Machining PCD Rotary Tools - Basic knowledge

Wire erosion and disc erosion: Machining PCD rotary tools with VOLLMER

Every day at VOLLMER, we are engaged in extremely intensive work with the profiles, cutting edges and complex geometries of modern PCD rotary tools. We therefore constantly research and try out new technologies and processes in order to optimise our machining and manufacturing processes further. We are happy to share our expertise in the form of targeted advice, and offer products which are precisely adjusted to particular requirements.

What is PCD?

What is PCD?

PCD (polycrystalline diamond) is a synthetically produced diamond cutting material, which can be used for machining wood, plastic and metal. The material is mainly characterised by a high degree of hardness and abrasion resistance.

This results in:

  • Longer service life (fewer sharpening operations required)
  • Higher cutting speeds (faster machining)
  • Highly abrasive materials can be machined (greater range of applications)
  • Consistent quality (better tolerances, high surface quality, less scrap)


Overview of cutting materials

Wood tools with PCD cutting edges
Examples of wood tools: 1. Chipper /// 2. End mill /// 3. Profile tool
Metal tools with PCD cutting edges
Examples of metal tools: 1. Reamer /// 2. Multi-stage tool /// 3. Cutter head
Saw blades with PCD cutting edges
Examples of saw blades: 1. Circular saw /// 2. Scoring saw

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Eroding process with PCD rotary tools

Eroding process with PCD rotary tools

There are basically three types of eroding process: Die Sink erosion, wire erosion and disc/rotary erosion.

Only wire erosion and disc/rotary erosion are used at VOLLMER. They work according to the same erosion principle and achieve the best results in terms of precision and surface quality.
There are differences in the shape of the electrodes and their use. Therefore, some tooth and cutting edge shapes can only be machined by one of these two processes, e.g. no tooth flanks can be eroded with the wire erosion process, as this requires the finest contours and radii (both on the outside and inside). 

1. Erosion with sinking electrodes /// 2. Erosion with wire electrodes /// 3. Erosion with rotary electrodes (disc erosion)

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Measuring of PCD rotary tools

Measuring of PCD rotary tools

In order to determine the position and size of the PCD cutting edges, a fully automated measurement of the workpiece clamped in the machine is carried out before every erosion operation.
To do this, one point per cutting edge is specified for the eroding machine. The machine then scans several points on the cutting edge automatically in accordance with the set value. Even complex profiles can be measured in this way.

Measuring of PCD rotary tools
Measuring in the machine

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Wire erosion of PCD rotary tools

Wire erosion of PCD rotary tools

Eroding wire is used as an electrode during wire erosion. Copper and copper alloys are most suitable for this. Some of these wires are still coated with a layer of zinc, which results in better cutting power for certain materials.

Electric discharge removal takes place between the continuously self-renewing wire electrode and the PCD cutting edge at the most minimum of clearance. The wire electrode is guided along the tool using two prisms according to the cutting edges. The small radius of the wire allows it to produce up to 0.1 mm radii on the tool.
This results in the finest of contours and profiles.

Discover the highest levels of precision and performance: Wire erosion machines from VOLLMER.

Wire erosion of PCD rotary tools
1. Cross-section of the eroding wire /// 2. Prismatic pane /// 3. Wire coil

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Disc erosion of PCD rotary tools

Disc erosion of PCD rotary tools

During disc/rotary erosion, removal takes place between the rotary electrodes and the PCD cutting edge at the most minimum of clearance.
Copper alloys are the most suitable for use in electrodes. However, the cutting material should be easy to machine in order to make dressing the disc electrodes easier.

In order to distribute the wear of the electrode over as large an area as possible and to keep its geometry constant for as long as possible, the disc performs a rotational motion during erosion. The rotary electrodes are clamped and dressed directly on the machine. This results in optimal concentricity as the dressed tool is attached directly to the machine stand. The advantage of disc erosion is that both the circumference and the end face of a rotary electrode can be used for erosion, and the flank surfaces can therefore also be machined.

Discover the possibilities:
VOLLMER disc erosion machines for complete machining of PCD-tipped tools.

Rotary electrode for PCD machining
1. Rotary electrode /// 2. Rotary electrode for face eroding /// 3. Rotary electrode for circumference erosion
Disc/rotary erosion of PCD rotary tools
1. Circumference erosion /// 2. Face erosion

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Remeasuring/checking PCD rotary tools

Remeasuring/checking PCD rotary tools

Projection measurement: The requirements regarding the precision of tools is extremely high. Therefore, there are some measuring machines with which an image of the tool is projected onto a screen. The measurements are displayed across the traverse path of the tool with the help of a measuring computer.


Measuring outside the machine with a profile projection

Optical measurement:
In order to accurately determine the diameters of tools, you need to measure them with a camera or laser. The accuracy of this process is in the region of 1/1000 mm. 


Surface measurement: The surface can be measured with a skidded gauge or guided measuring system. For reference surface probe systems, both the roughness and the waviness of a surface are checked. To do this, a diamond with a tip of 2 µm probes across the surface, and while doing so, records the smallest surface irregularities on the workpiece. When measuring the surfaces on the PCD plates, reference is made to the surface value Ra in respect of the roughness value. The cutting edges of PCD-tipped tools are visually assessed: New technology makes it possible to assess the surface and cutting edge quality using high-resolution cameras. 

Measuring PCD rotary tools
Surface measurement with runner probe system
Measuring PCD rotary tools
Surface measurement with reference surface probe system

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