Sandvik Coromant

Case study
Talking about
Manufacturing tools

Our expertise helped a tooling manufacturer to make their products more reliable and durable. 

Sandvik Coromant is a global company that supplies drills and other metal cutting tools to high-value industries, including the aerospace and automotive sectors. Drilling is one of the final manufacturing processes, so a failure at this stage can lead to a component, such as an aircraft wing, being irretrievably damaged, at considerable cost.

A key factor in making drills more reliable and durable is reducing the heat they generate. The heat is removed by a coolant, pumped inside the drill and then squeezed back out of the hole, taking waste material with it.

Ensuring this happens efficiently and effectively requires knowledge in computational fluid dynamics which uses software to predict the flow of liquids – in this case the flow of coolant around the drill. Sandvik Coromant turned to the University of Leeds to access this expertise and a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) was created with Professor Harvey Thompson.

The approach

The goal was to simulate the cooling process in a computer model that the company could use to improve its drill design. The model also needed to take account of the chips of waste material created by the drill and the shape of the coolant channels and cutting edge.

Professor Thompson and the KTP Associate, Dr Adam Johns, adapted open source computational fluid dynamics software to create the simulation, rather than use a commercial package, drawing on Dr Johns’ computer science background for the required coding. This kept costs low and ensured the model could easily incorporate data from other software.

The University had both the scientific expertise to unpick this very complex problem and the industry understanding to create a practical tool that gave the company a real advantage.

Harvey Thompson, Professor of Computational Fluid Dynamics

Internal tests by Sandvik Coromant proved that the model was accurate, as it predicted which areas of the drill would show the most wear.

The impact

The model provides competitive advantage to the company, enabling it to design drills that are more reliable and longer-lasting and market them on this basis. The first multi-material drill to use the model in its design will launch in 2020.

The partnership with the University of Leeds met all our expectations, providing us with a means to make our products even better and ensure we stay a step ahead of our competitors.

Stewart Hawley, Product Group Manager, Sandvik Coromant

The model was also used to create patented coolant channels for an end-milling tool. It will be of particular use for the design of customized tools, which make up half of Sandvik Coromant’s solid round tool sales.

The KTP’s success underpinned Sandvik Coromant’s decision to set up a new simulation team, to which Dr Johns has been recruited.

Training materials created as part of the KTP have been used to train both Sandvik Coromant staff and University of Leeds PhD students and researchers.

Collaboration with the University continues: Sandvik Coromant is funding a PhD project into a new cooling technique, with another PhD under discussion.

This partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme. KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base. This successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK, is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.