Each year we survey CNCCookbook readers (that’d be you, gentle reader) about which End Mill brands they like to use.  The information is helpful to anyone who needs to shop for end mills.  After all, in most markets we know who the most popular brands are that people love, why not for our CNC needs to?

This year we got right at 100 respondents to participate.

To make it easier to see trends, I’m using the same format I did for the 2021End Mill Survey, the last End Mill Survey we did.  That means I am dividing the results into 3 Tiers:

  • Tier 1:  The most popular brands. These brands account for 70% of the votes.
  • Tier 2:  Adds another 25%.  Taken together Tier 1 and Tier 2 account for 95% of votes.
  • Tier 3:  Less well-known brands that make up the remaining 5% of votes.  I’m not going to talk about these brands as there are too few votes to draw any conclusions other than they’re not as popular with the CNCCookbook audience.

Let’s see what we’ve got!

First Tier End Mill Brands

Collectively, this tier garnered 70% of the votes, so they have most of the market share for this audience.

Here is how you voted for these end mills:

The top 3 brands were Harvey Tools, Kennametal, and Accupro.  Compared to last survey, Kennametal moved up 1 place to replace Accupro.  Harvey, while it retains first position, is actually down a bit as we broke out Helical and Micro 100 as their own players in the 2021 survey.  The combined share would have been 6.9% + 4.2% + 1.3% = 12.4%, so it’s been a significant move.

Accupro is MSC’s house brand in case you didn’t know.

Other movements from 2021 – 2022:

  • Amana is up from #7 to #4.
  • Kyocera is up from #22 to #10.
  • Garr has fallen off from #9 to #13.
  • Iscar has risen from #10 to #8.
  • Niagara has gone from #13 to #7.
  • Lakeshore Carbide, Dormer, Onsrud, Gorilla, and Interstate are all peeking in on this group for the first time.

A lot of this is normal market fluctuation, but clearly some brands are moving far enough to indicate they’ve made progress in 2022.

Second Tier End Mill Brands

Collectively, the second tier garnered another 25% of the votes, which brings the total market share of First and Second Tier to 95%.

Here is how you voted for these end mills:

There are a lot of great brands in the second tier.

The remaining 5%, representing the Third Tier, had 40 brands, each of which garnered just 2 or fewer votes.  That’s too little participation to give us any statistically significant trends.

Why are You Buying?

Obviously just straight up brand popularity doesn’t tell the whole story on which end mills might be worth looking into.  We also asked the survey respondents why they were buying with 3 choices:

  • Maximize production performance
  • Best balance of value + performance
  • Cheapest

Here’s the result:

There’ve been some pretty pronounced movements out of the Cheap and Max Production categories into the Value Category.  In 2021 we had 73% choosing vvalue and this year it’s gone to 84%.  

How you’re thinking about the value the tool brings is going to affect your choices for sure.  But consider this:

Here’s how the costs break down according to Sandvik on a typical CNC Job:

Variable costs

Costs incurred only under production
• Cutting tools (3%)
• Workpiece materials (17%)

Fixed Costs

Costs incurred at all times
• Machinery (27%)
• Labor (31%)
• Buildings & administration (22%)

As you can see, cutting tools are only about 3% of your budget.  Let’s say you have found some super high performance cutting tools that cost 2x what you had spent, but you can increase your cutting speed by 20%.  In effect, increasing your cutting speed also increases your capacity by 20%.  If you have enough business, you can take on that much more work.

The cost to gain that capacity increase is only an additional 3% as we double cutting tool costs.  

Or, you can view it as saving 20% of the Fixed Costs (hourly) you’re assigning to a particular job.  Again, if you have the ability to use the extra capacity you’ve created, you can translate your time savings either into more profit or lower bids which gives you more business.

Now we can see why the smart money cares about end mill performance.

Coatings

Another question we asked on our survey was which coatings you prefer to purchase.  Coatings can increase the performance of end mills considerably in terms of Tool Life and Material Removal Rates, so it’s no surprise that coatings are very popular.  Here are your choices:

The most popular coatings are TiAlN, TiN, and AlTiN.

How CNC Machinists Calculator Feeds and Speeds

Feeds & Speeds Calculators are by far the most popular method, and it is up from 39.6% in 2021 to 41% in 2022.

We also asked about Customer Satisfaction.  In other words, “How well are your feeds and speeds working with that method of calculation?”

Here are the results:

Not only is a Feeds and Speeds Calculator the most popular method, it also works the best.  In fact, from Best to Worst here’s what we have:

  • Feeds & Speeds Calculator is nearly all “It Rocks!” ratings.
  • CAM Software is #2, but trails by an appreciable distance.  It really doesn’t work all that well.
  • Spreadsheet:  I started out with a spreadsheet before I wrote G-Wizard.
  • Tooling Catalog / Manufacturer’s Recommendations:  Not surprising that the Mfg has something to contribute.  But remember, you can provide that info to make a Feeds and Speeds Calculator work even better.
  • Standard Cuts or Rules of Thumb.  One size does not fit all when it comes to feeds and speeds, so trying to come up with rules of thumb usually fails.  BTW, nearly every CAM approach uses a database of cuts.  How exactly does that differ from rules of thumb?  Answer:  It doesn’t, except perhaps it has a few more rules of thumb
  • By Sound or Feel is 2nd to last.  This approach is something of a myth.  It sort of works for old Bridgeport manual machines, but not on a modern CNC.
  • By far the worst approach is Machinery’s Handbook.  It has it’s place, but Feeds and Speeds are not that place.

Got Milk?

Now you’ve got a lot more information about the which End Mill brands are the most popular based on which type of buyer you are (performance, value, or super cost-conscious).  But, in the true spirit of the old Got Milk ad campaigns, I have to ask you in all sincerity:

“Do you have a good Feeds and Speeds Calculator?”

I mean that very seriously, because End Mills live or die based on whether you use them with the best Feeds and Speeds.  End Mills can be very costly, and feeds and speeds calculators can make a huge difference to both Tool Life and Material Removal Rates (for faster cycle times).

As we’ve seen, a good Feeds and Speed Calculator is both the most common and the most well loved solution to the problem.

Here are the improvements users of our G-Wizard Calculator software told us they got versus whatever method they used before:

56%

Longer Tool Life
 
46%
Faster Cutting Speed
 
94%
Time Saved on Feeds & Speeds

Considering the G-Wizard Feeds and Speeds Calculator can be had for as little as $79, those are some pretty amazing results that you can start experiencing in just minutes after installing a free 30-day trial.  In fact, most good quality end mills cost almost as much as G-Wizard, so it pays for itself in a hurry.  Give it a try.

 

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