Composite tooling is the engineering and creation of tool tips and machining parts out of composite materials, for use in the manufacture of other machine parts of components. Traditional materials used for tooling, such as steel and aluminium, can wear down quickly and thus have a short tool life, while they also cannot measure up to the sheer hardness of some composite materials available today. Composite materials can be cheaper to use and provide greater longevity, durability, and reduced weight.
What is a Composite Material?
Composite materials include any type of substance that is made up of more than one raw material. The use of composite materials dates back thousands of years to ancient Mesopotamians using wood and glue to create plywood and ancient Egyptians strengthening mud bricks with straw. Composite materials are made up of a ‘matrix’, or base material, which binds together fibres of reinforcing material. Modern day composites tend to fit into one of four primary categories: polymer matrix composites (PMC), ceramic matrix composites (CMC), carbon matrix composites (CAMC), and metal matrix composites (MMC). Carbon fibre material, for example, is a polymer matrix composite, crafted from plastic resin reinforced with carbon fibres.
How Are Composite Materials Made?
The creation of a successful composite material requires industry expertise and specialised knowledge about the materials being used, their physical and chemical properties, and their atomic structure. The design process is a complex method of testing differing materials together and recording varying features of composites produced.
How Are Composite Materials Used in Tooling?
Producing composites for tooling is even more complicated, as the produced materials are going to be placed under great levels of stress and pressure, and at incredibly high temperatures! This means there are many more variables to consider when creating composites for tooling, such as the geometry of the tool, it’s ability to withstand heat and pressure, and the behaviour of the material in such conditions. Composite materials such as polycrystalline diamond (PCD) are the result of such processes, and now allow us to create PCD tool tips coated with the strongest naturally occurring mineral on earth.