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Chapter: Mechanical : Manufacturing Technology : Theory Of Metal Cutting

Tool wear and tool life

The life of a cutting tool can be terminated by a number of means, although they fall broadly into two main categories.

Tool wear and tool life


The life of a cutting tool can be terminated by a number of means, although they fall broadly into two main categories:


Gradual wearing of certain regions of the face and flank of the cutting tool, and abrupt tool failure. Considering the more desirable case Œ the life of a cutting tool is therefore determined by the amount of wear that has occurred on the tool profile and which reduces the efficiency of cutting to an unacceptable level, or eventually causes tool failure. When the tool wear reaches an initially accepted amount, there are two options,


To resharpen the tool on a tool grinder, or


To replace the tool with a new one.


This second possibility applies in two cases,


When the resource for tool resharpening is exhausted. or


The tool does not allow for resharpening, e.g. in case of the indexable carbide inserts


Wear zones


Gradual wear occurs at three principal locations on a cutting tool. Accordingly, three main types of tool wear can be distinguished,


Crater wear


Flank wear


Corner wear


Crater wear: consists of a concave section on the tool face formed by the action of the chip sliding on the surface. Crater wear affects the mechanics of the process increasing the actual rake angle of the cutting tool and consequently, making cutting easier. At the same time, the crater wear weakens the tool wedge and increases the possibility for tool breakage. In general, crater wear is of a relatively small concern.


Flank wear: occurs on the tool flank as a result of friction between the machined surface of the workpiece and the tool flank. Flank wear appears in the form of so-called wear land and is measured by the width of this wear land, VB, Flank wear affects to the great extend the mechanics of cutting. Cutting forces increase significantly with flank wear. If the amount of flank wear exceeds some critical value (VB > 0.5~0.6 mm), the excessive cutting force may cause tool failure.

Corner wear: occurs on the tool corner. Can be considered as a part of the wear land and respectively flank wear since there is no distinguished boundary between the corner wear and flank wear land. We consider corner wear as a separate wear type because of its importance for the precision of machining. Corner wear actually shortens the cutting tool thus increasing gradually the dimension of machined surface and introducing a significant dimensional error in machining, which can reach values of about 0.03~0.05 mm.


Tool life


Tool wear is a time dependent process. As cutting proceeds, the amount of tool wear increases gradually. But tool wear must not be allowed to go beyond a certain limit in order to avoid tool failure. The most important wear type from the process point of view is the flank wear, therefore the parameter which has to be controlled is the width of flank wear land, VB. This parameter must not exceed an initially set safe limit, which is about 0.4 mm for carbide cutting tools. The safe limit is referred to as allowable wear land (wear criterion),


. The cutting time required for the cutting tool to develop a flank wear land of width is called tool life, T, a fundamental parameter in machining. The general relationship of VB versus cutting time is shown in the figure (so-called wear curve). Although the wear curve shown is for flank wear, a similar relationship occurs for other wear types. The figure shows also how to define the tool life T for a given wear criterion VBk




Parameters, which affect the rate of tool wear, are


Cutting conditions (cutting speed V, feed f, depth of cut d)


Cutting tool geometry (tool orthogonal rake angle)


Properties of work material



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