Even with HEM Toolpaths, Success Turns on the Tool

Dec. 8, 2011
A general-purpose end mill emerges as hero in oilfield product machining tests
A series of 718 Inconel ball valves, one of the toughest machining orders for Kline Oilfield Equipment in Tulsa. One IMCO Everyday Advantage end mill cut two of these parts (eight times faster than other high-performance cutters), then moved smoothly through more than 10 parts in 4140 HT stainless.
Kline Oilfield Equipment’s Jake Aasness (right) with IMCO Carbide Tool representative Chris Cooper.

Sometimes two things come together to create something that’s even better than the sum of the individual parts — and that’s a surprise. At Kline Oilfield Equipment Inc. in Tulsa, Jake Aasness combined new high-efficiency machining software with a general-purpose end mill, and the results raised some eyebrows and tool life (by 500%) and reduced cycle times (by 86%.) It also landed the shop on YouTube.

Aasness handles programming and technical applications for Kline Oilfield Equipment. While testing new high-efficiency tool path software, an order for 718 Inconel ball valves arrived. Kline gets this order once or twice a year, Aasness said. “It’s an absolute nightmare every time. Most of the time it took two tools to get through one part. Cycle time was two hours. Even with the new software, we still had a hard time cutting one whole part.”

He recalled trying a “fancy” high-performance end mill, betting that the tool and the new toolpath working together would make a difference. “It didn’t even make it through a second part,” he said, recalling his disappointment.

So Aasness tried the only other tool he had: an IMCO 3/8-in., four-flute Everyday Advantage end mill with AlTiN (Spector) coating. “I like IMCO end mills,” he said. “I just think they’re really good tools.”

IMCO Carbide Tool develops advanced cutting tools and supplies advanced end mills to manufacturers supplying the aerospace, automotive, energy, medical instrumentation and mining industries. Chris Cooper has been Kline’s IMCO representative for more than eight years, and explained that Aasness has been using these general-purpose end mills throughout that time, but never in Inconel. Aasness added that he also likes using IMCO’s high-performance POW-R-FEED and enDURO end mills, but none of those were on hand on the day the Inconel ball valves order arrived.

Aasness said he ran the end mill wet at 4,074 rpm and 50-60 ipm. He was so impressed that he took video of the tool pocketing the ball valve and asked Cooper to post it online with several other videos using IMCO tools.

“In the video, we cut a 2-1/2-in. diameter pocket in Inconel 0.486-in. deep in one pass,” he said, “and Inconel’s not even listed in the application chart!” Aasness can be heard over the sound of the tool running in the video, saying: “If I hadn’t run this myself, I would probably tell you it was impossible to run these feeds and speeds. … This is pretty wild.”

During the test, the end mill completed two parts without a hitch. Then Aasness used it to run 12 parts in 4140 heat-treated stainless steel. “It probably could have run 10 more,” Aasness added.

Now, he gets five parts per tool (compared with less than two, at most.) He pushed the speed to 6,000 rpm and the feed to 100 ipm, with great results. The part that used to take two hours to finish takes just 16 minutes – an 86% drop in cycle time.

“They were very impressed,” Cooper said of Kline, referring to the results. “Very impressed.” The discovered a 500% increase in parts per tool in Inconel (1 versus 5); an 86% cut in cycle time (2 hours versus 16 minutes) in Inconel; and the tool cut the pocket and finished the corners and walls in 4140 HT in under three minutes.

The lesson of Kline Oilfield Equipment, and for anyone working in difficult to machine materials: Whatever machining method you use – traditional or high-efficiency machining – you’ll need a well-made cutting tool to get the best results.

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