The incredible shrinking cutting-tool market Essay

The cutting-tool market is shrinking fast. In fact, in constantterms it has contracted to a 1968 level (see graph). Cutting-tooltechnology is improving productivity and expanding applications;however, these same factors are reducing use of carbide tools from 5percent to 20 percent, both in dollars and units.

Kevin E Carey, VP, Indumar Inc (an industrial marketing consultingfirm), Cincinnati, OH, remarks, “Factors impacting the potentialmarket include tool-material innovations, such as coatings, ceramics,and CBN, and clever tool geometries. Then there are new generationcoolants and synthetic additives, which further enhance tool life. “In addition, machine sensors now compensate for tool wear andmitigate the havoc of potential breakage. Near-net shape workpieces,free machining work materials, and increasing use of plastic partsrequiring no machining also are factors. “We did a limited survey of 53 randomly-selected cutting-toolusers and suppliers, and found that, on average, they had little morethan three exposures to new metalcutting technology; only 27 percent hadfour or more exposures.” He cautions that this isn’tstatistically conclusive, but is an indication of problems andopportunities facing carbide-tool suppliers.

Some 94 percent of the polled users had experience with carbideimprovements, about 56 percent with new tool materials, and 44 percentwith smaller or near-net-shape workpieces. Another 44 percent had usedmachine sensors, 38 percent were aware of new work materials, and only31 percent were familiar with new generation coolants. The figuredropped to 13 percent for those working with parts not requiringmachining. For suppliers, 78 percent had experience with smaller ornear-net-shape workpieces, 67 percent with new work materials, and 44percent with carbide improvements, new tool materials, and new coolants.

Only 13 percent knew about the intricacies of sensor technology. “We found that few respondents, whether end user or supplier,had systematic testing and evaluation programs,” Carey notes.”Thus, they weren’t able to provide detailed information onproductivity improvements. Nevertheless, those that do have organizedprograms report higher productivity, longer tool life, and less machinedowntime because of tool wear and breakage. Moreover, they have lowertool costs and total cost per produced piece.” The study concludes that the shrinking carbide-tool market isimpacted by more sophisticated and costly product, increased tool life,and inflation resulting in higher prices, i.

e., the industry is sellingless of a higher price, more productive product. This is likely tocontinue as cutting-tool technology improves, more users systematicallyaddress tooling options, and suppliers upgrade consultiveproblem-solving selling.

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