When it comes to sourcing capital equipment for machining specialty materials, manufacturers would do well to think about 10-speed bicycles: Most buyers one for recreation or exercise, and typically use only two or three of the most comfortable gears. Competitive cyclists select — and operate — all the components of their bikes (frames, pedals, shifters, wheels, etc.) to gain the maximum performance potential, whether they’re climbing mountains or racing in the flats.

Machining high-strength, high-temperature alloys like titanium is a significant mountain to climb for many shops.  Machine tool builders have developed milling and turning centers that offer improved stiffness and damping on spindles, and sizable machine structures and motors, all to provide the significant cutting forces needed to cut very hard materials like titanium, while minimizing the undesirable vibrations that deteriorate part quality and tool life.

When machining titanium, achieving the maximum performance in metal removal means paying close attention to the machine tool that provides the force, the cutting tool characteristics where the cutting edge meets the workpiece, and the spindle connection — the ‘handshake’ between the machine tool and the cutter.

In April 2012, machine-tool builder Mitsui Seiki and tooling and tooling systems developer Kennametal Inc. conducted a test cut on a titanium (Ti-6Al-4V) workpiece on the Mitsui-Seiki HPX63 CNC horizontal machining center, equipped with four Kennametal tools, each using the KM4X 100 spindle connection.