August 5, 2015 / best practices, blade failure, blade life, blade selection, cost per cut, industry news, material costs, preventative maintenance, productivity, quality
Over the next few years, experts anticipate growth in the use of high performance alloys or “superalloy” materials such as Inconel and Hastelloy. The high-performance metals, which are known for their outstanding corrosion and high temperature resistance, continue to find uses in aerospace and aircraft applications, and more recently, are expanding into the oil and gas industries.
“Growing corrosion as a cost concern in exploration and production in offshore drilling rigs is expected to propel use of high performance alloys such as superalloys in oil and gas applications,” states one study from Grand View Research, Inc. “Non-ferrous alloys such as nickel and titanium are also expected to witness above average growth due to their high mechanical strength coupled with increased use in aerospace, oil & gas and gas turbine applications,” the study continues. Specifically, Grand View Research forecasts that superalloy demand will experience an annual compound growth rate of more than 3.0 percent from 2014 to 2020.
While there is certainly a science to cutting any metal material, tackling tough-to-cut materials like superalloys can be even more challenging as managers try to balance cutting speed, finish quality, and blade life. However, with the right tools and know-how, service centers can efficiently and cost-effectively handle tough-to-cut materials without compromising quality.
The following are three key tips for service centers that want to cut superalloy materials:
- Use the right blade. Although it is possible to use bi-metal band saw blades to cut superalloys, carbide-tipped blades are typically better suited for the task and offer longer life, faster cutting, and better part finish. As with bi-metal blades, carbide-tipped blades are designed with multi-metal tooth constructions to provide high performance and prolonged blade life. In a carbide blade, the more durable tooth tips are welded to a high-strength alloy backing, enabling it to cut even the toughest metal. While carbide blades are more expensive, they are designed to take more bite and more chip load, which allows for faster cutting and can improve productivity and cost per cut. Aeordyne Alloys, a service center featured here in a LENOX case study, found this to be the case. Working with hard-to-cut metals like Inconel 718 and Hastelloy X, the service center decided to upgrade from bi-metal blades to carbide-tipped blades to get higher performance out of its band saws. By using a carbide blade, Aerodyne was able to tackle the hard, nickel-based alloys, while also improving cutting time on easier to cut materials like stainless steel.
- Coolant is key. There is no question that tougher metals take a toll on blade life, but this issue is even more compounded if operators fail to use coolants. As explained in an article from Canadian Industrial Machinery (CIM), choosing the right coolant, as well as getting the coolant into the cut, will extend blade life and improve cut quality. While some experts suggest highly compounded straight oil coolants for the more difficult tocut metals like superalloys and certain stainless steels, Matt Lacroix, director of marketing, LENOX Industrial Products & Services, says the choice isn’t always that simple. “There’s an inverse relationship between the lubrication and cooling effect of the fluid,” Lacroix tells CIM. “A water-soluble oil or straight oil is good for lubrication, but not as good for cooling. The synthetics and semisynthetics are better for cooling, but offer less lubricity than fluids with a higher oil content.” In the end, Lacroix says selecting the right coolant depends on the application.
- Break in blades. As discussed in a previous blog post, when it comes to band sawing, it always pays to break in blades. This is especially true when getting ready to cut harder materials that quickly wear down band saw blades. A new blade has razor sharp tooth tips, and in order to withstand the cutting pressures used in band sawing, tooth tips should be honed to form a micro-fine radius. Failure to perform this honing will cause microscopic damage to the tips of the teeth, resulting in reduced blade life and poor-quality cuts. When done correctly, performing this simple task can extend blade life by up to 30 percent.