Speeds and Feeds: Identifying the Best Ways to Run Your Cutting Tools

Speeds and Feeds: Identifying the Best Ways to Run Your Cutting Tools

Speeds and Feeds: Identifying the Best Ways to Run Your Cutting Tools

Running your CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines to make a profit takes some serious consideration on the materials, the cutting tools and the approach you use when running your equipment. Not running your cutting tools in the recommended performance ranges can lead to poor performance and downtime, making it impossible to run at high levels of productivity. Finding the right combination that works for your machine shop’s needs can be challenging.

Fortunately, M&M Sales & Equipment is here to help with four convenient Texas locations in Odessa, Lubbock, Amarillo and Fort Worth. Need answers right now? Call us directly at 800-592-4516 or browse product offerings here.

Related: Best Practices for West Texas Machine Shops: Machine Parts Right the First Time

What Speed Should I Run My Cutting Tools?

Faster is not always better. Neither is running your cutting tool too slow. In fact, it’s a dance that depends on several variables if you want to get good results like extended tool life, optimum machining time and excellent surface finish. Running a cutting tool too fast can result in tool breakage. Too slow, and it can result in excessive heat and premature cutting edge failure. Other effects that can occur when operating outside of recommended ranges can include build-up edge, cratering, edge wear, chipping, and inferior surface finish.

So how do you calculate your feeds and speeds?

We came across a survey performed by CNC Cookbook that asked readers, “How do you calculate your feeds and speeds?” These were the top responses:

  • Feeds & Speeds Calculator
  • Standard Cuts or Rule of Thumb
  • Tooling Catalog
  • By Sound or Feel
  • CAM Software
  • Spreadsheet
  • Machinery Handbook

For the most accurate answers to your cutting tool’s capabilities, your best bet is to check with the manufacturer’s recommendations. There you can learn more about the proper feeds and speeds to run cutting tools like milling cutters. To help you on your way, we’ve gathered the following best practices from a great article over at Modern Machine Shop:

Tips on Determining the Best Cutting Speeds for Your Machine’s Performance

Materials
First and foremost, you need to identify and understand the material to be cut, otherwise known as your workpiece. Steel, cast iron, aluminum, stainless steel, titanium and high temperature alloys all have different properties which impact the efficiency and accuracy of the cutting tools you use. These are referred to as machinability ratings and are expressed by a percentage as defined by the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Cutting Tools
Choosing the right cutting tool is dependent on knowing the material of the workpiece. With regards to milling cutters, face mills, end mills, drills and other cutting tools they all have certain criteria they must follow to ensure optimum performance. The tool’s diameter, the arrangement of cutting inserts, the material removal rate, and the depth and width of the required cut all play a major role in how well your workpiece is machined.

Cutting Speed
Speed rates are also called surface speeds and are measured in Surface Feet per Minute (sfm). This measures how fast a tooth, otherwise known as a flute, will move as it cuts through material. Cutting speeds is the speed difference between the cutting tool and the surface of the workpiece it is cutting. Smaller diameter cutters generally require higher revolutions per minute (rpm) and larger cutters need less rpm to propel the cutting edges at their desired sfm.

Pro Tip: Our friends over at Sandvik Coromant have a great Cutting Speed Calculator that can help you specify the cutting speeds and feeds for your application. Check out the Cutting Speed Calculator here!

Feed Rates
Feed rates are the relative velocity at which the cutter is advanced along the workpiece. In other words, it is the rate the cutter enters into the workpiece. Chip loads are an impact factor to consider here because the better chip removal, the less wear on the cutter and the better result on the workpiece. For example, face mills can often take heavier chip loads than end mills in the same application.

Insert Arrangement
Along with choosing the cutter that can provide optimum feed rates, you should consider how the cutting inserts are arranged. How many effective inserts are in the cutter? How are they arranged? The way these inserts are arranged can have a tremendous impact on feed rates, the required horsepower, and material removal rates.

Remember these are just guidelines; refer to the cutting tool manufacturer for specific formulas and calculations. Often it comes down to trial and error and simply getting to know your machine, your material, and your desired result. However, by following some best practices and becoming more familiar with your cutting tools, you can start seeing better results and better profits.

M&M Sales & Equipment is your cutting tool specialist and has been since 1962. If you need help finding the right cutting tools like milling cutters, end mills, and inserts, we have you covered. Or, if you’re looking for shop supplies, safety equipment, or other tooling needs, we’ve got that, too. Reach us at 800-592-4516 or stop into one of our four convenient Texas locations.

How do you calculate the speeds you need to run your cutting tools? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts or reach out to us directly.

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