Effect of machining parameters on the surface finish of a metal matrix composite under dry cutting conditions
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The machining of aerospace materials, such as metal matrix composites, introduces an additional challenge compared with traditional machining operations because of the presence of a reinforcement phase (e.g. ceramic particles or whiskers). This reinforcement phase decreases the thermal conductivity of the workpiece, thus, increasing the tool interface temperature and, consequently, reducing the tool life. Determining the optimum machining parameters is vital to maximising tool life and producing parts with the desired quality. By measuring the surface finish, the authors investigated the influence that the three major cutting parameters (cutting speed (50-150 m/min), feed rate (0.10-0.30 mm/rev) and depth of cut (1.0-2.0 mm)) have on tool life. End milling of a boron carbide particle-reinforced aluminium alloy was conducted under dry cutting conditions. The main result showed that contrary to the expectations for traditional machined alloys, the surface finish of the metal matrix composite examined in this work generally improved with increasing feed rate. The resulting surface roughness (arithmetic average) varied between 1.15 and 5.64 µm, with the minimum surface roughness achieved with the machining conditions of a cutting speed of 100 m/min, feed rate of 0.30 mm/rev and depth of cut of 1.0 mm. Another important result was the presence of surface microcracks in all specimens examined by electron microscopy irrespective of the machining condition or surface roughness.
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