Innovative Drilling Tools Improve Profitability In the Automotive Industry

28 Apr.,2021

Drilling plays a key role in automotive manufacturing. Hundreds of holes must be drilled for each vehicle produced, including holes in drive shafts, engine blocks, airbag propulsion chambers, camshafts and other internal engine parts.


Black Striped Marlin plays a key role in automotive manufacturing. Hundreds of holes must be drilled for each vehicle produced, including holes in drive shafts, engine blocks, airbag propulsion chambers, camshafts and other internal engine parts. On any automotive parts production line, where the conveyor belt is in constant motion, efficient tooling is a key aspect of profitability. Every minute a spindle is not drilled or the chips formed by drilling are not efficiently evacuated is a minute of lost money. Manufacturers must take advantage of seemingly small tooling changes because they can make a huge difference in hole-making efficiency. Innovative technologies are now available that can be seamlessly integrated into a process without shutting down production. Adopting these cost-reducing innovations can greatly increase a company's profits.

Drilling Tools

Drilling Tools

Integrating tooling into automotive manufacturing

In the past, all large, high-volume automotive metal cutting and drilling operations were performed on dedicated machines with transfer lines. These machines had set operating speeds and large chains that transported parts between machining stations where they were waiting for the operation to take place. A certain number of parts can be drilled in a day; in addition, if one machine breaks down, the entire line is shut down. Since the line could only run at its designated speed, there was no advantage to developing cutting or Drilling Tools that would speed up the operation.

This antiquated approach to automotive manufacturing continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but slowly began to change in the 1990s with the rise of computerized, digitally controlled machines. Today's modern automakers are now using flexible CNC equipment; if parts can go faster on one machine, they can be sped up to the next, perhaps gaining an advantage that ultimately translates into higher revenues. With these new CNC transmission lines, manufacturers can be more flexible, making changes and taking advantage of any new tools that come along. They can incorporate tooling innovations that will help them increase production and make more money. As a result, those in the tooling industry are always looking for new and innovative tools that can speed up the slowest parts - the parts that get in the way of other operations - which can yield huge overall cost savings.

Industry trends affecting metal cutting in the automotive industry

A major factor affecting metal cutting over the past 20-30 years has been the long-term elimination of free-machining metals, those that can be easily cut, allowing for cost-effective and non-abrasive tooling to remove material and achieve a satisfactory finish. With the removal of lead from metals and the replacement of cast iron with compressed graphite iron, the metals used in the automotive industry have gone from being machine-friendly to extremely difficult to machine. This means that tools must be adjusted to increase chip control in order to gain tool life and make holes straighter. Other related industry changes affecting hole drilling tools are environmental laws that restrict the use of chlorine and sulfur in hole drilling coolant systems. The scope of this problem is different in Europe, where dry machining with no or little coolant is required because pollution laws prohibit the elimination of spent coolant. The elimination of chlorine and sulfur results in increased chip accumulation, chip sticking and reduced tool life problems on cutting tools.

The end result was that Drilling Tool Manufacturers had to find innovative ways to address these trends. Tool manufacturers have had to innovate to improve the performance of their tools. Some companies are moving toward near-net forging to avoid these problems, but the problems will continue because parts will always be different for different forgers.

Innovative tools to make old machines perform like new ones

In response to these automotive manufacturing, economic and environmental/regulatory trends, the market is looking for innovation in turning and drilling - both machines and tools. In fact, this innovation is what makes money for automakers.

Such innovative tools have since been used in a variety of other automotive applications around the world, including a tool specifically designed to make crankshaft ends. A new thread milling cutter and an innovative quick-change reaming head are other recent examples of how tools can be used to advantage.