Reducing Tool Wear with Laminated Sheet Goods

Bits wear out quickly when machining laminate. Here's advice on achieving longer tool life. April 21, 2007

We cut approximately 60 sheets a week of pre-laminated 4 x 5 x 8 panels using a 1/2" two flute compression (Onsrud). We start to see excessive tool wear after only a dozen sheets or so, and if you push it to 20 sheets, the damage to the bit is extensive. Do the chipbreaker style bits work better on this material? We are currently running 18,000 Rpm @ 700 Ipm. These are the same settings we run 3/8 compression on melamine and get well over 100 sheets. I would be happy with 30-40 on the pre-laminated panels.

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor M:
What type of laminate? Melamine? HPL? What type of machine? Router table? Pod and rail? HPL is definitely harder on tools than the melamine is. The bigger difference is in the machine type. If you have a pod and rail type machine, you can equalize the wear on your tools by oscillating (up and down) the Z throughout the course of your tool path. This will give you extended life in your tools. Aside from that, you should also check with your tool supplier to be certain that the tools you are using are recommended for laminate work. The next possibility is going to PCD tools.

From contributor F:
You will find excessive wear on the point of the bit where the laminate meets carbide. You can look into pcd tools (diamond) for cutting laminates. The cost really isn't that high anymore. As long as you handle the tool with care and don't crash the tool into anything you shouldn't, then it will more than pay for itself. Check into Diamax tools from Leuco, or any other pcd manufacturer. I am not endorsing any, but I did get a quote from Leuco the other day that was reasonable.

From contributor T:
If your programming system can handle it, you might try oscillating the router up and down in the Z axis while cutting. This will spread the wear out over a wider area and you might be able to achieve 40 sheets.

From Brian Personett, forum technical advisor:
I have never had much luck oscillating the Z axis for laminate parts. I always ended up with some kind of chipping. I have my software set up so that for each cabinet's parts, the depth of cut goes down .01mm. I've had much better luck going this route and the bits seem to hold up a little better.

From contributor O:
We cut a lot of HPL on MDF or PB. I started using a diamond bit from Royce Ayr. That tool will last 6 to 8 weeks depending on how much use. We do so many different things it’s hard to say how many sheets of material that would be, but that tool is probably routing no less than 3 hours a day. The tool will actually end up with little nicks in it from the particleboard before showing any wear at the height of the HPL.

From contributor G:
There are some laminates out there that are scratch resistant. I believe they have aluminum sulfate in their substrate. A 3+3 compression tool usually solves this problem. With the 3+3, our customers report between 120-150 sheets can be machined prior to servicing the tool. A PCD tool will also work, but reduced feed speeds are required.