Today, there are many innovations in cutting tool technology. Whether a seasoned pro or novice, these technologies are new for everyone. New edge preps, coatings, cutting materials, digital capabilities and application methods are differentiators that help shops remain competitive if their moldmakers know how to use them properly.

While moldmakers who are entering the field for the first time may have already encountered some of these advancements in a vocational school or technical college, putting theory into practice on the job isn’t always easy. In addition, as the industry changes, all moldmakers must continue their education to help keep their shops and their skillsets up to date.

To accurately achieve the most challenging features in a mold base, moldmakers must choose the cutting tools and toolholders that are most appropriate for the job and know how to use them. In addition, toolholders must have clearance, while cutting tools must withstand cutting forces generated by hardened material and easily access any part of the mold.

To get deep inside a mold or cavity, moldmakers want to choose durable tools that have extended length-to-diameter ratios that can reach far beyond the spindle interface and provide a superior surface finish. Some of the latest solid round tools have very small diameters or complex shapes or forms on the cutter, creating features within the mold cavity. Continued training gives moldmakers the know-how to improve their decision-making and use the latest tools to efficiently machine high-quality molds.

If a cutting tool and toolholding system isn’t the right choice for the job, doesn’t have clearance or isn’t set up correctly, a moldmaker won’t be able to get the tolerance and accuracy needed to execute a particular radius or angle within the mold base, and the quality of the components it produces will suffer.

To remain competitive, it’s essential that shops take modern cutting tool technology, apply it properly, use tooling how it was designed to be used and look at their manufacturing operation from the cutting edge back. The way to do this is through continued training.

Hands-on training is an effective way to learn the theory behind modern cutting tools and properly use them. Training like this is different from a technical school or apprenticeship because of the perspective on modern cutting tools and what makes modern cutting tools work. The theory is often presented through interactive conversations or presentations in a classroom. The hands-on part is then conducted in a shop environment where participants practice techniques and methods on real machines.

If travel isn’t possible, some training centers also offer virtual classes or self-paced, online learning to help moldmakers upskill from wherever they are. Participants can access courses through a phone, computer or tablet and learn new skills when it’s convenient for them.

Digital Machining Improves Productivity

Hands-on training teaches moldmakers the most effective ways to use the latest cutting tools confidently.

Mold builders have evolved to highly digital environments. While moldmakers continue to focus on cutting tools, they’re now also focused on digital tools that can improve shop productivity and the data they can collect. For example, machine performance metrics offered by some cutting tool suppliers collect data from the machining operation and allow machinists to gain insights about machine utilization, stop causes, alarms and faults that could decrease productivity.

Mold builders must understand how to properly use digital tools and analyze the insights from the gathered data. Training helps ensure they can confidently use those insights to act in tangible ways that make a difference on the shop floor—from practicing predictive maintenance to improving tool performance.

Many training facilities include digital technology in their classes, such as smartphone applications and cloud-based software, as part of standard training. For example, during one hands-on practice on the shop floor, participants download an app and use it to calculate all the parameters to run a part. Incorporating digital tools transfers essential skills and makes classes more interactive and engaging.

In addition to standard training, customized training can help shops further their digital transformation journeys. For example, a shop may have specific questions about something as straightforward as CAM and verification tools, or it may simply want to know where to start. Customized training can break down complexities so shops can understand the possibilities of what they can do to improve productivity and reliably achieve business goals.