Although steel is one of the most beneficial materials for CNC machining, it also has several attributes that create challenges for steel machining. Some of its benefits include properties such as high corrosion resistance and high ductility. Another significant benefit is its great strength. That is why numerous industries use steel for components—industries such as aerospace, construction, and medical.
The formulation of the steel can cause different challenges with CNC machining, depending on the attributes of the material. Some of the attributes that make steel ideal for industries contribute to the challenges that occur with CNC machining. Here are some of the most significant challenges.
Low Thermal Conductivity
The poor thermal conductivity of steel makes it a challenge for the high heat that is created during the machining process to disperse. High heat is generated quickly as the machining takes place, and the inability to disperse that heat means that each subsequent cut has a higher temperature. As the cutting continues, the high heat results in the cutting tool having a decreased performance as time passes. Over time, this can lead to more repairs and greater expense.
Work hardening refers to the promise wherein a metal becomes harder and stronger due to changes in the crystal structure of the metal. One way to identify hardening is to look for the areas where the metal surface is shiny and slippery. Although work hardening can take place with any sort of metal machining, steel is especially challenging.
During any CNC cutting process, chips always form. With steel cutting, specifically, the debris of the chips more easily adheres to the cutting tools. As the chips adhere, the surface becomes even rougher, and due to the difficulty of removing the chips during the cutting, the chips become compressed.
The stop and start of the cutting process on steel results in increased vibrations. As the vibrations of the material take place, it’s more likely for damage to occur, and subsequently, for final manufactured components to be damaged to the point where the part needs to be redone. This results in a loss of production time, a loss of revenue, and over time, greater frequency of replacing parts, as the tool also wears down faster.
Ways to Mitigate Challenges of Steel Machining
Although steel has significant challenges, its proliferation throughout construction and other industries makes it a highly profitable and very important material. In order to offset and counteract some of these challenges, there are several factors to consider. Here are a few of them.
- Choosing the appropriate cutting tools—use the machine that is best for the specific work
- Selecting the correct cutting fluids—appropriate lubricants and coolants will lessen the challenges.
- Choosing the correct cutting parameters
Steel’s versatility and adaptability make it vital to many industries and therefore, despite the challenges. CNC steel machining allows for steel to be transformed quickly and efficiently into necessary components, and companies should make certain that they take the necessary precautions.