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Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11

Thread milling as a manufacturing process for API threaded

connection: geometrical and cutting force analysis
Anna Carla Araujo, Gabriel Mendes Mello, Francirlei Gripa Cardoso
Programa de Engenharia Mecânica - COPPE/UFRJ

Thread connection is one of the main unions for oil tubing and casing and its failure leads to deterioration of seal performance
and connection strength. The machining process that produces threads by milling allows a higher speed velocity with a lower feed
per tooth and, as a consequence, it promotes the lower forces compared to other manufacturing processes. Thread milling forces
has been studied in metrical threads but there are not similar studies on API thread manufacturing. This article presents a study
on thread milling cutting forces for API connection. Geometrical chip load analysis and mechanistic model are presented and
experimental tests are developed using different feed per tooth. The experimental force data was used to calculate cutting pressure
for force model. Surface quality is analyzed using the roughness data from machined surfaces. Flank and face surfaces did not
present different roughness level. Also feed per tooth and vertical position did not presented influence on thread surface roughness.
As a conclusion, the thread milling process is considered a good option for the manufacturing of API threads with force prediction
that can be used to define machining parameters.

c 2015 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Keywords: Thread Milling, API Thread Connection, Cutting Force, Thread Quality

1. Introduction

There are several types of thread connections used on industry, but it can be claimed that America Petroleum
Institute thread standards (API, 2008) are the most commonly used in petroleum industries for drill-stem members,
including threaded connections, gauging practice, and master gauges. It is used when strong sealing and high torque
is needed and in these working conditions, abrasive wear and high stresses (and cyclical due to internal pressure varia-
tion) are very aggressive to the workpiece. The failure of the drill pipes occurred mostly in the joint due to continuous
changeable load of tension, bending, impact, internal pressure and a certain amount of torque, as claimed by Luo
and Wu (2013). In order to enhance the life of the equipment, those conditions should be known and manufacturing
process should not introduce additional stresses.
Several articles analyzed API thread connection in service. Yuan et al. (2004) studied the temperature and the
stress fields because represents main effects analyzed in API threaded connection during make and break process.
Guangjie et al. (2006) presented the description of temperature and stress fields in API round threaded connections
according to the experimental and numerical prediction. Bahai (2001) described a parametric model for axial and

Email address: anna@mecanica.ufrj.br (Anna Carla Araujo)

Araujo, A.C. et al / Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11 2

bending stress concentration factors in API drill string threaded connectors and Macdonald and Deans (1995) used
the finite element method to map the stress field present on the case.
Shahani and Sharifi (2009) presented the load distribution analysis on the threads showing predicted conclusive
results considering compressive and tractive axial load, with and without torque, on the screw threads of the drill pipe.
The threads localized near the shoulder and near the free end support higher efforts, so the manufacturing process
should not add residual stresses especially on those locations. Luo and Wu (2013) used FEM analysis of the stress
distribution on the joint failure of drill pipes claiming that the first and second tooth of the pin undertook the majority
of the axial load, which was around 16% and 10% of the total load, respectively.
Due to part precision, particularly for drill pipe, it is necessary to produce threads by machining which can produce
micro structural changes on the surface layers of the materials, as strain hardened surface layers and residual stresses,
affecting the service life of the threaded joints. Fetullazade et al. (2010) described the three important effects that
are consequence of machining for parts surface: increasing of residual stresses, changing the surface hardening and
increasing the surface roughness. Reducing cutting forces could control and reduce those effects.
Turning is the manufacturing process that is mostly used to produce API threads, and in this case the thread
pitch connects the feed velocity and the cutting velocity. Fetullazade et al. (2010) presented an experimental work in
turning showing that, sever strain hardening and the concentration of residual stresses at the API roots of the screw
threads took place depending on the machining conditions. The distribution of residual stresses at the roots of the
screw threads in this work was generated under the conditions of high forces and temperatures. This behavior is not
expected in thread milling because the feed per tooth is much lower producing lower forces and due to the cooling
aspects of the process that preserves thread roots. In the presented article residual stresses and strain hardening will
not be focused because of lower experimental forces, compared to the turning ones machined by Fetullazade et al.
Araujo et al. (2006) developed the first study on thread milling cutting forces. A mechanistic force model was
created from a linear thread cutting experiment where the referential frames were superposed and independent from
the tool trajectory. After mechanistic calibration, the model was applied in helical path by rotating force basis and it
was validated. Fromentin et al. in 2010, Fromentin and Poulachon (2010a) and Fromentin and Poulachon (2010b),
developed a geometric local analysis for thread milling considering the envelope tool profile, an analytical formulation
of the cutting edges and a more precise calculation for uncut chip thickness, considering feed velocity in vertical
direction. It is pointed out a concern on interesting local cutting edge aspects, including flute angle, and how it reflects
on the cutting area and cutting force components. In 2014, Araujo et al. (2013) included additional geometrical
analysis comparing different cutting parameters and tool optimization. Araujo and Jun (2009) used a similar approach
to model the two processes done with the same special tool: drilling and thread milling.
The optimization of the cutting conditions can consider the reduction of forces during the manufacturing processes.
In thread milling it is possible to low down the chip load by reducing the feed per tooth without prejudice of the
cutting velocity or increasing the cutting time by several passes. Lower chip load could avoid residual stresses on the
workpiece and enhance the surface quality. Another manufacturing advantage is that the workpiece does not rotate, as
in the lathes, so some structures could be easily machined and the vibration and surface waviness can be controlled.
Cao et al. (1997) presented the importance of the thread surface roughness as the indicative of thread quality.
For tapping, Val et al. (2013) analyzed the quality of the tapped thread flanks worsens and the major diameter of the
threads diminishes producing unacceptable threads. In thread milling, as the vertical feed is very low compared to
tapping, this problem does not appears. In the presented article, flank and face roughness are compared to show this
In this article, it is developed a set of cutting force experiments in aluminum collars done by thread milling. The
principal trend is to develop a force model for API thread milling, analyze the experimental forces and the thread
roughness. Different feed per tooth are performed for the same thread geometry, with same cutting parameters and
same cutting tool geometry. As the most influential factors on the fatigue strength of threaded specimens are tool wear
and cutting velocity, as described by Akyildiz and Livatyali (2010). In the presented work, it is not expected to have
this influence. The adaptation of the metric thread turning tool for API connection used on CNC milling machine and
the resultant cutting forces and roughness are presented.

Araujo, A.C. et al / Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11 3

2. Force Model for API Thread Milling Process

The basic idea of thread milling process is to combine the tool geometry with the helical trajectory, and tool
sequences are described in previous articles, as in Jun and Araujo (2010, 2008); Araujo et al. (2004)). The tool profile
produces envelope geometry when rotating around its axis that, combined with the tool axis movement, generates the
thread profile. More than one thread can be machined at the same time depending on the tool profile.
Screw threads are commonly machined on CNC Lathes using indexable inserts in the shape of the appropriate
standard, as metric, Whitworth and buttress. API threaded connections are manufactured using a metric insert over a
conical profile and a conical tool trajectory on the lathe.
In the case of API thread milling, the tool trajectory is a conical helix. Combining the tool spindle with the tool
axis trajectory described, the cutting edge trajectory produces the red curves presented in Figure 1a. Note that the
machined thread diameter changes in time, depending on the thread inclination. Thread inserts machines only one
pitch instantly, as shown in Figure 1b, and threaded length machined is defined by the tool trajectory. The figure
presents a red surface that is a simulation of the chip removed in one tool revolution. The process can be done with
the same right hand tool beginning in the lower position as in Fig1a or in the upper position as in Fig1b. The cutting
velocity on each point of the cutting edge is lightly variable due to the inclination and insert geometry. Nevertheless,
this difference is very small and it will be neglected.
The vertical component of the feed velocity, represented by V fz , produces a feed per tooth in vertical direction
ftz while the feed velocity projected on xy plane is responsible for the feed per tooth ftxy . As it has been claimed, the
feed velocity that can be defined as small as it is needed for hard or brittle materials, situation that does not happens in
thread turning process. The lower limit for the feed per tooth is to provide an uncut chip thickness at least three times
higher then the cutting edge radius, and the upper limit it is defined by the chip load that should not damage the tool
insert nor produce high level of vibration on the process.

(a) Cutting Edge and Milling Tool Center (b) General Overview of Tool and Workpiece
Trajectories (Santos, 2013)

Figure 1. Machining API Threads by Milling

2.1. Geometrical Analysis

The thread machining begins positioning the tool on the center of the cone, followed by a penetration strategy
to the bulk proposed by Sharma et al. (2014). After the penetration, the tool is in full machining and the tool axis
trajectory describes a Rtt (z) radius circle in the XY projection plane (Fig. 2a) that reduces with vertical position z while
the tool moves downwards. As described in Araujo et al. (2013), and presented in Fig. 2b, the radial penetration R p
quantifies the engagement in helical trajectory:

Dt D1 (z)
R p = Rtt (z) + − (1)
2 2
Araujo, A.C. et al / Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11 4

(a) Aerial View of Tool and Trajectory (b) Radial Penetration

Figure 2. Radial Penetration on API Thread Milling Process

where Dt is the tool diameter and D1 (z) is the inner diameter machined previously. In API case, although those two
values changes while the tools moves in axis direction, the radial penetration remains constant.
The feed per tooth ft in API thread takes into account the helical trajectory and the reducing diameter used by
the CNC programming. Fromentin and Poulachon (2010b) analyzed the feed per tooth projected to the XY plane ftxy
and calculated as a function of the thread pitch. In the case of the standard API, the maximum vertical component ftz
depends on the tool diameter and represents less than 3% of the feed per tooth and it will be neglected. The analysis
for the uncut chip thickness is done based on the angular feed per tooth θ f t = Rfttt .

2.2. Uncut chip thickness and Chip Load Area

The uncut chip thickness tc and maximum uncut chip thickness tcmax (z) in the plane perpendicular to z is represented
in Fig. 3a. Equation 2 calculates tcmax (z) as a function of the diameters, the angles θ f t and β.
Dt D1 (z) 2 D1 (z)
tcmax (z) = − Rtt (z)2 + − 2.Rtt (z). . cos(β − θ f t ) (2)
2 2 2
Although the vertical feed is neglected in cinematic, it is fundamental for chip load geometry. Taking in to account
the tool insert geometry (cutting edge projected in plane rz) and vertical movement, it is possible to calculate the chip
load area. The position of the cutting edge in two sequential revolutions, graphically represented on Fig. 3b, and the
calculation of the internal area defines the chip load area Ac considering all the points along the cutting edge. Note
that the uncut chip thickness described in Fig. 3a is the distance in r direction, depending on the position z.
The uncut chip thickness is calculated using tool insert geometry (Fig. 4a). Fig.4b shows the cutting edge length
calculated using the first experiment data as an example ( ft = 0.07mm/th). As it is shown, the cutting edge length
sections are 1.01 mm, 0.03 mm, 1.19 mm, 0.03 mm and 1.31 mm, from point C to point G, summing 3.57 mm. The
curve that connects point H to point I represent the limit of the material that was machined in the previous revolution.
The distance between the two curves represents the uncut chip thickness tc and it is defined by the radial penetration
represented in Fig.4b by D-E. Figure 4c presents the values for tc along the cutting edge for this case, using z = 30mm,
the position that will be taken on experimental data.
The chip load area Ac is calculated as a function of time or, more preciously, as a function of θ2 , the tool spindle
angle. Figure 6d presents the chip load area as a function of the tool revolution. The maximum area Ac is located at
28.48o , when θ2 = 0 is the point when the tool touches the workpiece, detailed description and analysis is described
in Mello (2014). The important information is the chip load area maximum value, in this case 0.0734mm2 . This value
can be used to calculate the specific cutting force when the maximum cutting force per revolution is known. In third
column of table 1 shows the maximum chip load area calculated with the algorithm developed by Mello (2014) for
the feed per tooth used in the experiments.
Araujo, A.C. et al / Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11 5

(a) Uncut Chip Thickness (in xy/rt plane) (b) Chip Load Area (in rz plane)

Figure 3. Uncut Chip Thickness and Chip Load Area during the Thread Milling Process Mello (2014)

(a) Tool Insert Geometry (b) Analysis of Cutting Edge in rz plane

(c) Distance Between H-I line and C-G line - perpendicular (d) Ac and tc as a function of θ2
to H-I

Figure 4. Cutting Geometry for ft = 0.07mm/th

Araujo, A.C. et al / Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11 6

2.3. Cutting Force Model

In mechanistic models for cutting force, specific cutting force components Kt , Kr and Kz are defined for a feed
per tooth and cutting velocity range using a calibration function. In this paper, edge forces are neglected. The cutting
force F~ is calculated multiplying the chip load area by the specific cutting energy.
   
 Ft   Kt 
F~ =  Fr  =  Kr  .Ac (3)
   
Fz Kz
   

The theoretical force is calculated in the tool spindle referential frame, but the forces could be described in different
frames. Araujo et al. (2013) defined the three referential frames used on this process, for force decomposition: R0 , R1
and R2 , as shown in Figure 5. The fixed referential R0 is located in the center of the machined workpiece oriented by
the machine-tool axis. The referential frame R1 moves with the tool axis while it describes the helical trajectory over
the cone surface, as shown in Figure 1a.
The tool axis position in XY plane defines θ1 = arctan (y/x) and locates R1 . Forces Frad and Ftan , radial and
tangent to the cone surface, written in R1 , describe the local interaction between the tool and the machined surface.
The referential frame R2 is fixed in the tool axis oriented by one fixed point in one cutting edge insert. Tool rotation
angle θ2 is positive to the clockwise direction. The resultant cutting force F~ can decompose in the described referential

(a) Relation

(b) Referential Transformation

Figure 5. Referential Frames for Cutting Force Decomposition

       
 F x   cos(−θ2 ) − sin(−θ2 ) 0   Ft   cos(−θ2 ) − sin(−θ2 ) 0   Kt 
 Fy  =  sin(−θ2 ) cos(−θ2 ) 0   Fr  =  sin(−θ2 ) cos(−θ2 ) 0   Kr  .Ac (4)
       
Fz 0 0 1 Fz 0 0 1 Kz

The specific cutting forces Kt , Kr and Kz could be modeled by empirical, analytical or mechanistic model, as a
function of cutting velocity and feed per tooth. In this article, specific force is calculated on each experiment.
In order to compare experimental force components with the predicted model, equation 4 should be used. It is
also important to calculate the force components in the surface-tool frame R1. Those forces show how the tool bar is
receiving the efforts from the workpiece while it machines.
    
 Frad   cos(−θ1 ) − sin(−θ1 ) 0   F x 
 Ftan  =  sin(−θ1 ) cos(−θ1 ) 0   Fy  . (5)
     
Fz 0 0 1 Fz

Araujo, A.C. et al / Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11 7

3. API Thread Milling Experiments

All machining experiments were carried out on a Romi Polaris V400 CNC milling center with Mach6. Cutting
fluid was applied using Quakercool 7599 VEG BF water based emulsion. One single Sandvik carbide insert P20
(PVD 266-RL22 V401A0503 E1020) was attached to an adapted tool support bar (166 KF 2522), as shown in Fig. 5a
with. The external tool point, while rotating in tool axis, describes an envelop with diameter of 34.49 mm.
The tool was centered in the workpiece (Fig. 6b) with a special polymeric fixture.Note that this Fig.6c, was taken
in pre-test with polymer workpiece. The thread geometry was API 2 3/8” REG threads with 5 FPP and one lead and
the workpiece is 6262 aluminum workpiece pre-machined with an inside revolution surface with 7o 010 inclination.
After the manufacturing process, the workpieces were machined to allow roughness measurement (Fig. 6d).
Cardoso (2012) described detailed information about the experiments.

(a) Tool Centralizing (b) Initial Set-up (c) Machining Workpiece (d) Workpiece Sections

Figure 6. Experimental Methodology for Thread Milling and Measurement

The thread milling process used cutting velocity equals to 250 m/min and the spindle speed to 2557 rpm in all
experiments. Five levels for feed per tooth were used, as shown in Table 1. It was used two replicas for each
experiment and several data revolutions were taken in each machining process. The lower feed per tooth ( ft =
0.07mm/th) was determined as per recommendation of the manufacturer and the other levels were increased using
multiples of this value.
In third column of table 1 shows the maximum chip load area calculated with the algorithm developed by Mello
(2014) for the feed per tooth used in the experiments.

Table 1. Experimental Levels for feed per tooth

Experiment Feed per tooth ft (mm/th) Uncut Chip Thickness tcmax (mm) Theoretical Maximum Chip Load Area (mm2 )
1 0.07 0.046 0.0734
2 0.14 0.093 0.1481
3 0.21 0.139 0.2239
4 0.28 0.186 0.3009
5 0.34 0.226 0.3679

3.1. Experimental Cutting Force and Specific Cutting Force Results

The thread milling forces were acquired by a Kistler 9257AB dynamometer, amplified by Kistler 5233A equip-
ment and an analogical-digital board from National Instruments. The dynamometer measures the forces components
F x , Fy and Fz , in the fixed referential frame R0 . A half penetration strategy was used to enter into the bulk and the
initial data was neglected for experimental analysis. Figure 7a shows the complete measured forces in full machining
from one experiment using ft = 0.07 mm/th. In this graphic, forces in R0 cannot be easily analyzed as per its lack
relation to the chip load behavior. Figure 7b shows the resultant force from the same experiment, for better under-
standing only 4 revolutions are displayed. Using the resultant force, the analysis can be done and compared with the
force modeling.
Araujo, A.C. et al / Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11 8

(a) Force Acquisition (F x , Fy and Fz ) ~

(b) Resultant Force in 4 tool revolutions (F)

Figure 7. Dynamometer Force Components for ft = 0.07mm/th

Considering all tests from the five experiments, the maximum resultant force was taken to make statistical anal-
ysis and calculate the cutting pressure. The specific cutting forces are calculated on each experiment, using 10 tool
trajectory positions for θ1 summing 40 maximum cutting force values per experiment.
Figure 8 presents a complete panorama of the experimental forces. In Fig. 8a, the maximum resultant forces
per revolution were considered using the full machining data of all experiments. Fresmax for this specific material and
cutting velocity was described by the mechanistic equation Fresmax = 59.86 + 1351. ft .
In order to analyze the dynamics of the tool, it is important to calculate the forces in referential frame R1 , Frad
and Ftan . In this referential frame, all data can be used and the components present a standard pattern. Figures 8b and
8c show the statistical results of all experimental data. The tool support used has high stiffness and those forces did
not promote tool deflection that could influence the machining process. Those forces can be used for residual stress
analysis in the future, although edge forces could be added to the model.

3.2. Force Model Validation

After calculating maximum resultant cutting force for all experiments and describing a mechanistic expression for
Fresmax depending on feed per tooth, the specific cutting force can be calculated using Acmax .

Kres = (6)

Fres (θ2 ) = Kres .Ac (θ2 ) (7)
The area Ac is calculated and presented in Fig. 2.2d and Kres in mechanistic model is a function of the cutting
velocity and the chip thickness or feed per tooth, described in the previous section. As the cutting velocity and R p
is kept constant, the function that describes the specific cutting force for this material and thread dimensions as a
function of feed per tooth is:

log(Kres ) = −0.1809 + 7.0583. log( ft )

As an example, experiment using ft = 0.34mm/th is simulated and compared with experimental data for validation
as it can be observed in Figure 9. For this case Kres = 1413 MPa and the maximum chip load area is 0.3679mm2 as
per Table 1.

Araujo, A.C. et al / Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11 9

~ per Revolution
(a) Maximum Resultant Force |F| (b) Ftan - Maximum Force Per Revolution

(c) Frad - Maximum Force Per Revolution

Figure 8. Force Data from all experiments

Figure 9. Resultant Force for Validation - ft = 0.34mm/th

Araujo, A.C. et al / Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11 10

3.3. Roughness
In order to measure the roughness, the workpieces were cut to allow the stylus access. Talysurf Intra, from Taylor
Hobson, series 0120, capable of high precision measures of roughness, waves, shapes and profiles was used to measure
the circumferential profile. The measured length for all tests was 10 mm using a cut-off of 0.8mm. For all workpieces,
three threads (aligned in vertical position) were measured both in face and flank surfaces, three times each region.
Standard Inductive Gauge, stylus code 112/2009, with 90o cone-sphere diamond and 2µm radius tip was used. For the
surface analysis and roughness calculation it was used the Software Ultra Surface Finish V5.
The software for all tests calculated the arithmetic average roughness, Ra , and the maximum height, Rt , and the
values were collected for statistical analysis. Flank-face, the number of the thread and the feed per tooth were used as
factors for the surface quality evaluation. Figure 9 presents an overview of these results. Statistical analysis did not
shown any preference for specific thread.
A main concern is dedicated to flank and face roughness because the vertical feed velocity was done from the
upper part of the workpiece to the bottom of the cone. The face surface is faced to the top, where the tool begins
to machine. It could be expected to find worst quality on the face thread surfaces. After statistical analysis, as it
can be seen on Fig. 10a and 10b, there is not statistical differences between those surfaces observing the big picture.
Some experiments shown better quality surface, but there is no connection to increase of forces. The results presented
Ra higher values in the experiments machine with feed per tooth equals to 0.21 mm/th, without connection with a
physical meaning.

(a) Ra (b) Rt

Figure 10. Circunferential Thread Roughness

4. Conclusions

In this research, chip load analysis is done in API thread milling process and cutting force analysis is presented.
Experimental forces are collected using different feed per tooth values and circumferential roughness workpieces were
analyzed. The following conclusions can be presented from the presented research:
• API threads were manufactured by thread milling using Aluminum workpieces and cutting forces were taken
during experiments;

• The mechanistic chip load model was applied to the experimented case for validation;
• The circunferential roughness measured in different experiments did not presented physical correlation with the
cutting forces and there is not noted surface roughness differences between flank and face thread surfaces.
Araujo, A.C. et al / Journal of Manufacturing Processes 00 (2014) 1–11 11

• The presented methodology can be used for different API thread geometry to predict cutting forces and avoid
tool deflection and vibration as it was done for metric thread in Wan and Altintas (2014);
• Other special materials, as Inconel or Super Duplex Stainless steel (hard materials used in Deep oil Industry)
could be analyzed in the future;
• For application to the Oil Drilling, internal thread milling could be studied using the presented work.

The authors would like to acknowledge Quaker Industries for the partnership on cutting fluid supply, CEFET/RJ
university for the interaction and master student graduation skills and CNPq for the research resources on Edital
Universal project 481406/2013-1.

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