Frank Tsai: The Core of Quality is the Cutter
Anyone out there operating woodworking machinery understands that although results depend greatly on the quality of the machine, if the cutting tools are not sharp, the results suffer. Unwanted burn and score marks occur which require further sanding, slow cutting action stresses the machine and basically, productivity dwindles. Tool swapping eats up output, grinding and sharpening gobble up manpower and new cutters cost money. The person footing the bill for machinery and tooling understands that profitability is very much depicted by cutter quality. This is why CERATIZIT in Luxumberg understands that “hard material matters”. They've been dedicating decades to maximizing their metallurgical powder prowess, and through a man named Frank Tsai, these woodworking solutions have permeated Southeast Asia. How Taiwan Cut Straight to the Top Way back in 1978, Frank's company ATLAS MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION began exporting Taiwan built woodworking machinery. At that time traders suffered from a lack of experience and language limitations, but these were where ATLAS was able to excel. Big names like OAV, MAO SHAN, AMPLE, CO-MATIC and CHAMP FOND were some of his major clients. They were all using tungsten carbide cutting tools, mostly made in Taiwan. In 1988 Frank met a company named CERAMETAL which had already specialized in tungsten carbide for over 50 years. They selected ATLAS as their exclusive agent for Taiwan, and the woodworking industry in this part of the world turned over a giant new leaf. Before long, ATLAS had 40 or so Taiwanese clients buying CERAMETAL tungsten carbide stock for their production of cutting tools. Companies discovered that this material out-performed Taiwanese made tungsten carbide and that for a comparable price they could produce shaper bits, saw blades, indexable tools and drill bits that exhibited excellent reliability and performance. This was round about the time that Taiwan's woodworking machinery sector evolved to be a top global contender. Two Metallurgical Giants Join Forces CERAMETAL was known to the woodworking professionals as top dog, and PLANSEE TIZIT was similarly recognized by the metalworking sector. They merged to form CERATIZIT in 2003, and ATLAS continued on as their agent. LEITZ and LEUCO became some big German clients, and soon CERATIZIT was recognized in both wood and metalworking industries worldwide as the leader in tungsten carbide. When asked what the core of ATLAS' success comes down to, Frank Tsai simply stated, “great client quality.” He explained that his optimism for future success comes with the confidence that his clients are putting out world class cutting tools, and the fact that CERATIZIT's constant R&D ensures that those tools will last longer and longer into the future. Powder is Harder than Wood ? For those of us with zero metallurgical insight, it would seem illogical to think that powder is harder than wood. Recent developing standards in Taiwan are calling for materials like MDF, HDF and fireproofing with cementitious plaster, such as vermiculite and perlite. Frank explained a bit about the technology CERATIZIT employs in its tungsten carbide production, and why the product stands up to materials that are much harder than wood. Funnily enough, it all starts with the powder. They mix tungsten carbide powder with a cobalt binder and sometimes additional alloys and spray dry it. The melt point is extremely high for these elements. But first, the powder is pressed into its near net shape. They take into account that the pressed and machined blanks will shrink 20% once they are heat treated. Then a process called liquid phase sintering occurs in which 1400 degrees Celsius force the cobalt to melt and it wets all tungsten carbide particles so that they bind together. Resulting are blanks of super tough material that lend unrivalled ferocity when machined to take bites out of wood and even harder materials. Engineered Concoctions There are different powder concoctions for different uses as well. He explained that certain criteria are essential for various wood machining applications. These include: corrosion resistance, thermal properties, elasticity, rigidity, magnetic properties, specific weight, tribological properties (friction/ lubrication), impact strength, compressive strength, hardness and wear resistance. Depending on its composition and microstructure, cemented carbide has a wide range of adjustable mechanical properties. As an example, for high hardness you want a low cobalt content and small grain size of the tungsten carbide (WC). For fracture toughness cobalt content should be higher and WC grain size should be bigger. For transverse rupture strength, it is necessary to up the cobalt and lower the grain size. Grain size is also precisely categorized starting with extracourse at 6 nanos, course, fine and medium grain, and then submicron, ultrafine and finally nano grain at 0.2 nanos, respectively. To complicate things further, CERATIZIT includes technologies including elements such as chromium, ceramic and natural diamond to engineer its cutter blanks towards the various criterial requirements. Further, CERATIZIT can recommend specifically that grades are optimal for which materials. For example, KCR08 is very good for HDF and optimal for hardwood and chipboard, while HE40 is best for softwood, etc. A Competitive Edge is the Prerequisite to Success We asked Frank Tsai, who is also a supervisor in the Taiwan Woodworking Machinery Association, to simplify things a bit and tell us what sort of solutions CERATIZIT offers certain challenges associated with woodworking. He rattled off five. Particle board is full of resin which causes chemical attack to the cutter, and CERATIZIT cutters have extraordinary corrosion resistance. Other composites get really hot and the cutters exhibit great thermal properties. They also offer very good abrasion resistance against mechanical wear, fracture toughness against chipping, and high efficiency through increased tool life which in the long run, saves money associated with resharpening and tool changes. He also emphasized that customer support engineers are ready and waiting to ensure that clients are always equipped with the competitive edge they need for success. For pros who know that the core of quality is the cutter, a great combination of economy, speed and long life is available through ATLAS and CERATIZIT, offering the right cutting solutions to maximize the profitability of any woodworking investment.
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