Options for micro-holemaking
As in the macroscale-machining world, holemaking is one of the most— if not the most—frequently performed operations for micromachining. Cnc machining Many options exist for how those holes are created. Each has its advantages and limitations, depending on the required hole diameter and depth, workpiece material and equipment requirements. This article covers holemaking with through-coolant drills and those without coolant holes, plunge milling, microdrilling using sinker EDMs and laser drilling.
Getting coolant to the drill tip while the tool is cutting helps reduce the amount of heat at the tool/workpiece interface and evacuate chips regardless of hole diameter. Cnc machining But through-coolant capability is especially helpful when deep-hole microdrilling because the tools are delicate and prone to failure when experiencing recutting of chips, chip packing and too much exposure to carbide’s worst enemy—heat.
When applying flood coolant, the drill itself blocks access to the cutting action. “Somewhere about 3 to 5 diameters deep, the coolant has trouble getting down to the tip,” said Jeff Davis, vice president of engineering for Harvey Tool Co., Rowley, Mass. “It becomes wise to use a coolant-fed drill at that point.”
In addition, flood coolant can cause more harm than good when microholemaking. “The pressure from the flood coolant can sometimes snap fragile drills as they enter the part,” Davis said.
The toolmaker offers a line of through-coolant drills with diameters from 0.039" to 0.125" that are able to produce holes up to 12 diameters deep, as well as microdrills without coolant holes from 0.002" to 0.020".
Having through-coolant capacity isn’t enough, though. Coolant needs to flow at a rate that enables it to clear the chips out of the hole. Davis recommends, at a minimum, 600 to 800 psi of coolant pressure. “It works much better if you have higher pressure than that,” he added.
To prevent those tiny coolant holes from becoming clogged with debris, Davis also recommends a 5μm or finer coolant filter.
Another recommendation is to machine a pilot, or guide, hole to prevent the tool from wandering on top of the workpiece and aid in producing a straight hole. When applying a pilot drill, it’s important to select one with an included angle on its point that’s equal to or larger than the included angle on the through-coolant drill that follows. The pilot drill’s diameter should also be slightly larger.Cnc machining For example, if the pilot drill has a 120° included angle and a smaller diameter than a through-coolant drill with a 140° included angle, “then you’re catching the coolant-fed drill’s corners and knocking those corners off,” Davis said, which damages the drill.
Although not mandatory, pecking is a good practice when microdrilling deep holes. Davis suggests a pecking cycle that is 30 to 50 percent of the diameter per peck depth, depending on the workpiece material. This clears the chips, preventing them from packing in the flute valleys.