I’ll let you in on a big secret: Some of the best metalcutting training is free (or nearly so) and widely available. It’s just not well-publicized.
Let’s start with the classes offered by big names like Sandvik Coromant and Kennametal. You might think that as large commercial ventures, anything they’d offer would either be expensive or a sales pitch, or both. Not at all! Sandvik offers a free 3½-day course on what they call Metal Cutting Technology (MCT) at its Fair Lawn, NJ, and Schaumburg, IL, facilities. Kennametal offers a similar four-day Metalcutting Application Class (MAC) at its Latrobe, PA, headquarters for a tiny fee.
These are intense classes augmented by live machine demos. You cover cutting tool materials, tool geometries, chip formation, the causes of wear, and the fundamentals of turning, milling, holemaking, boring, tapping, and more. You dig into things like how changing a lead angle affects chip thickness, or the impact of changing speeds and feeds on a given application. And you take what you learn in class out into a well-equipped shop and cut metal. For example, you might run a test comparing a coarse-pitch milling cutter with a ½” (12.7-mm) axial depth of cut to a close pitch mill with a ¼” (6.4-mm) axial depth of cut. What speeds can you run? Which combination gives you the maximum material removal?
John Cassell, an experienced CNC programming specialist from GE Power (Richmond, VA), says “you will never be able to retain everything they teach you in MCT but don’t worry, they share all the course material so you can always refer back to it, and I have many times.” A Kennametal customer in Minneapolis said he’d learned more about tooling in this class than he had in the past 35 years. Kennametal says 97% of attendees say they can apply what they’ve learned to their job, and 98% would recommend the class to a colleague.
Very little of the material is particular to Sandvik or Kennametal—it can be applied to anyone’s tools—but it introduces you to each company’s nomenclature and apps for tool selection. Sandvik has some beautiful apps for a variety of machining calculations that can be used anywhere.
Sandvik also offers more advanced training on specific applications like cutting heat-resistant superalloys, or using inserted milling cutters for gearcutting. These classes focus on specific Sandvik products, but again, they’re free and very helpful.
Anyone cutting metal should attend, including experienced machinists. As one of Sandvik’s trainers, Chuck Tate, explains: “We introduce 2500 new tools per year. If you’re using a tool that’s five years old, there’s probably something newer and better for your application. This helps explain why people repeat the classes, including the basic classes. If you’re brand new, the basic course will be a big help, but a lot will go over your head. Coming back after spending more time in the shop gives you the opportunity to focus on the key points.” Everyone is welcome and they can sign up online.
If you can’t travel, they offer shorter versions at various locations around the country throughout the year at no cost. Iscar does likewise. These classes might be at a hotel or conference center, or at a local tooling distributor, in which case machine demos might be included. They may even come to your shop and give you customized training, though they try to keep class sizes of at least 12 or so to make good use of training resources. Remember also that your local Kennametal or Sandvik tooling engineer is a valuable training resource. They often offer a “lunch and learn” program or other short courses locally. That rep is also your ticket into one of the regional sessions.
If you can’t get to a live session, check the online versions. You can use them 24–7.
Ed Sinkora, Contributing Editor