Electronics part machining for heat sinks, housings, enclosures, test fixtures, adapters, connectors, PCB and thermal management using Datron high speed CNC machining centers


Ask An Expert is a frequent column in the DATRON Wire high-speed machining update. As questions and answers are generated and published, they become part of a global learning forum as an interactive FAQ section of our website. SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION

Latest Question:

"Can DATRON machines mill steel?"

Answer Below

Ask An Expert Your Question - Submit This Form:

ANSWER: Application Technician, Dann Demazure answers, "Dean this is a good question and the simple answer is Yes. But it clearly depends on the application and size of the part. We'd never suggest that a DATRON should replace a VMC for plunging into or hogging out steel ... that's just not what our machines were designed for. That said, there are quite a few applications in steel that are a great fit for DATRON. Our equipment is used a lot in the packaging industry by customers like Atlas Die, Impact Alliance, and Graphic Packaging who make steel counterplates. We’re a very good fit for them since they are milling shallow features and often need a very large machining area. DATRON does well with other tough materials, like cobalt chrome and titanium used in dental milling, as well as, by customers like Hudson Boat Works who machines titanium parts for the production of their racing sculls. I have actually found some specialized tools that work perfectly with high RPM with hardened steel. As for engraving steel, customers like Smith & Wesson and other firearm manufacturers engrave logos, brand marks and serialization with DATRON machines. Here are some good uses for DATRON in steel:

  • Ideal for micro-machining where high RPM is necessary
  • Great for reducing cycle time on steel mold finishing
  • Excellent for complex, detailed 3D contouring

I did a benchmark for a prospect that was a good fit for our machine because it was micro-machining in stainless steel (see below). Those are two 0-80 threads in 303 stainless steel.


Previous Ask-an-Expert Questions:

Q: "Is it possible to probe just one edge of a part with the probe on my M8Cube?"

A: Application Technician, Kyle Newman answers, "Absolutely, Your DATRON M8Cube’s probing function can be used to find an edge. This is done in the same way other probing cycles are within the DATRON control. Manually move your tool near the edge you want to find, this is where your probing cycle starts from. From the main menu of the DATRON control software press Z for Z-correct, 3 for XYZ-Measurement and the XYZ-Measurement dialog box will appear. Within this dialog box you will see all the parameters used to control a probing cycle. Another helpful hint is pressing F1 while in the Datron control will pull up the help section. The help section will explain to you each function and parameter within the dialog box you’re currently using.

To find just one edge first use the mode drop down box to select a left corner or right corner depending which side your edge is on. For example, to probe an edge on the left side you would use corner 1 (front left corner), for an edge on the right side you’d use corner 2 (front right corner). After selecting your corner use the X-measuring and Y-measuring text boxes to control which direction you want to measure. The trick is to only populate the text boxes for the direction of the edge you want to find. For example, a 0 in X-measuring - offset X will tell your DATRON to not measure the edge in X and a 0 in Y-measuring – offset Y will tell your DATRON not to measure the edge in Y. The rest of the dialog box should be filled in as you normally would for any other probing cycle.

Q: "Is it possible to drill a 0.013-0.014" hole approximately 0.025” deep into a 0.020" copper wire?"

A: Application Technician, Dann Demazure answers, "Good question Kyle, I would have to say yes! There is a couple important factors first:

  • Use proper workholding – make sure the wire is clamped securely so there is no possibility of deflecting during drilling
  • Utilize high RPM – we depend on our high RPM spindles to drill thousands of 0.30mm (0.0118”) holes 2mm deep in our aluminum vacuum tables, with no issue!
  • Minimize runout – When you are running a drill as small as 0.013”, it is critical to have as minimal runout as possible, using an HSK-e25 Schunk Tribos toolholder ensures runout of <0.003mm (0.0001”)!

If you’re still in doubt –  if our customer, National Jet, managed to drill a 0.0012” hole through a human hair, then you should have no problem with some copper wire!

(ref: http://www.najet.com/about/)


Q: "What's the difference between Absolute and Incremental movement?"

A: Application Technician, Kevin Mulhern answers, "Absolute vs. Incremental Movement. These are two terms that you will hear or use in the machine shop, and there are many people who don’t really understand the difference. When I am in a customer’s shop training them on their new machine, it’s a little surprising to me how many people don’t know what the distinction is. READ MORE


Q: "Do I have to use DATRON tools?"

A: Application Technician, Kevin Mulhern answers, "While we do have many customers that choose to use our tools it is certainly not a requirement on any of our machines. I may be a bit biased, but I don’t believe there is a better single flute end mill available on the market. If you are cutting soft non-ferrous materials then my recommendation will almost always be a DATRON single flute end mill.

However, as long as you have parameters from the tooling manufacturer whose tools you plan to use then you should be all set. If they can provide you with a proper chip load and a cutting speed (F/MIN or M/MIN) then you can determine your proper speeds and feeds accordingly to use on your DATRON machine."


Q: "How quickly can I prototype a part with DATRON neo?"

A: Application Technician, Dann Demazure answers, "We actually just did a Webinar with Autodesk on this subject and we used Fusion 360 to design an aluminum electric guitar knob and milled it on DATRON neo in just minutes. WATCH THE WEBINAR HERE.


Q: "How do I order the perfect engraving tool for my application?"

A: Purchasing Agent, Crystal Lee answers, "When you call in to order engraving tools here is some basic questions that you should be prepared to answer:

  1. Your Company Name
  2. Half Angle
  3. Tip Size
  4. Shank Size
  5. What are you engraving? Soft Material: Aluminum  Hard Material: Steel
  6. Volume - how many do you anticipate using in a typical month?

This information gives us what we need to get back to you with pricing, turn-around time and a part number that you can reference for future orders. We will need a purchase order from you before we proceed with placing the order.

Below I have detailed the nomenclature for our engraving tools and a color-coded diagram. These help us to generate part numbers for engraving tools and may help you to understand our part numbers.

First 3 digits: Unit Prefix (in Dark Blue on Diagram Below)
The unit prefix affects two parameters: shank diameter and tip diameter.
599 = metric
598 = inches
When you have a 599 prefix, you’ll have metric values for shank and tip diameter.
When you have a 598 prefix, you’ll have inch values for shank and tip diameter.
The requested shank diameter is the main determining factor for unit prefix.

Digits 4 through 5: Half Angle (in Green on Diagram Below)
The half angle dictates the degree of the pointed end of the engraving tool.
Be sure that you specify if you are providing a “half” or “included” angle.
For instance, if you ask for a 90-degree included angle, the half angle will be 45 degrees
This value is unaffected by the unit prefix.

Digits 6 through 7/8: Tip Diameter (in Orange on Diagram Below)
The tip diameter is the dimension of the flat end of the engraving tool. This value is affected by unit prefix.
If you request a tip size of 0.5mm, this value will be: 50.
If you request a tip size of 0.010”, this value would be: 10.
If you request a metric shank with an inch tip, we will need to convert:
For example, if you request a 6mm shank with a 0.005” tip: Since the shank diameter determines the prefix (in this case, metric, 599), we will need to convert 0.005” into metric.
This is an easy enough equation: Inch value * 25.4 = metric equivalent. In this instance: 0.005* 25.4 = 0.127mm. At this point, round to the nearest digit, and you have your number: 13.
Even easier: 
Just Google the conversion to quickly get an answer.
If you have an exceptionally large tip on the engraving tool, exceeding 1mm or 0.100”, an additional digit (8th digit) will be required.
So a 1.5mm tip would use the number 150, or a 0.125” tip would use the number 125.

Second-to-last digit: Shank Diameter (in Light Blue on Diagram Below)
The shank diameter is the dimension of the clamped portion of the engraving tool, that is driven by the spindle.
Common metric sizes: 6mm (use value: 6), 3mm (use value: 3)
Common inch sizes: 1/4 (use value: 2), 1/8 (use value: 1)
 This is the main determining factor in the unit prefix. If you require a metric shank, but ask for an inch tip size, you’ll need to convert the inch value to metric.

Last digit: Angle Profile (in Red on Diagram Below)
The angle profile is a variety of angles applied during the grinding process to the tip and leading edge of the cutting flute. These can be adjusted to be either very sharp (good for softer materials) or very strong (good for tough materials).
There are two choices here:
If you are engraving tool steels, stainless steels, or other hard materials: use letter G.
If you are engraving aluminum, brass, acrylic, or other soft materials: use letter S.
It is important to answer this question because if you use the wrong profiles, you’ll get poor results (decreased tool life cutting steel, burring when engraving aluminum).

So, with all that in mind here is an example:

Engraving Tool Features that help us to identify and supply the ideal tool for your application.

Scenario in metric:
You ask for a 6mm shank engraving tool with a 60-degree included angle, a 10 thousandths tip, so you can engrave in A2 tool steel.
Since you requested a 6mm shank, we will use the metric 599 prefix.
Then, from the 60-degree included angle, we can determine that we need a 30-degree half angle
Next, convert 0.010” into metric: 0.010 * 25.4 = 0.254mm, rounded down: 25.
6mm shank = 6 in the part number.
You are cutting steel, so we use the cutter profiles.

Scenario in imperial:
You call and ask for a 1/8th-inch shank engraving tool, with a 90-degree included angle and a .002” tip for engraving in brass.
Since you requested a 6mm shank, we will use the metric 598 prefix.
Then, from the 90-degree included angle, we can determine that we need a 45-degree half angle.
Next, take the 0.002” tip diameter and shorten it: 02.
1/8th inch shank = 1 in the part number.
You are cutting soft material, so we use the cutter profiles.  Part Number is: 59845021S."


Q:"I'm using a DATRON single flute end mill, when can I go fast, when should I go slow (feed rates)?"

A: Application Technician, Dann Demazure answers, "There are a lot of variables at play here, but let’s try to break it down. I’ll use one tool for reference, but the results should be easily scalable amongst the rest of our tools.

Let’s say you’re using one of our standard 6mm end mills (0068460E) to mill a piece of 6061 aluminum. There is a variety of jobs you can accomplish with this tool, but each will have a different feed for a different reason.

1. Slow (60"/min) – Finishing – If you need an exceptional quality in the finish of a floor or wall, it helps to slow the machine down to take a fine chip and decrease cutter load/cutter deflection.

2. Medium (120"/min) – Slotting – Something a single flute does particularly well is slotting, which is a tool path that has 100% of the tool diameter engaged in the material. Using a proper depth cut (25% of tool diameter), you can cruise along at a decent pace without worrying about clogging up on chips.

3. Fast (180"/min) – Traditional Roughing – When you are using a normal milling strategy, in the range of 33-50% depth of cut (2-3mm) with a 50-70% stepover, you can be fairly safe kicking the speed up, just keep an eye on your spindle load.

4. Very Fast (240"/min) – Trochoidal Roughing – If you are using Mastercam (Dynamic milling) or Fusion 360 (Adaptive clearing) you may have heard of this strategy before. Instead of going about the traditional method, this method utilizes more of the flute to boost efficiency. For instance, we could use 100-200% depth of cut (6-12mm) with this strategy because our stepover would be decreased to 10-20%. In many cases, this prolongs the life of the tool and puts less strain on the spindle, so you can safely bump the feed rate up.

5. Extremely Fast (300"/min) – Shallow roughing – If you are taking off less than 10% depth of cut (0.60mm), then you should be safe cranking the feed way up. With such a shallow cut, you won’t have to worry about overloading the tool or spindle."


Q: "Should I use a drill, or an end mill?"

A: Application Technician, Kevin Mulhern answers, "It depends on what you're trying to achieve.

If you're making a very small hole, say, less than 1.5mm in diameter, go with a drill. End mills under 1.5mm become increasingly fragile, and subsequently cannot be run as aggressively, where as a drill can.

If you need to make a very deep hole - in excess of 4x your hole diameter, choose the drill. Past this point, chip evacuation can become very difficult with an end mill, which will quickly wreck your tool and your part.

Are you making a lot of holes? Drilling is probably the way to go. In most instances, a drill will best the fastest time you can achieve with an end mill.

Need to make an extremely precise hole? While milling is typically perfectly acceptable, sometimes the tolerances require a drill and a reamer for the perfect finish.

However, there's a lot to be said for using an end mill instead.

Need to make a big hole? Big holes need big drills and lots of horsepower, this is where helical milling shines. Use an end mill that's 60-80% the diameter of the hole you're making to quickly clear out while leaving plenty of room for chips to escape.

Print calls for a flat bottomed hole? Normal drills can't do that, so you might be better off milling the feature.

Making lots of different size holes? Try to use the end mill, you'll save time on tool changes and room in your tool changer.

Rapid prototyping? End mills will be appealing for their flexibility. Being adaptable to take on some features that may normally be drilled means you can spend less time CAMing a part and more time making chips.

With either one, there are two simple rules to remember:

Break your chip - don't try to be a hero and blast through your hole in one go, program a quick retract to get the chip out and let the coolant in.

Turn up the coolant - unless you have through tool coolant, you're going to want to be sure to turn up the coolant flow and decrease your air pressure. The coolant needs to be able to flow into the hole during your retract."


Q: "I would like you to review my Machines ABC report but I don’t know how to record one. Can you help?"

A: Service Technician, Shawn Ouellette answers, "It is VERY easy to do, the steps are as follows. From the main menu of the DATRON software select S for service then R for Report, then either E for extended report or R create report. A window will appear and you will be able to choose the file path to save the ABC. Once saved either email it directly to any Datron service tech or upload it to the following upload site. www.Datron.com/serviceupload.php"