, standards, and practices. Changing or mixing suppliers can induce more variability in a process than an out of control operator in the shop.
Different Process-Maybe it is the same supplier- company, or location. but perhaps they can make the product on two or more different process lines. maybe one from a coil to bar, the other from bar to bar. Maybe the straightners are different.
Different Than You Ordered-Maybe you ordered Cold Drawn and they supplied you with Cold Finished. In Cold Drawing, the cold work of die drawing adds strain which changes the material’s mechanical properties. Cold Finished could include cold drawing, but often means hot roll that has been turned and polished to get the same tolerance and surface finish, but does nothing to change the material’s mechanical properties.
Different Deoxidation-Maybe you ordered aluminum fine grain, and they supplied Vanadium. Maybe you wanted Silicon .10 max coarse grain practice, and the only steel in stock was .15-.35 silicon killed and your purchasing department said, “Yeah, we’ll take it.” Different deoxidation can affect mechanical properties too.
For Machining-Significantly Different Sulfur Levels-There are several “tipping points”  for sulfur in the non- free-machining grades of carbon and alloy steels. Steels showing a Sulfur analysis of 0.020% minimum never were submitted to me for machining claims in over 20 years of managing labs and claims in my steel mill career. Steels below 0.018% would often be sent back, especially in plain medium carbon grades like 1045 and 1050.  Typically the customer would complain about fighting it to get production.
Steels below 0.015% Sulfur would almost always elicit a very heightened urgency from the customer who couldn’t keep tools in the machine and couldn’t get finish. Steels below 0.010% almost always got a call from their VP to our VP who then put me on the case. This is especially true in medium carbon alloy grades (4140 etc.) where the material is challenging anyhow, especially on screw machines.
I had one claim once upon a time for a batch of 4140 with 0.003% Sulfur. The guys in the shop called it “Toolproof.”
So these are five quick items to check on the material certs to see of the unexpected variability  you are encountering in the shop might, just might, be the result of supply chain changes upstream of your screw machines.
(Note: My experience was primarily supplying the shops running high volumes on cam automatic screw machines. Even with carbides, coatings and cnc controls, the 5 items listed above can make a serious difference in your shop’s performance.)

Northeastern Ohio’s  Lakeland Community College held a double elimination battlebot competition Saturday, April 31.
PMPA Members  Criterion Tool, Fischer Special Tooling, and Technical Equipment  Company were PMPA member companies sponsoring at the event.

News Herald photo captures the excitement of making things!

Ten  Northeast Ohio high schools fielded teams that built, (REPAIRED!) and battled their robots in the competition.
Twenty-four percent (24%) of employment in Lake County is related to manufacturing.
Competitions like this one help students  develop skills and understanding that will serve them well in all areas of life. Planning, designing, making, solving problems, fixing, redesigning…
While most parents today think of manufacturing  like it was in the  smokestack days of their parents, the students at Saturday’s competition learned that it’s not about punching a time clock or shirking work- its about being part of a team that comes together to design create, and operate real things. We’re pleased that PMPA members are helping a new generation find the joys of manufacturing. Of how it feels to be one of the People Who Make Things
Manufacturing is a vital part of the economy in Lake County and the state of Ohio.
And for 10 teams of high schoolers, its a vital part of understanding a bright future  for themselves.
Thanks to Criterion Tool, Fischer Special Tooling,  Technical Equipment Company, Lakeland College, and all the other sponsors that came together to give these high school students a chance to feel for themselves the joys of manufacturing- building a product, and watching it perform.
Congratulations to the team from Lake Catholic who won the Championship.
See a video on the News Herald site here.

Industry Week’s report on the AISI’s annual meeting in Colorado Springs is the Official report on AISI website.
Here are a few key highlights.

  • U.S. steel shipments will rise 14% in 2011 to approximately 90 million tons as the industry continues to rebound from the recession,  according to Nucor Chairman and CEO Daniel DiMicco
  •  In March finished steel imports into the United States rose to their highest level since January 2009, said DiMicco, who also serves as AISI chairman.
  •  Demand from the commercial and residential construction industry remains weak and is not expected to reach pre-recession levels until 2012 at the earliest, said DiMicco.
  •  Increased demand from infrastructure construction projects has the potential create up to 3 million jobs over the next several years, said Mario Longhi, president and CEO of Gerdau Ameristeel Corp. and AISI director.

PMPA’s own Business Trends shows a recovery in progress. AISI reporting Steel Shipments up 14% and record imports confirm this- Steel is foundational to economic activity.
If you think steel prices are high now wait until  commercial and residential construction recovers in a year or so…