Aerospace forgings are high-precision designs in hard, high-value materials — meaning the cutting technologies adopted to finish them must be exceptionally strong, and reliable.

Cutting Hard Materials Made Easy for Wyman-Gordon

Aug. 21, 2015
Aerospace forger adopts tools, coatings with bio-inspired surface technology to gain performance and reliability for precision finishing Nano-engineered materials Improving tool wear resistance Promoting dry/MQL machining

Wyman-Gordon is a forger that takes a very serious approach to high-quality finishing processes: its products are largely supplied to airframe and aerospace engine manufacturers for both the civil and military jet programs, and it maintains process and product quality accreditations for all of the major OEMs and tier suppliers.  Last fall, the Precision Castparts Corp. subsidiary started building a specialty finishing operation for aerospace forgings, in Dillon County, SC.

It produces closed-die forgings for rotating parts, as well as structural forgings for airframe, nuclear, petrochemical, power generation, and space applications.

Wyman-Gordon forges and finishes parts in high-grade titanium, nickel-based alloys, and stainless steels. These are parts for jet engines, including fan disks, compressor disks, turbine disks, and shafts. It also produces titanium and steel forgings for airframes, including wing beams, wing boxes, door and window frames, as well as nacelle and landing gear components. For all these reasons, Wyman-Gordon’s selection of cutting tools and wear parts bears close attention.

One supplier of those tools and coating formulations is NanoMech — a developer of “nanomanufacturing” technologies for mass production. It’s motto — “Making atoms work harder and smarter” — is an insight to its focus on material development and production process application.

Cutting and finishing hard materials like titanium, nickel alloys, and stainless steel calls for materials that are even harder. Doing it with reliable precision takes another level of innovation in material science. For Wyman-Gordon, those qualities are available in NanoMech’s TuffTek® cutting tools, which it recently adopted for its aerospace forging finishing operations.

TuffTek cutting tools and coating technologies tools and wear parts for machining have a “bio-inspired surface architecture… capable of self-sustained lubrication,” according to Jim Phillips, NanoMech CEO. “A tool or wear part coated with the TuffTek technology can outlast any similar tool on the market today.”

“TuffTek has redefined and revolutionized the cutting tool industry by significantly improving the wear resistance of the tools as well as their precision, finishes, and heat resistance, especially through the world’s first cubic boron nitride (cBN) coated products,” according to Dr. Ajay Malshe, NanoMech founder and chief technology officer.

CBN coatings are often difficult to apply to tools and wear surfaces using conventional techniques like physical or chemical vapor deposition. NanoMech’s patented and patent-pending coating processes solve the problem, and various TuffTek formulations can be applied as well to chip breaker-style carbide inserts and various state-of-the-art ceramic inserts.

“Bio-inspired” and nano-engineered materials help the users of TuffTek products to realize cutting-tool performance improvements.

The “bio-inspired” and nano-engineered materials and production processes help the users of TuffTek products to realize cutting-tool performance improvements. According to the developer, the coatings improve machining productivity from 100 to 1000% for many manufacturing applications, compared to traditional cutting tools, and machines most commonly used, as well as difficult-to-machine materials like titanium, high-nickel alloys, pre-hardened steel, hardened steels, cast iron, and others — materials that are critical in aerospace, automotive, construction equipment, defense system, highway and off-road vehicles.

Specifically, NanoMech claims TuffTek coated carbide significantly extends the life of tungsten, which is a mission-critical element for strategic manufacturing, but is significantly declining in availability. The wear-resistant coating technology and products also allow dry or minimum-quantity-lubrication (MQL) machining, in production volumes that may save millions of gallons of machining liquid annually.

Malshe added the “the new coatings save valuable and increasingly scarce materials such as carbide.”

Over the past year, TuffTek cutting tools have been awarded the R&D 100 Award, the Edison Award, and the Tibbets Innovation Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But, the advantages in performance and reliability of the cutting tools and materials go to Wyman-Gordon.
Editor's note: This report is a revised from an earlier posting, and from a version published in FORGING July/August 2015.