Edge preparation has been performed since the days of stone knives and arrowheads. Even our earliest ancestors knew that a dull cutting tool wouldn’t get the job done right when it was called upon to perform. In those early days, sharpening stones and a little elbow grease were the only solution to dull cutting tools and related implements. Fortunately, the processes for honing edges have changed dramatically over the many centuries that have separated modern times from the Stone Age. Although some still rely on handwork to hone edges on bits and blades, most of the processes currently employed for cutting tool edge preparation are motorized and mechanized. This is particularly advantageous at present, given that the multi-trillion-dollar manufacturing industry relies heavily on cutting tools of all kinds and represents millions of American jobs and a significant percentage of the gross domestic product (or GDP) for the nation.
In the edge prep industry, honing is defined as the creation of a controlled radius and a surface finish improvement. Honing is a process that can be easily applied to a variety of different types of cutting tools, including drill bits, end mills, carbide inserts, reamers, taps, gear hobs, gear shaper cutters, spiral bevel stick blades, and a number of different types of saw blades. Honing or cutting tool edge preparation has a number of manufacturing benefits. Edge prep improves tool life – for everything from drill points to reamers to saw blades. In addition, cutting tool edge prep or honing improves the surface finish of the workpieces – which, in turn, may be a significant factor in the reduction of rejected product due to quality concerns. Materials waste is also a consideration in this respect. So, whether it’s a Rock Drill Bit or a Solid Carbide Ball Nose Endmill, cutting tools require well-honed edges to work at maximum efficiency and perform reliably on the job. And when the cutting tool is implemented in a manufacturing process, edge preparation helps to ensure that the quality of the end-product is maintained piece after piece. In addition, cutting tool honing has been shown to reduce spindle load, as well as cycle time. Well-honed drill bits and cutting tools typically create less noise and vibration over those that have been dulled by repeated use and lack of care. And, of course, all of these benefits add up to a reduction in the overall cost of manufacturing.
There are many processes that will allow for a finely-honed result for each type of cutting tool. One of the more popular processes – made available through edge prep systems by Mutschler Edge Technologies (MET) – is achieved by applying a nylon abrasive filament brush to the edges of the cutting tool in a highly-controlled procedure that is reliable and repeatable. The MET edge preparation machine requires minimal effort from an operator, creating a labor-savings for the company or manufacturing group that employs the technology.