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Why the right router bit is as important as the right CNC machine.

Router tools for acrylic
Router tools for cutting acrylic
Superior Multi-Purpose tools
Multi-purpose cutting tools - the unique colours come from the special low friction coating.
20mm thick aluminium being cut with an 8mm CNC cutting tool
20mm thick aluminium can be cut with a quality multi-purpose cutting tool without liquid coolants. The special coating on the tool reduces friction and therefore heat.
ACM folding tool
ACM folding tool

When looking at purchasing a CNC machine, most of the focus is on choosing the best machine, matched to the budget in mind. Spindle choice, vacuum hold down, extraction system, ease of use and the company supplying the equipment, all play a part in the final decision. Carrying out due diligence on the purchase of a large investment should be done with care and consideration.

However, what is often overlooked, is the correct choice of tooling to put into the machine. This should be considered in the same way as the machine purchase itself. After all, it’s the routing tool which is cutting the material, with the machine just doing the driving.

How do you measure good value?

Everyone wants to get the best possible deal on anything they purchase, however, the price on the invoice is not always the way to measure the total economy. A routing tool which costs under £10 seems like a good deal on a website, so you may buy ten of them. They look the same so why pay any extra?. Too good to be true? Well in most cases it is. The lower end tools are often made from low grade tungsten carbide and manufactured in such high volumes that allow for very little or no quality control measures. Tolerances are often very vague, leading to the operator having to measure or test the diameter before committing to any actual cutting.

How long do they last?

Using lower grade materials and such wide tolerances means longevity can be a real problem. A routing tool needs to be extremely sharp to cut properly and cleanly. A blunt tool will give poor results and how long a tool lasts is measured in how long it can stay sharp. Compare a pack of razors and you will often find the bulk pack of low cost razors being single use only. The same applies to lower cost routing tools. The edge quality soon drops off and the operator must then change the router bit more frequently or ignore it and pass the work on to someone else for hand finishing. This adds a huge amount of additional unseen cost in labour and hand finishing time. Consistency of the work produced also suffers as sizes and edge quality vary dramatically from cut to cut.

“It’s a brand new routing tool, why isn’t the edge finish very good?”

In most cases the same tool design will be employed across multiple materials with the lower cost tooling. The strategy of “pile ‘em high and sell them cheap” doesn’t lend itself to optimisation and variance to each material type. Slight changes in angles and geometries to improve the edge quality are not taken into consideration. In addition, the lower cost tools have often been manufactured to replicate established tooling without fully understanding the tool they are replicating. The constancy issues also make it very difficult to get the same geometries time and time again. Furthermore, in most cases, the manufacturer of the lower cost tools won’t have a development program in place to improve and test their tools to optimise this.

In contrast, the Crown Norge range of tools available from LKH Tools in the UK, are manufactured in Switzerland from the highest grade of European tungsten carbide on the market. Made using the latest state of the art Swiss machinery and overseen by skilled, experienced operators under strict quality and tolerance control measures. This ensures consistency throughout the range, i.e. knowing that the next tool is the same as the last.

The geometries of the tools have been developed over many years of market research and simply listening to machine operators. The tools in each range have been developed to match to each of the common material types and thicknesses. The angle, length of cut, shank length and diameters have been developed in laboratory conditions and then rigorously tested at live manufacturing sites over many years to find the optimum balance of strength, longevity, speed and quality of cut. Coatings have been developed to improve the tools performance in many materials. This reduces heat and friction when cutting aluminium dry for example.

“What does all this mean in real terms?”

The edge of cut will require no additional hand finishing or labour prior to assembly or shipment. Acrylics and plastics are cut with an exceptional edge finish and can be polished further by using the available polishing tools. Aluminium can be cut dry at high speed without the need for coolant. ACM can be cut and folded at high speed using the ACM range of tools. Polycarbonates, PVC and foams can be machined at higher speed, giving both a superior edge finish and tool life. In one extreme case, a company using lower quality tools was able to save up to 6 hours of machining time a day by switching to the new coated MP (Multi-Purpose) Superior tools.

The correct settings for each of the Crown Norge tools are provided with the tooling distributed from LKH Tools in the UK. This stops the trial and error process which many companies have had to endure before finally establishing a result which is acceptable. Guidance on the correct setting up of the tools are offered to each customer to provide the optimum setting for their machine type and material choice.

Eliminating the hidden labour and time cost alone makes the Crown Norge tools a more cost effective choice but, in most cases, one of the Crown Norge tools can lasts up to ten times longer than other tools on the market. However, they are not ten times the price. This combined with the guidance and support offered by LKH Tools, truly makes them the best overall economy and choice when considering purchasing tools for your machine.

For more information, please contact Liam Hodson at LKH Tools. 01623 401 174. or visit www.lkhtools.co.uk