Tooling manufacturers, coating centres and reconditioning companies should exploit wet blasting as a powerful method of edge honing and face processing cutting tools to within a few microns, says Tim Berry, application specialist.
In recent years we have seen a stabilisation of global machine tool output, recovering from the global recession that hit the industry hard in 2009 when almost a 1/3 of the total output was wiped out. To build on this increasing stability it is time for the industry to extend tooling life expectancy, and wet blasting is key to achieving this goal. Wet blasting offers an exceptionally controlled process that is increasingly being recognised across many tooling firms. The ability to control the edge and improve face adhesion has made wet blasting a preferred alternative to dry, brush or drag finishing.
The development of wet blasting machines is a welcome one to customers who are looking for enhanced and extended cutting tool performance. To ensure a stable performance of the cutting tool it is important to achieve a homogeneous rounding along the major and minor cutting edges and flutes. To that end there has been much research and development over recent years to achieve greater accuracy and control in edge preparation. Customers are also increasingly looking to source sustainable products and services that, in this application, include reducing resources such as lubricants as coatings become more durable and less likely to fracture.
Wet blasting is a highly effective process that combines compressed air, abrasive solids and liquid in a slurry form to clean and prepare surfaces. The water creates a lubricating effect, which increases the flow of particles across the surface being treated to give more consistent and uniform finishes. Unlike dry blasting, the liquid cushion also protects delicate surfaces whilst eliminating any potentially harmful dust. Wet blasting results in surfaces that are extremely clean and reactive, with no embedded secondary contamination from the media. To provide simultaneous cleaning and degreasing, the water can be heated and mild detergent added to ensure the effective removal of oily surface contamination.
The most advanced wet blasting systems use powerful software programs to combine and monitor precisely controlled flows of liquid, gas and solids, which are mixed then accelerated through focused blasting nozzles. Changing the air and slurry pressures, blast abrasive, slurry concentration, number and angle of attack of the blasting nozzles allows for a range of processing effects to be achieved, from harsh to soft.
With such benefits to be gained it is hardly surprising that designers and engineers are continuing to refine the process with new innovations, allowing tool manufacturers to take greater control of their edge preparation processes. The most recent example of innovation is the Vapormatt Sabre. Launching in March the unique nozzle arrangements of the Sabre allows hybrid functionality with the same controllability and consistency of results as larger, more complex, systems. The ability to offer controlled edge radiusing to within +/-5 micron tolerance of specification and a surface that will dramatically improve coating adhesion.
Today, the Vapormatt design and manufacture a wide range of equipment suitable for cutting edge and face processing of all HSS and carbide tooling including rotary shank tools (drills, taps, mills etc.) indexable inserts, hobs and saws. With increasing performance demands on machine tools and rising market competition, wet blasting by Vapormatt is helping tooling manufacturers, coating centres and reconditioning companies to achieve the maximum performance from their tools.