If there’s any one thing that’s a constant in the present manufacturing environment, it’s change. Demands are changing, applications are changing, the workforce is in flux and workpiece materials – whether mundane or exotic – continue to evolve.

As designs in virtually every sector from aerospace to firearms, automotive to sports and recreation equipment, continue to stress material lightness and strength, manufacturers must regularly adapt their tooling for the most efficient and productive production methods. That ongoing development means custom toolmakers like West Ohio Tool must stay abreast of material evolution to provide tooling that works.

Where ferrous metals were once a prime manufacturing material, steel and iron have been eclipsed by superalloys, ceramic, aluminum, exotics such as titanium, Inconel, carbon fiber and carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP), particularly in the case of Department of Defense contracting. As a result, research and development is an ongoing part of the custom toolmaking industry, said West Ohio Tool Production Manager Chad Mahurin.

“We are just constantly working to find out what starts working on these various materials,” Chad said. “And we do a lot of research and development to discover good drill geometries to develop our expertise.”

West Ohio Tool designs a full range of custom tooling that fits virtually any application. Carbide, polycrystalline diamond (PCD) and polycrystalline cubic boron nitride (CBN) are all part of its inventory, Chad said.

“Carbide is an overall solution and good for very general categories,” he said. “You can always start with that and then move to diamond if that’s what’s needed. It’s also good for one-off tests or small runs before making a switch to PCD.”

Once the process for a long run is established, switching to West Ohio Tool’s EdgeX4 PCD tooling is ultimately more economical as it provides longer tool life with less changeouts and downtime and fewer errors, which results in overall lower cost per hole. PCD has also produced excellent results on soft metals such as aluminum, superabrasive materials like ceramics, as well as more exotic composite materials that are often encountered in stacks and layers of varying materials, such as titanium-CFRP combinations.

For aggressive, high-speed, short cycle time drilling that produces high temperatures, CBN usually provides the needed performance, especially in applications where coolant is not required or dry machining is mandatory.

Regardless of the material, CBN, PCD or carbide, Chad said West Ohio Tool can regrind tools two to three times, and they can all be re-tipped as well.

When it comes to finding the best tooling solution for different materials, West Ohio Tool works side-by-side with its clients to understand the scope of the job and develop a tool that it knows will work. It’s how custom tool making is done and how the company does business – understanding everything from materials to machine parameters – and then Chad and his crew go to work.

“We’re willing to take a look at just about anything,” Chad said. “There’s nothing that we’re really afraid of.”

To learn more about West Ohio Tool’s wide selection of custom tooling solutions for today’s evolving manufacturing materials, click here.