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Cheap carbide inserts - where's the market?

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Robin Graham29/11/2018 00:03:16
947 forum posts
296 photos

Other than plonkers like me who fall for it I mean.

I recently started a topic asking for advice about cutting an M16 x2mm thread in steel. It was my first go at cutting such a coarse thread, and I thought I must be doing something wrong because the result was so awful. After some experimentation I'm 93.8% certain that the problem was with the cheapo (16 quid for the toolholder + 10 inserts) tooling. I hope the 6.2%  uncertainty will be cleared when some more expensive inserts arrive.

I've bought plenty of cheap cr*p stuff - eg a set of drills from Screwfix which were OK for burning a hole through wood (they're quite good for drilling brass though!). I can understand that there is a market there - no-one in their right mind is going to pay 80 quid for a set of Dormers for an odd job when they can can get the 'same' thing for a tenner.

But carbide inserts? If industry could buy tooling that works at this price, surely Sandvik &c would have no market? I'm confused! Where is the market for poor quality inserts? Apart from me obviously.

Robin.

 

 

Edited By Robin Graham on 29/11/2018 00:06:28

Edited By Robin Graham on 29/11/2018 00:21:19

Clive Foster29/11/2018 00:37:16
3135 forum posts
109 photos

Robin

They probably do work at least OK (ish) at "book" speeds and feeds which are well outside anything we can use on manual machines.

Industry is primarily CNC so carbide tooling is developed (required) to exploit such machines. Threading on a manual machine doesn't need the qualities of carbide, unless your latest find from the scrap bin is some exotic super alloy, so many folk claim its a waste of good material. In particular carbide edges are relatively easily damaged by careless entry into the work so you are starting with a blunt tool which really won't help.

Tool changing is expensive wasted time in industry. Sandvik and the other leading brands make their money by cutting much longer and much harder than the cheap versions. Maybe 10 + times more material removed before tool changing. Premium brands are much better behaved too. They will do what it says on the tin. Cheapies may need experimenting. Of course Mighty Big Industries get their inserts much cheaper too. Decent price breaks on thousands. So the real price differential is smaller than it seems.

In the home shop we generally need to choose inserts that either have a second region of decent performance at much lower metal removal rates than they were designed for or have geometries similar to sharp HSS.

Clive.

Bob Stevenson29/11/2018 00:39:15
579 forum posts
7 photos

Well part of the market is with 'plonkers' like me who know that there is currently a MASSIVE mark-up on inserts and that the Chinese, for their part are trying to break that business.......leaving us 'plonkers' to try to sort out the exploiters from the profiteers......

I recently bought 4 tool holders.....right hand, left hand, universal tool and boring bar, together with ten double ended (diamond) inserts for a huge £18.50 for the lot! I did'nt expect a whole lot but they were recommended by someone I respect and turned out to be excellent quality and turn beautifully with a good finish in most materials. Each insert end costs 35p which works out well for me. I have boxes full of HSS tools I have made over the years and intended the insert tools for general use. However, I like being able to replace tips late at night without having to go down theh workshop and start up the grinding wheel.

To take just one of the tool holders, the boring bar, it closely resembles a similar (not to say identical) tool in a catalogue known to most people here, except that one item costs several times the price of all four of my tools/inserts. It's a very nicely made boring bar, well finished and graduated in mm's etc

The only thing about carbide inserts is that they are essentially production items and as such are dependent of getting the right feedspeed and deth of cut etc to get best results......this does not always work well for amateur andn small lathe users making one-off jobs. The fact is that carbide inserts are essentially trivially cheap now and there are quite a lot of people selling them at huge mark-ups here in the uk.

I.M. OUTAHERE29/11/2018 00:50:32
1468 forum posts
3 photos

Probably the many factories that make cheap toolholders for inserts , you usually get a set of inserts with a set cheap holders . In industry you could be making a part that costs many thousands of dollars and to ruin a job to save a few bucks on an insert would be idiotic . Top quality inserts have much better materials and quality control which gives piece of mind and better economy to the end user . Even with what we do( i feel )it is false economy to buy unbranded inserts as they just don’t last and usually give an inferior finish .

I usually hunt around on ebay for NOS inserts of a known brand , sometimes it is kyocera or mitsubishi and sometimes sandvik etc and the same goes for carbide milling cutters .

Thats my view on it anyways .

Hopper29/11/2018 01:25:24
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6415 forum posts
334 photos

I've been getting cheap inserts off Aliexpress that are quite satisfactory for home hobby use so far. They seem to be odds and sods coming out of what must be a massive tooling industry in China with all that manufacturing industry running full bore over there. The stuff they use in their own factories must be reasonable quality or they would never keep up production. It seems that the stuff aimed specifically at home hobbyists, such as the sets of half a dozen tool holders with a box of inserts included that generates most complaints about quality.

Buying individual tool holders and boxes of inserts that were originally intended for use in CNC machinery in China's own industries seems to be a better way to go.

Thor 🇳🇴29/11/2018 05:42:54
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1630 forum posts
46 photos

Hi Robin,

I have tried both expensive branded inserts and cheap non-branded. The expensive ones works well, but I have found that some of the non-branded also work well, even if they cost 30% less. So I now use the cheaper ones, and they seem to last as long as the more expensive ones.

Thor

Neil Lickfold29/11/2018 06:05:42
862 forum posts
195 photos

I have come to the conclusion that cheap inserts maybe the reason so many think that HSS is still very good. With good inserts, you do not need super fast feeds and speeds like what used to be required 40 years ago with carbide tooling. The newest inserts cut pure copper and leave like a mirror finish , and then you can cut a piece of HSS and turn down the shank to fit something else. With the same insert. With the hard HSS, it will be cutting at 15m/min surface speed, so a 10mm pin turn down to 3/8 will be done at 400 to 500 rpm at afeed rate of 0.05mm /rev or 2thou.

They also last a very long time. The market for cheap inserts is accountant based companies wanting always the cheapest things.

Neil

JasonB29/11/2018 07:12:46
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Moderator
22755 forum posts
2654 photos
1 articles

Possibly originally intended for the lower end home market, have you seen the poor finish on some very cheap and nasty far eastern products. They also vary so much that one poundl and insert may work OK and another be pants.

The few cheap ones I have bought have not been upto much, I've documented the Bangood facemill ones on here which were all but useless but with a change of inserts it is transformed. Also got a box of 10 CCMT inserts for about a fiver and they are poor, trying to thin down a 30mm length of ERW steel tube which is not the nicest material to work they were loosing there edge after 1 pass. Changed to a named brand and did the rest of the job with the same insert and still good to carry on using afterwards. So if you are going to use 4 or 5 inserts to do as much as one good one there is not much of a saving to be had.

John MC29/11/2018 08:18:37
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376 forum posts
44 photos

I've been using cheap inserts for a few years now and have noticed that the quality is constantly improving. So much so now I would not bother with buying the higher cost tips.

A local engineering company (sheet metal tooling) use the cheap far eastern tips for roughing out components. They tell me that there is a small cost saving in that area. For finishing these tools after heat treatment its back to Sandvik for finishing, no grinding. They have found two problems with the far eastern tips, don't last long machining steel at 900Hv and the manufacturing tolerances on the tips and the holders, makes machine setting a more time consuming and therefore more costly business.

When I first used tipped tooling, early 80's, I used "Stelram" tips. These tips were very fragile but once feeds and speeds were sorted they worked well. Thinking back to those time I can fully appreciate how much this type of tooling has improved.

One last memory, we consulted with Stelram frequently, their salesmen reckoned that within 15 years HSS would be obsolete, what do you think?

John

Andrew Johnston29/11/2018 08:33:43
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6603 forum posts
701 photos
Posted by Robin Graham on 29/11/2018 00:03:16:

Where is the market for poor quality inserts?

Mostly impercunious hobbyists I would imagine. smile

There are a number of reasons why the inserts may be cheap. It's clear that some far east milling cutters are so poorly ground that they will never cut properly. The same may be true of inserts; either worn dies or poor copies thereof leading to poor tolerances and cutting edges. Another factor to consider is that inserts are not homogeneous. They consist of tungsten carbide particles in a metal matrix made by sintering. The tungsten carbide is the most expensive constituent, so guess what, make the inserts cheaper by using less of it.

I don't buy that many inserts per year so personally I'd rather spend on quality inserts (Korloy) than save a few pence while potentially wasting time and material on cheap inserts.

Andrew

Chris Evans 629/11/2018 09:26:45
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2057 forum posts

I have tried some of the cheap inserts with mixed results so tend to stick to the branded stuff. Part boxes sold on ebay by people who used to be in the trade and are clearing their boxes come at the right money. I once did a job for someone and asked for a very modest payment, much sucking of teeth he thought it was a lot of money. So I said OK you can buy me an insert for the lathe they are £14 each and come in boxes of ten. He soon paid up !

BW29/11/2018 10:36:32
249 forum posts
40 photos
Posted by Bob Stevenson on 29/11/2018 00:39:15:

I recently bought 4 tool holders.....right hand, left hand, universal tool and boring bar, together with ten double ended (diamond) inserts for a huge £18.50 for the lot! I did'nt expect a whole lot but they were recommended by someone I respect and turned out to be excellent quality and turn beautifully with a good finish in most materials.

OK Bob I will bite,

Any chance of a weblink to what you bought please ?

I have had magnificent luck previously when I bought some bits following a similar comment in another thread on an Aussie forum.

http://metalworkforums.com/f65/t202219-carbide-insert-experience

These bits gave me an absolutely stunning finish on daggy black bar, stainless steel, Aluminium and Delrin. They cost not much at all and I will buy some more.

WHOOPS .... lo and behold .... I can use carbide bits after all !!!! and they do a fine job as well, and you get 4 points on each bit. Maybe if I had a bigger better lathe the bits would do a better job, maybe the bits are underutilised on the small lathe, but so what ? They still do a great job.

So to answer the OPs question I regard myself as the typical market for currently produced carbide bits ie relatively inexperienced owner of a small lathe who wants to dabble with carbide inserts after being told for 5 years that his lathe is too small and underpowered to use carbide inserts. Blimey !! they work on my small non rigid underpowered underspeed Hercus 9" lathe, and I am interested in finding out a bit more about these things.

Regards

Bill

David Standing 129/11/2018 10:42:50
1297 forum posts
50 photos
Posted by Chris Evans 6 on 29/11/2018 09:26:45:

Part boxes sold on ebay by people who used to be in the trade and are clearing their boxes come at the right money.

Exactly what I do. Most of my inserts are NOS Kennametal or Seco bought off eBay at sensible money.

Roger Williams 229/11/2018 11:21:27
346 forum posts
3 photos

Theres another angle too, it wouldnt be hard for the Chinese to copy the Sandvik boxes and labels, or any other brand........

SillyOldDuffer29/11/2018 11:32:49
Moderator
8698 forum posts
1967 photos

You really can't generalise about cheap inserts bought from somewhere like ebay because you have no idea why they are cheap. For example:

  • Likely to be Rubbish
    • Poorly made for the hobby market with low tungsten in a weak matrix, perhaps made with worn tooling
    • Counterfeit - as above but with a fancy brand-name and price tag
  • Mixed Quality
    • Factory rejects
    • Old stock (early carbide is often inferior to modern)
    • Wrong type of insert (fits holder but rake etc. not as expected)
    • Mid-range carbide, for example inserts not made to the highest standards, or with an old process.
    • Cost reduced Inserts intended for short-life production.
  • Likely to be good quality
    • Surplus from a production over-run
    • Customer Surplus to release warehouse space or storage costs
    • Customer surplus due to change of business
    • Bankruptcy sales
    • Ex-government
    • Stolen goods

I'm afraid we live in a world where you can't trust brand-names, or that cost guarantees quality, or that Far Eastern made goods are automatically poor, or that cheap inserts are always rubbish.

Andrew has it right: it's about managing cost, If messing with tool changes in a commerical workshop wastes time and money it's sensible to de-risk by buying known inserts from a reputable supplier. Conversely, if you're a hobbyist on a budget with time to spare, it's equally sensible to look for bargains. But as always with bargains, recognise you're taking a gamble and be prepared for the occasional disappointment.

The inserts I've bought from advertisers on this forum have all been acceptable. I have not - so far - been disappointed by ebay either, though I haven't bought many. The worst inserts I own came from a show : I should have looked more carefully because they are factory defects.

The other suspect is the holder. Commercially made holders are expensive. A home-made holder in mild-steel works pretty well, so why are the real things big money. The reason seems to be that real holders are made from a more suitable alloy : one that's more resistant to bending and vibration. It's possible that Robin's cheap holder rather than the inserts is behind his disappointment. Be interesting to try the inserts in an expensive holder to see if their performance improves.

Dave

JasonB29/11/2018 11:54:01
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22755 forum posts
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Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 29/11/2018 11:32:49:. It's possible that Robin's cheap holder rather than the inserts is behind his disappointment. Be interesting to try the inserts in an expensive holder to see if their performance improves.

Dave

 

He has tried changing inserts and got a marked improvement. much as I did.

 

I also wonder how many would know if that half box of inserts from e-bay were an empty box that had been filled with some cheapies?

Also do those scouring e-bay look much further than the basic shape and size code? like a lot of the very cheap inserts they may not even have the full code so how do you know if that insert is really ideal for the material or type of cut being taken?

Edited By JasonB on 29/11/2018 11:57:46

I.M. OUTAHERE29/11/2018 12:32:51
1468 forum posts
3 photos

I usually look for unopened boxes , if the seller has posted a photo of the code on the box and clearly stated new old stock in unopened boxes or at the worst have opened one box to photograph contents i will buy or bid . If as most of the time happens they are selling part boxes i usually move on , you also need to check what the retail price is so you know you are getting a reasonable deal . I have seen sellers put a price on inserts that is on par with what my local retailer asks and then slug you with exorbitant postage costs . One thing i did do was to minimise the types of inserts i need so I don’t have to buy a heap of differnt types.

duncan webster29/11/2018 12:33:17
3990 forum posts
65 photos
Posted by Neil Lickfold on 29/11/2018 06:05:42:

I have come to the conclusion that cheap inserts maybe the reason so many think that HSS is still very good. With good inserts, you do not need super fast feeds and speeds like what used to be required 40 years ago with carbide tooling. The newest inserts cut pure copper and leave like a mirror finish , and then you can cut a piece of HSS and turn down the shank to fit something else. With the same insert. With the hard HSS, it will be cutting at 15m/min surface speed, so a 10mm pin turn down to 3/8 will be done at 400 to 500 rpm at afeed rate of 0.05mm /rev or 2thou.

They also last a very long time. The market for cheap inserts is accountant based companies wanting always the cheapest things.

Neil

If you're not going to make use of the speed capability of carbide then why pay for it. CNC machines can screwcut at hundreds of RPM, I can't. HSS is as cheap as chips, if you chip your carbide insert it costs you pounds.

SillyOldDuffer29/11/2018 13:27:52
Moderator
8698 forum posts
1967 photos
Posted by duncan webster on 29/11/2018 12:33:17:
Posted by Neil Lickfold on 29/11/2018 06:05:42:.
...

If you're not going to make use of the speed capability of carbide then why pay for it. ...

Because with carbide you don't have to buy a grinder and learn how to use it, nor do you have to stop in the middle of a job to resharpen and reset a blunt tool.

On the other hand HSS is well suited to slow-mo underpowered hobby machines and, provided it's sharp, it produces a good finish over a wide range of depths of cut and cutting speeds. Carbide is more fussy - harder to get right - but when working well it leaves HSS in the dust.

With a 1.5kW motor and top speed of 2500rpm my lathe is under-specified for guaranteed good results from most carbide inserts. Although carbide often cuts well in less than optimum conditions I switch to HSS the moment carbide fails to do what I need. Even so, carbide saves me a lot of time - it's usually plenty 'good enough'. Your mileage may vary - I'm not Cherry Hill!

Dave

duncan webster29/11/2018 14:48:48
3990 forum posts
65 photos
Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 29/11/2018 13:27:52:
Posted by duncan webster on 29/11/2018 12:33:17:
Posted by Neil Lickfold on 29/11/2018 06:05:42:.
...

If you're not going to make use of the speed capability of carbide then why pay for it. ...

Because with carbide you don't have to buy a grinder and learn how to use it, nor do you have to stop in the middle of a job to resharpen and reset a blunt tool.

On the other hand HSS is well suited to slow-mo underpowered hobby machines and, provided it's sharp, it produces a good finish over a wide range of depths of cut and cutting speeds. Carbide is more fussy - harder to get right - but when working well it leaves HSS in the dust.

With a 1.5kW motor and top speed of 2500rpm my lathe is under-specified for guaranteed good results from most carbide inserts. Although carbide often cuts well in less than optimum conditions I switch to HSS the moment carbide fails to do what I need. Even so, carbide saves me a lot of time - it's usually plenty 'good enough'. Your mileage may vary - I'm not Cherry Hill!

Dave

You'll get a useable bench grinder for the cost of half a dozen tips. Without one how do you sharpen drills, D bits etc etc. Using it isn't half as difficult as it's made out to be, rake angles etc are not critical

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