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6 January, 2021
Alternative materials are increasingly rivaling traditional steel in many applications, as they offer many benefits to manufacturers. From a metalworking perspective, however, they can make the material removal process more complex. Here we explore the challenges associated with four common materials and explain how to overcome them.
When working with steel and steel alloys, the main problem is often time. The material is tough, which means removal tasks often slow to carry out and require heavy tools that are laborious to handle over long periods. It is also prone to corrosion, which can make achieving a good surface finish difficult.
Before you start the job, identify the best material removal method. For example, would cutting produce results quicker than grinding? If ingates can be removed close to the surface using a cutting tool, then the amount of grinding required will be minimized. If grinding cannot be avoided, using the appropriate abrasive is key. Zirconium oxide abrasives, for instance, are hard-wearing and offer optimal performance over a longer lifetime.
Due to its relatively low heat conductivity compared to steel and other iron materials, stainless steel gets hot when it is being worked on, increasing the risk of damage to the parts. Additionally, if operators work with both carbon steel and stainless steel, there is also a risk of cross-contamination and further damage if the tools contain traces of the wrong abrasive.
Avoid overheating by selecting a low speed tool, ideally less than 4000 rpm. However, to achieve optimal results, allow additional time to finish the job as it is likely to take longer. Additionally, use a flap disk with a finer grit to achieve a better finish in softer operations. Finally, to avoid contamination, use only the abrasives appropriate for the task and ensure that different types are kept separated.
Like stainless steel, aluminum can quickly overheat. This can make the grinding wheel clog, making the material removal process slow and inefficient. There are also health and safety challenges: when worked on, the material produces a fine dust which is harmful to the operator and presents a potential fire hazard.
You can address overheating by choosing the right abrasive. Most standard abrasives can be used at normal speeds, which depend on the size of the disc. It is good to consider that while aluminum oxide grinding wheels with hard bonds are prevalent in the market, they may not deliver the best results in all applications. Grinding, for example, can be significantly easier with a soft bond or a silicon carbide grain. Apply sprays and waxes to reduce the risk of clogging, and work only in well-ventilated areas, equipped with dust extractors, to optimize safety.
Some of the new materials have different mechanical and thermal properties that operators might not be familiar with. This can quickly create problems in material removal applications if the operators do not have the right tools. That’s why it is essential to understand the requirements of each material to identify the tool most suited for the application.