Moving in the Z Axis when Machining Melamine

CNC owners consider whether it's worth moving the tool in the Y axis while cutting, in order to extend bit life. August 14, 2007

We will be starting to machine a large job of melamine panels this week. We have a pretty good handle on machining melamine, but I am wondering if anyone moves their cutter in Z while cutting and if it adds to the life of the insert cutter or if it just dulls a larger surface quicker.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor T:
I use diamond for most of our melamine cutting. Usually get about 4 to 6 weeks out of a tool. It can also run way faster than typical insert type tooling. I run it at 14 meters/minute at 18000 rpm.

From contributor F:
No. I wouldn't bother moving your cutter in the Z axis. The paper will wear heavier on your tool than the core, but you should still get good life compared to cutting plastic laminate. If you are running the same program for the entire run, then you may want to oscillate the tool in z to maximize tool life, but it probably isn't worth the effort if the programs number more than a few. If your machine can cut at high feed rates, you might want to switch to a 3 flute mortise compression or compression tool so that you can run at 1000 ipm (40 meters/min) or higher feed rates on 3/4" core.

From contributor B:
If you are using a pod and rail type machine, moving the "Z" to increase cutter life works okay, if you don't have to jump through hoops with your software to do it. You generally don't get the tool life with pod and rail machines that you do with a nesting machine; the work holding is not quite as good.

If your feeds and speeds are good, you should be cutting a few units of material before needing to change a normal carbide tool, if you are ramping in and out of the material as you should be.

If you can't get the feeds and speeds to have good to great tool life, maybe you can't run at high feed rates for whatever reason, insert tooling can be helpful and cost effective. If this is the case, you would probably be better off to go with a pair of 1/2" insert tools. If you rotate the cutting edges (and the bodies to speed things up) before they are too worn, you can cut a lot of parts with a set of inserts and 2 cutter bodies. The 2 cutter bodies just speed up the process of changing or rotating the cutter inserts. Actually, the insert tool works pretty well all the way around for many. The turn around time for sharpening is quick. ;)

From contributor R:
It is always a good idea to ramp the tool into the material. Plunging puts a huge axial load on the spindle bearings of your machine. Good programming software should be doing this for you automatically.

If you are experiencing chips in the surface, consider tool stay down nesting where the tool enters the material one time and connects part to part without lifting up. I saw this recently in a demo and it definitely decreased cycle time and increased tool life.

From contributor S:
We will only be doing perimeter cuts to these parts. I was just wondering about oscillating and if it was something to try. I just couldn't think of the word oscillate when I tried to explain. Yes, it's pod/rail, we don't do nesting. Weeke BP140.