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How to machine titanium
By combining a well-planned process with dedicated application knowledge and tools / set-ups optimized for titanium, gains can be made to take advantage of the great properties that this material has to offer. Follow these 8 tips on machining titanium and its alloys:
1. Mind titanium's feed and speed comfort zone
Titanium has a narrow band of machinability, with recommended cutting speeds of 60 m/min for roughing and 3-4 times that when finishing. Feed rates are entirely dependent on chip loads and other factors, but should be high enough to prevent work hardening. Significant deviation from titanium's feed and speed comfort zone can mean melted or broken tools and a pile of expensive scrap. Always follow cutting tool manufacturers recommendations when machining titanium.
2. Push the heat into the chip for longer tool life
Titanium conducts heat at about the same rate as the oven gloves you use to pull a cake pan out of the oven. During machining operations, this poor thermal conductivity traps heat in the work zone, wreaking havoc on cutting tools. If your machine setup can handle the additional load, try increasing the feed rate to push some of the heat generation into the chip and make tools last longer.
3. Avoid primary failure modes
If steel were stiff modeling clay, titanium would be frozen putty. Built-up edge, notching at the cut line, galled workpieces and chips welding to the cutter are the primary failure modes when machining this gummy material. A positive rake cutting tool with a tough substrate and hard, lubricious coating keeps tools in the game longer. Also, a small T-land or slight hone on the cutting edge can help improve tool life, but don't overdo it - titanium needs a sharp tool.
4. Increase coolant concentration and blast chips out of the work area
With the high temperatures and stringy chips generated when cutting titanium, a copious flow of clean cutting fluid is essential. Filtration to 25-micron or better is a good idea for many machining operations, but is especially important with critical operations such as this. Increase the coolant concentration to 10 percent or more, and install a high-pressure pump of at least 500 psi to blast chips out of the work area. Always use coolant-fed cutting tools, and employ inserts with aggressive chip control to avoid catastrophic re-cutting of chips.
5. Use the right tool and the right machine equipment
Because of the extreme cutting forces involved, titanium should only be machined on rigid equipment. A machine spindle with abundant surface contact at both the taper and the face used together with CAPTO holders provide the security of multiple contact points with the machine spindle, excellent repeatability, and the stiffness needed to absorb heavy radial loads. Dense machine construction will absorb vibration and cutting loads better than one designed for light duty machining. Invest in a high-performance machine tool if you're serious about machining titanium. High speed can produce a chemical reaction between the chip and the cutting tool material, which can result in sudden insert chippings/breakages. Cutting tool materials should have good hot hardness, low cobalt content, and not react with the titanium. Fine-grained, uncoated carbide is usually used. Choose a positive / open geometry with good edge toughness.