Product development Creating a new cutting tool – From concept to spindle
New cutting tools are continuously being introduced to the market, but what is the process needed to develop a product from concept through to the spindle? Global company Dormer Pramet tasks its product management and development department with creating new tools every year.
In January 2015, Jan Bittner joined Dormer Pramet and became part of the company’s project to develop an assortment of high-feed milling tools. Almost three years later, a new range of SBN10 cutters and BNGX inserts were launched on the global market. The time taken to introduce a product is an indication of the investment a manufacturer makes to create a new product that will add value to customers for many years.
At Dormer Pramet, the process of creating a new tool begins with its product management department, which identifies the market needs and gaps in the company’s current assortment. Karel Tiefenbach is the company’s product manager for indexable milling and he created a brief and clear objective for the development team.
Dormer Pramet’s aim was to create an assortment of tools for its double-negative cutters that enabled feed rates for increased productivity. The design needed to be for double-sided inserts to maximise the economic value (four edges) and provide good chip control, allowing for a higher ramping angle. At the same time, the tool needed to offer process security and a versatile range for mould and die operations, covering roughing to finishing.
Bittner began the process with Jan Vlcek from the company’s product design and information department, responsible for all aspects of tool development. This included compiling high-quality data on every tool produced, the design of products and supporting manufacture. The department’s first task in designing a new high-feed milling tool – later known as SBN10 – was to research what products were already available on the market from competitors and how Dormer Pramet could be different, while still meeting the needs of customers.
Jan Bittner said: “We started with a series of preliminary studies and initial prototype designs, putting a number of ideas forward before we could start to produce samples. There are always difficulties and challenges to overcome, but some small changes at this stage can have a big impact. For e.g., with one of the first samples created, we realised there was a conflict with an existing patent from a competitor. With many companies creating new inserts all the time, it is a very crowded market.
“However, we worked with the designer to modify our concept to make it unique, whilst still fulfilling the original brief. This led us to liaise closely with colleagues in Sweden and North America to make sure our designs did not conflict with any patents. We discussed with colleagues in Intellectual Property (IP) how we can make our design unique and this was a new experience for me. At each stage, we were in discussions with IP over the design and any slight changes being made. We needed to confirm we were within patent pending at every point and not conflicting with others already submitted. Eventually, we were given the OK to proceed.