3 Chip Management Tips for CNC Machine Operators
There’s one basic rule of shop floor economics that everyone should know: if the machines aren’t making chips, the business is losing money. But the shape of those chips and their removal from the work area is every bit as important as producing them in the first place.
For instance, the bird’s nest of long, stringy chips so common when machining aluminum, stainless steel, and superalloys is not only dangerous to the machine operator, but is a great way to break cutting tools and destroy workpieces when it inevitably becomes wedged in the wrong place at the wrong time. And few machining sounds are more cringe-worthy than the crunch…crunch…crunch of chips being recut, quite possibly signaling a chipped and soon-to-be-broken cutting tool.
Given the right tool geometry and sufficient coolant flow, these unpleasant occurrences can almost always be avoided, but that’s of little use if the chips then pile up around the table and way covers or accumulate behind the bed—allow this to occur in sufficient quantity and it can interfere with machine motion, tripping an alarm or even damaging axis bearings and motors.
This is one reason why Kent CNC pays special attention to chip flow and removal when designing its machine tools. For example:
- The Kent CNC KVR-series of linear way vertical machining centers is equipped with a high-flow, high-capacity coolant system with built-in chip flush and auger-style conveyors. Similar considerations are taken on Kent CNC‘s KLR-series CNC lathes, many of which come standard with chip conveyors and a single-piece 45-degree slant bed for maximum chip evacuation.
- Whether it’s a Kent CNC machining center or a competing brand, look for one that’s prepped for through-the-spindle coolant, preferably with 1000-psi capabilities. Doing so blasts chips out of part pockets and holes, eliminating that crunching sound just mentioned. It also improves tool life and part quality, maximizing your machine tool investment.
- While you’re at it, give some thought to operator convenience. The best machine tools are those plumbed for coolant wash-down to help get chips where they belong—in the chip pan. A coolant tank with a built-in oil skimmer and adjustable timer is also a great idea, as this prolongs the life of expensive cutting fluids and reduces Monday morning stink.
The next blog post will explore additional steps you can take to avoid this unpleasant (but sadly common) aspect of machining life. Until then, keep making those chips—just be sure to keep them under control.