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The History
of High-Speed
A História da Usinagem com Altíssima Velocidade de Corte

Prof. Dr.-Ing., Institute of Production
Engineering and Machine Tools (PTW)
Darmstadt University of Technology, Germany

ABSTRACT – The paper analyzes the introduction of High Speed Cutting technology since 1931 by C. Salomon; the con-
version of the fundamental knowledge into industrial products and its great future potential. The advantage and disad-
vantage of this relatively new conception of removal of material, the obstacles to be reached, the state of art that have
already been reached by the machine toll industry and centers of research and also the application field, holistic develop-
ment of process, the benefits introduced even for standard CNC machines due to development of this new technology,
will be described.
Keywords: high speed cutting – milling CNC – CNC madrine tools.

RESUMO – Este artigo analisa a introdução da usinagem com altíssima velocidade de corte, desde 1931, por C. Salomon,
a transformação da pesquisa básica em produtos industriais e o grande potencial dessa tecnologia para o futuro. Serão
abordados também as vantagens e desvantagens desse conceito relativamente novo de remoção de cavaco, os obstáculos
a serem superados, o estado da arte alcançado pela indústria de máquinas ferramentas e centros de pesquisa, a visão holís-
tica desse processo, os benefícios introduzidos mesmos para máquinas ferramentas CNC standards através do desenvol-
vimento dessa tecnologia.
Palavras-chave: usinagem com altíssima velocidade de corte – fresamento CNC – máquinas-ferramentos CNC.


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H igh-speed machining is an advanced production technology with great future potential. However, as
has been the case in many other realisations of technological progress, the conversion of the funda-
mental knowledge into industrial products took a relatively long time. In this particular case, the
period of approximately 60 years was not only due to a cautious attitude of the industry, but also to the fact
that the existing production facilities corresponding to the state of the art at the time when the first findings
became available from research did not meet the requirements of high-speed machining.

On April 27, 1931, Friedrich Krupp A.G. was granted the German Patent no 523.594 referring to a
“method of machining metal or of materials behaving similarly when being machined with cutting tools”
(Deutsche). Based on metal cutting studies made by the inventor, C. Salomon, on steel, non-ferrous and light
metals at cutting speeds of 440 m/min (1.444 ft/min) (steel), 1,600 m/min (5,250 ft/min) (bronze), 2,840 m/min
(9,318 ft/min) (copper) and up to 16,500 m/min (54,133 ft/min) (aluminium), the essential result described was
the fact that from a certain cutting speed upward machining temperatures start dropping again (fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Machining temperature in milling at high cutting speeds.

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Salomon performed his fundamental rese- machining can also be termed as cutting speeds
arch on circular saw blades, and because high spe- beyond that limit. In compliance with modern
eds of rotation were not available he was able to knowledge, the PTW Institute defines high-speed
reach the high cutting speeds only by means of big machining as being such that conventional cutting
diameters. speeds are exceeded by a factor of 5 to 10.
Vc = –————— [m/min] Ballistic tests
1.000 Almost 20 years later, i.e. in the early 50s,
However, for machining the majority of intensified research was initiated again worldwide
workpieces, tools with very big diameters can be for making use of high cutting speeds. Since at that
rarely used. This means that in practical applica- machines with elevated speeds of rotation were not
tion high cutting speeds have primarily to be available, the period of ballistic tests began (fig. 2).
achieved by means of high speeds of rotation. These were performed either by passing the tool
These, however, were not possible at that time. over the specimen workpiece by means of a rocket
Salomon’s fundamental research showed slide or by shooting a projectile-shaped specimen
that there is a certain range of cutting speeds workpiece along a stationary cutting edge. From
where machining cannot be made due to excessi- these tests the new findings were derived that at
vely high temperatures (in US literature this is cal- high cutting speeds the chip formation conditions
led “the death valley”). For this reason, high-speed are different than in conventional metal cutting.

Fig. 2. Historic mile-stones of HSC.

A formula for specific cutting pressure and for rise again later. Moreover, the studies showed that
dynamic cutting force was established (Kronenberg with increasing cutting speed the flowing chip gra-
1962). For the first time, also scientific proof was dually turns into a discontinuous chip (Kronenberg
found that cutting force initially increases with 1961-1962). When using a gun to shoot the work-
increasing cutting speed and then drops sharply to piece along a stationary cutting edge (Vaughn 1958-


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1960), it was found that at extremely high cutting els, fibre-reinforced plastics and the like were stu-
speeds the range of plastic material behaviour is died only to a small extent. Comprehensive and
exceeded and that chip formation is due to brittle systematic scientific studies about fundamentals and
break (Vaughn 1958-1960, Krueck 1960). investigations about the technical relationships
Various American studies (Vaughn & Peterson between causes and effects as well as intensive consi-
1958, Recht 1964) made in the early 60s show that deration of the repercussions of this new metal-cut-
productivity increases dramatically and product cost ting technology on the components involved in the
reductions may be anticipated if the problems of metal-cutting process as a whole were not available
heavy tool wear and of machine vibrations can be until the late seventies.
overcome. In a research project (Mc Gee 1978) it
was found that cutting speeds above 6500m/min
opened new interesting aspects for machining alu-
European situation
In 1979, the Institute of Production Enginee-
minium. Most intensive studies were conducted
ring and Machine Tools (PTW) at the Darmstadt
into the theories of chip formation – also in Japan
(Tanaka, Tsuwa & Kitano 1967) – and into the University of Technology was the first research cen-
active mechanism (Shaw 1967, Recht 1964, Turko- tre in Europe to start a joint research project called
vich 1972, Rogers 1979). “research of process characteristics in high-speed
milling” focused on the development of a high-
It was only after the development of high-
speed spindles for application in machine tools in speed spindle supported in active magnetic bearings
the early 80s that it became possible not only to as well as on testing this in a machine tool.
continue the fundamental studies but also to realise By application of this spindle on active mag-
a defined form generation (Schulz 1979). netic bearings, the decisive advance into the range of
applicable higher cutting speeds was successfully
achieved in 1980. This allowed the earlier funda-
Application of high-speed mental knowledge derived from ballistic tests to be
main spindles
confirmed and new knowledge to be added, in par-
In 1977, for the first time, it became possible
ticular with respect to the required developments in
in the USA (King 1977-1981) to verify the results
the fields of tools and machine components.
both of the ballistic studies and of theoretical consi-
derations about milling machines providing cutting Today, due to its continuous research activi-
speeds up to 1980 m/min (King 1977-1981). The ties, PTW has comprehensive fundamental and
tests also showed that surface qualities improved application knowledge as it exists nowhere else to
considerably with increasing cutting speeds. such an extent. Still in 1981, “experts” affirmed
Another important result of these tests was that that the new high-speed machining technology
at high cutting speeds the heat generated during the had no future at all, basing their opinion on the
machining process was largely dissipated with chip assumption that the potentially increased metal
removal. removal volume in time was compensated by
In 1979, the Air Force started in the USA a immensely increased tool wear which would make
comprehensive research program in co-operation the economic efficiency of the process doubtful.
with General Electric for investigating the basic effec- Today it can be observed that these “experts” who
tive relationships and for examining the opportunities at that time held a negative attitude have all
of integrating high-speed machining into industrial become emulators and meanwhile figures among
applications. It was found that the optimum cutting the most zealous advocates of the high-speed
speed range in machining aluminium alloys was com- machining technology!
prised between 1500 and 4.500 m/min. A catalogue However, an essential contribution to propa-
of specifications for high-speed machine tools was gating the knowledge about high-speed machining
established. was made by the great joint research project “high-
All tests were primarily concentrated on light speed milling of metallic and non-metallic materi-
metal alloys and in a few cases only on steel and cast als” initiated in 1984 and promoted by the Federal
iron. Other materials such as low-machinability ste- Ministry for Research and Technology in which 41

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industrial partners co-operated very closely under

the leadership of PTW.
The results of this four-year research project
created the most important basics of modern-day
knowledge about high-speed milling (Schulz 1989).
Decisive factors for the success of the PTW
research activities were the holistic development of
process and machines with respect to their rapid
industrial application which can be used directly
from the beginning and the fact that process safety
as well as the reduction of process chains were per-
manently observed.

Holistic development of
process and machine
From the beginning, PTW concentrated its
research programs so as to maintain close links
between the technological process and the develop-
ment of machines and their components. There- Fig. 3. Holistic consideration of high-speed machining.
fore, it was possible to evolve the first machines
specifically appropriate for high-speed machining It was only this holistic consideration that allo-
applications from the repercussions and interactions wed recognising quite a number of additional bene-
between process and machine tool developments. fits which opened completely new markets for HSC
Process development also included the develop- applications. For instance, not only the cutting forces
ment of cutting materials and tools as well as the decrease with increasing cutting speed, but also pro-
elaboration of new machining strategies and of the cess heat is completely removed with the chip, better
interplay with CAD/CAM systems (fig. 3). This
surface qualities can be produced, and machining can
means that, to the research objectives a certain
direction was always given which at the end allowed be made in a range not subject to critical vibrations.
to obtain the successful result of having mot only a However, tool life decreases with increasing
profounder understanding of this new machining cutting speed (fig. 4), and so there is still today a subs-
technology but also machines ready to be used and tantial demand for further developments to minimise
tools required for them to be also available. this shortcoming.

Fig. 4. General properties of high-speed machining.


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The focal points of high-speed machining industries (fig. 5). Although high-speed machining is
applications orient themselves at the benefits of this not necessarily a method for producing high-accu-
new technology. Applications to be mentioned in racy components, it still allows advances far into the
particular are die and mould manufacturing, aeros- field of high-precision machining. Ra values of
pace technology, optics and precision mechanics as 0.2µm and Rz values as low as 3µm are not uncom-
well as the automotive and household appliances mon.
Light metals Aerospace
High metal removal volume in time Steel and cast iron Die and mould making
Die and mould making
Precision machining
High surface quality Components of optics and precision
Special components mechanics
Low cutting forces Machining of thin-walled components Automotive industry
Household appliances
Vibration-free machining of difficult Precision components,
High exciting frequencies components optical industry
Distortion-free machining Precision components
Heat dissipation through chips Colder workpieces Magnesium alloys
Fig. 5. Fields of HSC application.

Safe processes logy is required. Indispensable elements, for ins-

It is regrettable that even today the process- tance, are appropriately energy-absorbing encap-
related hazard potential involved with high-speed sulations of the work area as well as electronic
machining is still underestimated. This hazard con- monitoring systems.
sists in high kinetic energies being released in the Furthermore, specifications, test guidelines and
form of flying chips, tool breakage, tool clamping design recommendations for fast-rotating tools must
systems coming loose, but also in axis dynamics be prepared as quickly as possible to constitute safety
during the machining operation. This means that a standards. Under PTW leadership, work is currently
high standard of active and passive safety techno- being performed also on this subject matter (fig. 6).

Fig. 6. Standard proposal for operational safety of tools rotating at high speeds (DIN 6589-1).

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Reduced Process Chains typical example is die and mould manufacturing

Holistic consideration of the product gene- where surfaces can be generated which come very
ration chain shows that owing to the high surface close to the demanded final accuracy both in
qualities it is possible in many cases to eliminate dimensional and shape deviations as well as in sur-
subsequent finish machining entirely or in part. face quality. This reduces manual rework times
An example to be mentioned is turbine manufac- considerably (fig. 7). Time savings on manual
turing where blades are already machined by work up to 80% and cost reductions up to 30%
milling alone and no longer by grinding. Another are quite realistic.

Fig. 7. Surface quality as achieved by high-speed machining.

If for generating a surface it should still be bly took relatively long. It was only the recession
required to apply a finish grinding operation, impro- during the early 90s that compelled companies to
ved preparation of the surface to be ground will take innovative actions, thus favouring the develop-
reduce the grinding time most substantially. ment in the machine sector.
All previous research in the field of high-speed Today, a wide spectrum of HSC machines is
machining was focused on milling. By expanding commercially available. Since in general the trend
PTW’s range of research continuously, additional for higher speeds is continuing, also standard
important knowledge has meanwhile been obtained machine tools have become faster in the wake of
also for such high-speed machining processes as dri- HSC machines. Spindle speeds of up to 12,000
lling, reaming, turning and turn-milling (Schulz min-1 and feed rates of up to 25 m/min have
1996). meanwhile become state of the art, i.e. it is already
possible, in particular in machining steel or cast iron,
Machines and components to penetrate into the HSC range with the present
Although the most relevant results regarding standard. The profile of requirements as to a HSC
machining technology, tools and machine compo- milling machine orients itself at the workpiece spec-
nents were already presented to the public in the trum and at the HSC milling technology required
mid-80s, practical implementation incomprehensi- (fig. 8).


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Fig. 8. Feed rate speed profile of milling machines.

This is why two market segments become ning steel and cast iron their use only makes sense
distinct: High-Velocity Machining (HVM) in the for finishing and pre-finishing operations.
lower HSC range where high metal removal capa- Owing to high feed rates up to 100 m/min
cities are important, and actual High-Speed Machi- and accelerations up to 30 m/s2, it is only a recent
ning (HSM) with moderate metal removal capabilities innovation leap to machines with direct linear dri-
but very high cutting speeds. Therefore, HSC machi- ves (fig. 9) that consequently permits the implemen-
nes are used on light metals, copper, graphite, and tation of the HSC milling technology especially in
plastics for roughing and finishing, but in machi- machining light metals.

Fig. 9. HSC milling machine with linear drives.

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Conclusion tool life will contribute substantially to growing

As can be seen from figure 2, HSC research is application of the HSC technology. Also conventio-
meanwhile made by many research institutes world- nal machine tool engineering already benefits from
wide. PTW maintains numerous international con- this trend. For instance, due to the many advantages
tacts and corporations. On April 1998, DFG of motor spindles which originally had been exclusi-
(Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) has initiated a vely developed as components for HSC machines,
new program focused on further research of funda- they are also used in standard machine tools run-
mental conditions in the zone of metal removal. ning at lower speeds. Also, the faster CNC control
However, today there is no longer any doubt systems and the highly dynamic drive systems avai-
concerning the economic efficiency of high-speed lable now bring substantial benefits even for stan-
machining. Further developments for improving dard CNC machines.

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18 Junho • 1999

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