by John

Compressed air is very, very useful on the milling machine.  The tool changer uses air for fast tightening and release.  And I often use air to clear the field of swarf, and shavings (yes, I use my mill for wood  too).

Recently, at the suggestion of Stuart L  of fame, I installed 2 semipermanent nozzles on the mill, with adjustable direction and pressure adjustments.  It has been a quantum leap improvement.

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The pic shows the jets aimed during CNC end milling of wood.  The wood shavings are blown away which makes it easier to see how the milling is progressing; blows them away from me which is safer and cleaner; and stops the chips being machined into the work, which leads to a cleaner cut.  It also improves any video or photo of the progress.  It must also cool the cutter, although not as effectively as a liquid coolant.  I have not tried using the misting attachment, which would improve the cooling, but at the cost of dampening the area and the work.

I particularly like the improvement experienced when machining brass or steel.  The swarf is removed from the advancing cutter, preventing it being re-machined and squashed into the workpiece.  I am noticing better surface finishes.  I also adjust the air direction to keep the swarf away from me;  particularly valuable when brass needles otherwise would be flying at me.

When cutting pockets, the air keeps the pocket free of swarf, and when using tiny endmills at high speeds I am experiencing fewer tool breakages.

This gadget was inexpensive ($AUD12) from China.  It does not work the compressor too hard when the volume is turned back as far as possible, but still adequate.  Although there are 2 jets, I find that only one at a time is adequate.


As an afterthought.   I rarely use coolant on my lathes, but an air stream on the cutter and workpiece would probably have similar advantages to those listed above.  I particularly wonder if it would assist during deep parting…   always a tense procedure.  I suspect that the cutter becomes hotter and expands more than the workpiece parting slot if there is no coolant.  I will mention the result of air cooling and chip clearing on the lathe in a later blog.