Modern Machine Shop

Customizing tools online

Customizing tools online – Rapid Traverse

Bill Dundas

As part designs become increasingly complex, specialized metalworking processes must be developed for efficient manufacturing. This frequently demands that a machine shop tailor its cutting tools to the specific job at hand. In a growing number of cases, the tool geometry necessary for optimum performance in a particular machining operation can’t be obtained by using standardized configurations. Equally important for machine shop managers, the process of specifying, quoting and ordering customized tools typically involves a series of interactions with salespersons or suppliers that can consume a substantial amount of valuable time.

To address these circumstances, Tool Alliance (Huntington Beach, California) has developed the Tungsten Toolworks Web site ( Using this online portal, customers can specify, quote and order custom-designed tools from a large selection of styles and geometries. Providing users with the capabilities to tweak tool parameters and to receive blueprints and pricing information via their office computers, this Web site enables metalworking professionals to eliminate unnecessary steps in the tool-procurement process.

After logging onto the site, a user first selects a new quotation and then chooses the desired tool style from a drop-down menu. More than 40 different series of round, solid carbide tools are currently available on the site, ranging from 0.01-inch to 1-inch cutting diameters. A full range of metric sizes is also available. A wide variety of configurations is available for each tool series. These categories include sub-miniature end mills, conventional and tapered end mills, reamers and radius mills.

The user then selects the desired diameter and overall length for the tool blank from a drop-down menu. Repeating this procedure, the length of cut, diameter reduction, clearance neck, radius, tool coating and other parameters are specified. Once all applicable parameters have been established, a customer can enter various quantities of tools to compare pricing. In less than 1 minute, a tool blueprint is generated that includes pricing and delivery information. This blueprint/quote can be printed out or e-mailed for review and approval. To purchase the tools, the customer then completes and submits an online order entry form. After this form is submitted, the customer receives a detailed confirmation that includes all of the tool’s specifications.

For future reference, all previous price quotations for a particular customer are automatically stored on the server’s database. Additionally, the quotation-generated blueprint is used as a production order on the manufacturer’s factory floor in accordance with pre-established specifications. According to the manufacturer, tools are priced competitively because this system significantly reduces overhead costs for quotations and engineering. Delivery times typically vary from 1 day to a few weeks, depending on the type and quantity of tools ordered.

Employing its proprietary Smooth-Grind surface finish technology to produce sharp, durable cutting edges, Tungsten Toolworks manufactures all solid carbide round tools using the latest CNC grinders. To ensure the quality of carbide substrates used to manufacture these tools, the company co-brands the raw materials portion of its Web site with Sandvik Coromant.

To assist its customers with specific tool applications, the company has developed a separate, supporting Web site ( This site provides detailed information and recommendations for matching cutting tools with specific workpiece materials and machining operations.

Because custom tools have become such an important part of the cutting tool market today, these services are designed to simplify tasks that have become commonplace rather than exceptional. These online services enable metalworking professionals to apply the same level of efficiency to shop-management tasks that is typical of their manufacturing operations.

For more information about Tungsten Tool works, call (800) 854-2431, enter 31 at to visit Online Showroom, or write 31 on the reader service card.

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