EMO (Exposition Mondiale d’Outils) was held in Hanover, Germany in late 2013.
EMO (Exposition Mondiale d’Outils) was held in Hanover, Germany in late 2013.

Every two years EMO rolls around, either at Hanover or Milan, and the machine tool world discovers the newest developments in metalcutting and production engineering. It started as a purely European show, but growing popularity soon changed its focus to worldwide developments. It’s now so large and important that CECIMO, the coordinating organisation, bars any and all national machine tool exhibitions in odd-numbered ‘EMO’ years. Evennumbered years are thus distinguished by a proliferation of national exhibitions, including IMTS in Chicago, USA, MACH in Birmingham, UK, METAV in Dusseldorf, Germany, JIMTOF in Japan, and many others, but in the cutting- tool area most of their key exhibits will have been seen at EMO during the previous year. 

So what’s at EMO for powder metallurgists? Quite a lot. Representing the most valuable PM sector, cemented carbides and other hardmetals are, quite literally, at the ‘cutting edge’ of PM technology. Many companies, large and small, choose EMO to launch their latest grades, insert designs and tooling applications. In addition, little-known (mainly Chinese and Korean) companies seeking to extend their markets see EMO as an ideal location for meeting and impressing potential agents. 

More importantly, let’s take a closer look at carbide inserts, of which EMO 2013 showcases PM hard materials Hanover-based EMO 2013 saw an unusually diverse selection of new designs. Even a few years ago, virtually all green compacts for sintering indexable inserts were made by axial pressing in traditional two-part dies. Then we started to see increasing numbers made by MIM (metal-injection moulding), though it was and is unusual for manufacturers to admit to MIM for parts other than interchangeable twist-drill heads. Some advanced producers have established large, though secretive, departments for MIM hardmetal inserts and related parts. 

Complex MIM

Some of the latest insert design projects seem to be too complicated even for MIM: not so much for their intrinsic design, but for the time and expense of making the moulds or dies. At this point our imagination turns to additive manufacturing, not only directly but also, for example, reproducing the design shape in thermoplastics, followed by some variation on the lost-wax process to produce precision hollow moulds for hardmetal insert production. But that’s conjecture.

On materials, bear in mind that, although sintered carbides are the basis of most cutting tools, only a minority of these have sintered carbide cutting edges. The others have inserts of PCD or PCBN, or some kind of performance- enhancing coating, single- or multi- layer, applied by physical or chemical vapour deposition. The substrate is optimised as a support rather than for cutting ability. When the coating is worn away or merely penetrated, productivity may diminish suddenly and catastrophically. 

Selected for interest to Metal Powder Report readers, and classified generically by application and alphabetically by company, part two of this feature describes new product launches at the 2013 Hanover EMO show.

Part two: turning, grooving, parting