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Routing Composite Materials

Composites – it seems today more and more of our daily items are being made of some sort of composite material.  Lightweight, high strength, chemical resistance, elastic in nature, non-conductive – all factors that have lead to their adaption and introduction into the products we use.

Composites are basically two or more materials of different physical and chemical natures that come together to form a new structure, though each still maintaining their own physical properties. This coming together, however, produces a stronger material with increased capabilities than if each part were utilized separately. They are formed using a matrix and a reinforcement material.

Matrix and reinforcement materials are typically 50 / 50 in composition with the reinforcement material adding strength to the core matrix, though it is also the most abrasive material. These two materials coming together add more to the overall structure than each individual material, thus known as synergy.

Common types of composites include:

  • Carbon Fiber – airplanes, automotive parts, bicycles, recreational equipment – provides light weight and increased strength.
  • Aramid Fiber – think Kevlar® developed by DuPont
  • Natural Fiber – woods
  • Phenolic – used in circuit boards and is very abrasive
  • Fiberglass – used in the marine industry – boat hulls

Resins or plastic resins such as epoxy, polyurethane, polypropylene, polyesters, or vinyl esters typically hold the above materials together. Depending on the application, certain resins would be utilized verses another. Some withstand heat and UV breakdown better, others are fuel resistant, and still others provide increased flexibility.

Challenges of Routing or Cutting Composite materials

When taking a consensus of our engineering staff and router lab technicians regarding what is the most difficult challenge of routing or cutting composites, the word HEAT came up quickly.

Heat’s detrimental effects:

  • Increased tool break down
  • Dulls cutting edge more quickly
  • Increases load on tool, which can lead to tool breakage

Material Issues

  • Delamination of the material
  • Splintering or fuzzing of the material
  • Reactivation of the resin holding the materials together weakening the structure

Proper tooling geometry is required when cutting these materials and really there is no “one best tool” that can be utilized, since composite materials come in a variety of substrates and compositions.

LMT Onsrud offers several different lines of tooling for composites based off the material being cut.

54-200 – Solid Carbide 3 and 4 Flute Spiral for Glass Reinforced Plastics 67-500 – Solid Carbide Carbon Graphite Tool
56-000P – Solid Carbide 2 Flute Straights for Plastics 67-800 – Solid Carbide 8 Facet Drill
66-800 – Diamond Film Coated Compression for Composites 68-000 – 2 Flute Poly Crystalline Diamond Tipped Tools
66-900 – Solid Carbide High Performance Composites 68-200 – Poly Crystalline Diamond 2 Flute SERF Tool
67-000 – Solid Carbide Fiberglass Burr Bits 68-300 – Poly Crystalline Diamond 3 Flute SERF Cutter
67-200 – Solid Carbide 3 Flute Phenolic / Composite Cutters 68-400 – Poly Crystalline Diamond Ballnose
67-220 – Poly Crystalline Diamond 3 Flute Progressive Chipbreaker 68-900 – Poly Crystalline Diamond 8 Facet Drills
67-250 – Solid Carbide 3 Flute Diamond Grit Tools 85-800 – Solid Carbide Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastics
67-300 – Solid Carbide 2 Flute Compression Spiral 86-100 – Solid Carbide Diamond Film Coated Parabolic Drills

General Cutting Tools is an authorized Onsrud dealer in Chicago.  Contact us for more information.

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