Gaining an edge: new technique could improve cutting tools’ durability
Thanks to pioneering work by researchers at a Swedish university, cutting tools’ durability could soon increase—meaning manufacturers would save both time and money. Earlier this year, researchers at Linköping University developed a theoretical model that can simulate how hard cutting materials degrade, shedding light on how the tools can be improved.
Metal cutting tools are commonly coated with titanium-aluminum nitride. A thin film applied to the cutting edge hardens the cutting surface and increases the tool’s lifespan. But there’s a catch: the alloy is sensitive to high temperatures. That’s a problem during the cutting process, where surfaces can be heated to temperatures in excess of 900 degrees.
Up to 700 degrees, the material is unharmed; beyond that, the surface degrades. But the Swedish researchers have developed a computer model that shows what the degradation process looks like, at the atomic level. The model will show which atoms are displaced, and what that means for the materials involved. That means cutting tools’ durability can be increased.
“This also means that we can develop strategies to stop the degradation, such as alloying the materials or creating specially-designed nanostructures,” researcher Davide Sangiovanni said.
Researchers relied on a supercomputer for the calculations. The complex combination of materials required time-consuming computations.
The supercomputer at the National Supercomputer Centre at Linköping University has been used for calculations of around 40 alloys of the elements titanium, aluminum and nitrogen, and looks at the material properties. Results were then compared to the materials’ known properties.
Scientists Kostas Sarakinos and Anna Nilsen, also on the research team, hope that the method will be useful for the manufacturing industry. A lot of money could be saved by developing tools with greater hardness and resistance to wear.
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