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Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748
Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748

Diamond tools for wire sawing metal components

H.K. Tonshoff,¨

H. Hillmann-Apmann*

Institute for Production Engineering and Machine Tools, University of Hannover, Schlosswender Strasse 5, D-30159 Hannover, Germany


In the last few years, a wire sawing process has been developed for many applications in the field of natural stone and construction materials, especially for very thick materials or components that are difficult to access. Diamond wire cutting was limited to small carbon-steel shapes, such as pipelines for transporting gas or oil under the sea. In particular, the task of cutting pure steel components offers new fields of applications, e.g. treatment of nuclear power or off-shore-components. The application of the wire sawing process for these specific cutting operations requires the development of diamond tools adapted to the cutting process. In this paper, the basic principles of wire sawing are explained and the background of diamond wire cutting of steel components is discussed. The interaction between the tool and the workpiece is described in detail. Results are presented of a project on further developments of the diamond wire sawing technique, emphasising the applications for metal components. 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.


Diamond properties and applications; Wire sawing; Diamond and steel; Tool design

1. Introduction

The application of diamond tools for the special task of cutting austenitic steel is limited to the machining of non-ferrous materials. For the machining of steel, dia- mond tools are regarded as unsuitable because of the chemical affinity between iron and carbon. As iron acts as a catalyst, graphitisation of the diamond can occur when the temperatures in the contact zone exceed 500 8C. The transformation of diamond into graphite causes high wear, and thus the machining process becomes uneconomical w1x. Disregarding these problems in the late 1980s, a few companies have begun wire sawing of steel material with diamond tools w2x. This project work focused on the application of cutting these materials under water. The main points of the research work were basic investigations and analysis of the cutting process due to the interaction between tool and material, regarding tool wear, cutting forces and the resulting cutting capacity. In consequence, the most important points are optimi- sation of the tool configuration and the wire sawing process itself.

*Corresponding author. Tel.: q49-511-762-3528; fax: q49-511-


E-mail address: hillmann@ifw.uni-hannover.de (H. Hillmann- Apmann).









Wire sawing is a grinding process with impregnated or electroplated diamonds, and can be compared with grinding as an abrasive process. The cutting mechanism in grinding, or in this case wire sawing, of metal material can be reduced to the detailed part occurring for each cutting bead or each diamond. As shown in Fig. 1, there are three main parts of the cutting process during tool engagement for the point-of-cutting action of a single diamond grit. At the beginning of the grinding process, a cutting edge of the grit impinges on the workpiece surface with angle h. In the first main area (I), the material undergoes elastic deformation. Friction between the workpiece and the diamond grit and increases in the contact zone, with a subsequent increase in temperature. In area II, plastic material deformation also occurs, caused by further penetration of the grit into the material. As a conse- quence, the process forces increase. The friction and the resilience introduced by the cutting process lead to a further increase in the temperature in the near-surface area of the workpiece. Thus, the elastic limit of the material is reduced and plastic deformation of the material is promoted. Subsequently, the topography of the material surface is greatly changed, i.e. as material

0925-9635/02/$ - see front matter 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. PII: S 0925-9635 Ž 01 . 00727-0

H.K. Tonshoff,¨

H. Hillmann-Apmann / Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748


/ Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748 743 Fig. 1. Cutting mechanism during grinding of

Fig. 1. Cutting mechanism during grinding of metal material.

buckling. The main part of the grinding process occurs in zone III, where the chip is generated. Shear processes generate heat during the chip building process, with plastic displacement occurring at the same time w3,4x.

3. State-of-the-art wire sawing

Segmented diamond tools were introduced to the processing of natural stone, such as marble and granite, approximately 30 years ago w5,6x. They have, without any doubt, revolutionised the whole stone-processing sector, by allowing increased material removal rates compared to conventional sawing techniques w7x. Now- adays, tools with diamond segments are applied for soft stone, such as marble, as well as for hard and dense stones, such as granite w8,9x.

Beside the circular and gang sawing technique, dia- mond wire sawing has been established as a technique for the machining of hard and brittle materials, e.g. for the quarrying and dimensioning of natural stone w10,11,18x. In the last few years, the wire sawing technique has been increasingly applied in different industrial sectors, namely the construction and road- building industries w12,13x and for purposes of recon- struction while cutting concrete and reinforced concrete w14x. Diamond-wire sawing tools (diameter approx. d s 8.5–11 mm) w15x are made by sintering or electroplating techniques, as described in Fig. 2.

4. Wire sawing of metal components

The productivity of a tool has the highest priority during experiments. The removal rate during the wire


of a tool has the highest priority during experiments. The removal rate during the wire b

Fig. 2. Wire sawing tools.


H.K. Tonshoff,¨

H. Hillmann-Apmann / Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748

/ Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748 Fig. 3. Wear of wire sawing beads when

Fig. 3. Wear of wire sawing beads when machining steel components.

sawing process is the main quantity for assessment of the wire sawing process. The cutting capacity is influ- enced by several process parameters, such as the cutting force, feed rate, cutting speed and the configuration (diamond size, concentration and bonding) of the dia- mond segments on the wire sawing tool. Further criteria for the productivity of the tool are the wear resistance of the diamond grits, the clearance between the grits, the projection of the diamonds, the bonding, and of course the behaviour of the tool components (i.e. wire, springs and clamps). In the following, the microscopic and macroscopic wear of wire sawing tools when machining metal mate- rials is described in detail.

5. Wear of wire sawing tools

Besides the cutting capacity, the wear mechanisms give the opportunity of comparing different cutting tools and process parameters. Tool wear can be divided into microscopic and the macroscopic wear of the beads and the wire w20x.

5.1. Microscopic wear

Microscopic wear is the effect of mechanical and thermal load on the abrasive grains during machining. The abrasive material at the cutting beads can wear due to the stress to which they are exposed during the grinding process. Both grain and bonding wear occurs. The following wear characteristics of grains can be determined w8,6,16x.

New grains: new diamonds are still capable of good cutting behaviour. There is no damage at the grain, which is thus favourable for the cutting process.

Fractured grains: thermal stresses and subsequent

quick cooling, combined with mechanical load, cause sections of the grain splinter off and form new cutting edges. This wear characteristic is favourable because of the new, sharp cutting edges formed.

Abrasion: mechanical wear occurs as a consequence of friction between the grain and the material. The grain is continuously cleared away and forms rounded or flattened cutting edges, which cause high friction and do not contribute to the cutting process.

Break out: this wear characteristic describes the break out of whole grains from the bond. The grain- retaining forces of the bond are not sufficient in a bonding system that is too soft. In most cases, this is due to voluminous wear in multi-layered bonding systems. The cutting bead, however, retains its cutting ability.

During experiments, diamonds were characterised into four groups of wear status after certain states of the cutting process. Long-distance tests were carried out to characterise the wear behaviour of diamonds in the cutting beads of the wire sawing tool. During these tests, the diamonds were examined under a microscope at certain times. The result of one of these experiments is representative of the whole investigation and is shown in Fig. 3. In the tests on machining steel components, most of the diamonds begin to fracture, caused by vibrations in the wire during the cutting process. Because of vibra- tions and subsequent mechanical load on the diamonds, the grains splinter off and form new cutting edges. In most cases, this occurs in the first part of the cutting process. When stationary grinding behaviour of the wire sawing tool occurs, diamond wear reaches a constant level. The rate of flat and pulled-out diamonds should be continuously low for a good cutting process.

H.K. Tonshoff,¨

H. Hillmann-Apmann / Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748


/ Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748 745 Fig. 4. Cutting capacity for different working

Fig. 4. Cutting capacity for different working pressure values.

During investigation into graphitisation of the dia- monds, REM images have shown no transformation of the diamond grains into graphite because of the chemical affinity between iron and carbon. Thus, the machining of steel components with diamond tools under water is suitable. Temperatures in the contact zone are beneath 500 8C, which has been verified in tests with thermo- couples in the contact zone.

5.2. Macroscopic wear

A reduction in the tool diameter and the generation of a conical shape of the cutting bead is observed as macroscopic wear. Bonding material is removed by the abrasive effect of the chip material. As a consequence, bonding wear will influence the ability to retain the grains in the bonding. During experiments, the radial wear of wire sawing tools has been identified as crucial for wire sawing steel components. The diameter reduction of sintered cutting beads during wire sawing of austenitic steel is much higher than using electroplated beads w17x. This depends on the thicker, multi-layered bead of the impregnated tools. Tests were carried out with both impregnated and electroplated tools up to the end of tool life of the wire sawing tools. Tests with impregnated tools have also shown that the beads were filled with smeared austenitic steel w17x.

5.3. Results depending on the working pressure

The adjusted working pressure is a result of the power of the hydraulic motor used during the tests. The process forces that qualify the wire sawing process depend on the adjusted working pressure. The working pressure is responsible for the normal force component F and for the feed velocity. The cutting force F is a function of



the radius of the cutting bead or cutting speed. When the normal forces are too high, the cutting stroke ends w19x. A wire sawing process with high cutting capacity represents a balanced process with high cutting forces and normal forces. Tests were carried out by adjusting a constant working pressure. The cutting capacity of the wire sawing tools achieved was documented at different working pressures. At too high working pressure (2.7 and 3.0 MPa), the cutting and normal forces led to process stops using electroplated tools. At lower working pressure (2.2 and 2.4 MPa), a continuous process cycle was achieved, as shown in Fig. 4. In other tests, impregnated tools were tested for cutting capacity as a function of the working pressure. The results were similar to the results of the electroplated tools. However, the results also depend on the bonding system and the concentration of the cutting beads.

5.4. Different diamond concentrations in wire sawing tools

The concentration data indicate the volume of dia- mond in the grinding layer. As a general rule for selection of the desired concentration, high concentra- tions are suitable for small areas and low concentrations for large contact areas. Concentration is one of the important parameters for a diamond tool. It has a major influence on the removal rate and the tool life, and also on the shape and accuracy of the ground workpiece. However, this does not mean that a higher concentration always leads to better grinding results. The concentration must be matched to the other parameters of the tool, process and machine. In combination with the grit size, the concentration is a measure for the number of active points in the cutting process.

During the tests, two different concentrations in the

beads were used for cutting austenitic steel components.


H.K. Tonshoff,¨

H. Hillmann-Apmann / Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748

/ Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748 Fig. 5. Cutting capacity for different diamond concentration

Fig. 5. Cutting capacity for different diamond concentration in the beads.

One of the configurations has a diamond concentration

of C200 and had an electroplated bond. The second configuration is equipped with C40 and the diamonds were impregnated into the beads. The concentration of impregnated cutting beads is expressed in caratsycm 3

(one carat is 0.2 g of diamond). To characterise the cutting bead, the concentration of the tool corresponds to the basis number C100, which represents 4.4 caratsy


cutting layer. Similarly, of C40 represents 1.7 caratsy


length of 8 mm and an outside diameter and thickness of the cutting layer of 2.25 mm w5x. This kind of characterisation of diamond tools cannot be used for electroplated wire sawing tools. The volume of single-layered tools cannot be exactly described. In

single-layered tools, the diamonds are located on a preset

3 or 0.55 carats of diamond on a cylinder with a

3 and corresponds to 25% of the volume of the whole

area of the steel core. The concentration of an electro-

plated cutting bead is defined as the maximum concen- tration K , with a maximum load of the amount of


diamonds in the steel core; K is the concentration


most used for single-layered electroplated diamond tools. For a reduced concentration, other materials, i.e. glass or sand, are included in the cutting layer. These

parts have to be of the same grit size as the diamonds.

Investigations have been carried out using tools with concentrations C200 (electroplated) and C40 (sintered) cutting beads. The cutting capacity results are shown in Fig. 5. The tool with the electroplated cutting beads shows better results in comparison to the sintered beads. The concentration of diamond in the electroplated beads is five-fold higher than in the sintered ones, which increas- es the cutting capacity of the former. After a short process time, the chip space of the sintered beads is

filled with ground material. Furthermore, the bonding of the sintered beads cannot be reduced to obtain new diamond grits because of this filled chip space. This fact has been taken into consideration as another reason for the lower capacity of the sintered beads. At low concentration, only a few diamonds are involved in the cutting process and the process forces are different to those of the electroplated beads. At the lower concentration in the impregnated beads, each of the diamonds has to penetrate much deeper into the material at the same feed rate, in comparison to the higher concentration in the electroplated beads. The forces have to be evaluated for the specific forces of each grit. At low concentration, the cutting force acts at only a few diamonds, which causes pull-out of the grits. Because of the high load and the pull-out of diamond, the bonding material ploughs into the material and subsequent frictional forces appear, caused by the con- tact between the bonding material and the workpiece. The metal material, especially austenite steel, is smeared in between the diamonds. A high wear rate of the whole bead results, and is also dependent on the machined material and the interaction between the tool and the material.

5.5. Cutting capacity depending on machined material

In additional tests, the cutting capacity was investi- gated as a function of the material machined. During the tests, three different kinds of material, which are the main materials used in nuclear power-plant systems and off-shore-units, were machined with the wire sawing tools. Beside the two steel materials, aluminium was also cut by the wire sawing tool. The results of the tests with the different material are shown in Fig. 6. The tests

H.K. Tonshoff,¨

H. Hillmann-Apmann / Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748


/ Diamond and Related Materials 11 (2002) 742–748 747 Fig. 6. Cutting capacity for different machined

Fig. 6. Cutting capacity for different machined materials.

were carried out with electroplated wire sawing tools. As shown in Fig. 6, machining of aluminium is most effective in comparison to the steel materials.

6. Summary and outlook

The machining of metal materials, such as ferritic or austenitic steel and aluminium, with wire sawing tools is possible. The basis for realising this process is the cutting mechanism for the grinding of metal material, which is described in this paper. During the tests conducted at a wire sawing test stand at the IFW, University of Hannover, Germany, research work on the optimal processing of steel components with wire saw- ing tools has been carried out. Therefore, measurement equipment was installed at the test bed to evaluate the process behaviour of different tools. Investigations of the wear forces occurring, the cutting capacity and measurement of the process quantities for conventional wire sawing tools were made at the begin- ning of the project. Further investigations on condition- ing of the tools and the development of new and adapted tools have been carried out. For this task, a new structure of the cutting beads (abrasives, bonding and concentra- tion) has been developed. The main parts qualifying the wire sawing process are the wear of the tool, the forces acting during the process, the layout of the tool (i.e. the diamond concen- tration) and the machined material. In addition to the cutting force (F ), the feed rate and the depth of the cut determine the cutting capacity. With higher concentra- tion tools, the cutting capacity is higher, because more diamond grits are involved in the cutting process. In addition, tool life is longer at higher concentrations. The


results of this research represent the first part of the development of new wire sawing tools for cutting huge- scale steel components. Finally, a new, optimised tool has been tested on mock-ups of components used in the treatment of nuclear power plants. For the future, new developments of the tool, such as connectors, have to be carried out. New tools will be tested and compared with conventional ones. In addition, new bead layouts and bonding systems will be tested. The whole wire sawing system has to capable of remote handling in special environments, such as cutting metal components in power plants under water.


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