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Machinability and Wear of Aluminium based Metal Matrix Composites by MQL - A Review

Ankush Kohli*1, H. S. Bains2, Sumit Jain3 and D. Priyadarshi1

1Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, DAVIET, Jalandhar, India.

2Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, SSGIRIPU, Hoshiarpur, India.

3Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, CTIEMT, Jalandhar, India.


Metal matrix composites have exhibited better mechanical properties in comparison withconventional metals over an extensive range of working conditions. This makes them an appealing alternative in substituting metals for different applications. This paper gives a survey report, on machining of Aluminium metal Matrix composites (AMMC), particularly the molecule strengthened Aluminium metal matrix composites. It is an endeavour to give brief record of latest work to anticipate cutting parameters and surface structures in AMMC. The machinability can be enhanced by the utilization of Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL)during the machining of AMMC.

KEYWORDS: AMMC; MQL; Machining; Wear; Reinforcement

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Kohli A, Bains H. S, Jain S, Priyadarshi d. Machinability and Wear of Aluminium based Metal Matrix Composites by MQL - A Review. Mat.Sci.Res.India;14(2)

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 Metal Matrix Composites (MMCs) are one of the advanced Functional materials having the properties of lightweight, good wear resistance,high specific strength and a low thermal expansion coefficient. These composite materials are used in constructural, aircrafts and automotive products like engine cylinder piston, cylinder liner, Brake disc anddrum etc. MMCs are composed of metallic base material, termed as matrix, which is reinforced with hard ceramic particles like TiB2, B4C, SiC and Al2O3. These can be used as long fibres, short whiskers or particulates either in an irregular shape or spherical shape. The properties of the resulting material are controlled by three critical components: the matrix, the reinforcement and the interface [1]. However, the properties of a composite depend on the following such as properties of the matrix, properties of the reinforcement, relative amounts, size, shape and distribution of the reinforcement etc.The composite prove advantageous over conventional metals and alloys based ontheir engineering application and quality, safety, fuel economy, emission, styling, performance, ride handling, comfort, recyclability etc.

 Fabrication of aluminium MMCs can be classified into: liquid state fabrication, semi-solid casting and powder metallurgy process. Bulk fabrications of aluminium MMCs can be processed more easily and economically by the liquid state processing i.e. stir casting process or vortex technique. Stir casting is an attractive processing method since it is relatively inexpensive, flexible and offers wide selection of materials and processing conditions. It is able to sustain high productivity rates and allow very large size components to be fabricated [2]. Homogeneous distribution of reinforcement in the MMC was a challenge especially for Al (TiB2) MMC. Uniform distribution of reinforcements and good bonding leads to the optimum properties in the fabrication of MMC.

Difficult-To-Machine Materials

There is no institutionalized arrangement to classify hard to-machine materials with poor machinabilityand their definition is as yet dubious. The discoveries in the writing have grouped the hard to-machine materials into three classifications to be specific: hard materials, ductile materials and non-homogeneous materials. This arrangement and its sub-classes are shown in Fig.1. Although the progress in the fabrication of advanced materials has resulted in enhanced life of the related segments, they have brought about troubles in their processing and machinability. The fundamental properties to consider these materials as difficult to machine are: high hardness and quality together with poor thermal conductivity which can bring about short tool life, low productivity and poor surface quality [3, 4, 5]. The fundamental issues in machining these materials are the chip formation, geometrical precision and surface nature of the machined segments [6, 7, 8].

Figure 1: Classification of Difficult to machine Materials

Fig.1 Classification of Difficult to machine Materials
Click on image to enlarge


Composites are difficult to machine due to hard, non-homogeneous and only physically combined particles without involving any chemical reaction. Likewise MMC’s are hard to-machine because of shorter tool lives and poor surface quality. Fabrication of MMC is one task, however further conversion of raw material into useful products/parts of desired shape and size is a different task. Therefore characterizing the cutting parameters to manage the qualities of all materials, individually within a composite material and the entire composite together is exceptionally troublesome. Hard to-machine composites cause extreme tool wear because of hard abrasive particles Such as TiB2, B4C and SiC which are harder than WC tools [9, 10]. Machining these composites include issues related with their matrix material together with other properties of their particulates, for example, higher quality, higher scraped resistance, higher strength, and so forth[11].The chance of success of aluminium matrix composites relies on their applicability for different machining operations. Machining shares a huge commitment (up to 15%) of the aggregate estimation of manufactured components in the earth [9].

In the present era of industrialization, the reduction in the use of metal cutting fluids is a challenge. The environmental concerns limit the use of these fluids due to health concerns. The objective of Health and Safety environment departmental in different areas is to protect the environment against excessive use of these Fluids. [12]Chalmers announced that more than 100 million gallons of metalworking lubricants are utilized as a part of the U.S. every year and that 1.2 million employees are exposed to them and to their potential wellbeing risks.As a result, in some cases, cutting oils have been criticized for the dirty work environment caused by them and further for the harmful influence with their disposal on the global environment and this has initiated lot of R&D efforts to create dry cutting methods and introduce them at workplace. Of course Dry cutting, which utilize no cutting oil whatsoever, is one means of contributing to the solution of environment problems, but inevitably it has a lot of disadvantages, such as sacrificing production efficiency or lower production precision and has a limited range of application. Also, when it comes to machining of the aluminium composites, dry machining results in excessive chatter, surface irregularities and excessive tool wear owing to higher temperatures achieved at the tool-workpiece interface. Thus, either we have higher environmental risks with the use of flooded lubrication or we can sacrifice productivity and efficiency by eradication cutting fluid. However, both these situations are not desired as far as the machining of the composites is concerned. Hence, there is a need to employ an intermediate technique.

On the other hand, if we improve the effectiveness of cutting oil, use it only in limited amount, preventing the contamination of the surrounding areas and lastly disposing of it properly, this will enable highly efficient manufacturing and high product precision resulting in environment friendly manufacturing technology.

The three sources of heat generation during manufacturing process are primary shear zone,secondary deformation zone andflank wear zone. In the primary shear zone, major part of energy gets converted to heat; secondary deformation zone at the tool-Chip interface where further heat is generated due to rubbing between tool-chip interface and the third is the flank wear zone which is a result of rubbing between tool and finished surface. The possible detrimental effects of high temperature on cutting tool are: rapid tool wear, plastic deformation of cutting edge, thermal flanking and fracturing of cutting edge, dimensional inaccuracy of workpiece and surface damage by oxidation or rapid corrosion (ME IIT Kharagpur, 2009). During turning operation, high temperature is generated in the region of tool work piece interference. This heat generation is a result of plastic deformation leading to chip formation, friction between tool and workpiece and friction between tool and chip. Cutting tool softens at high temperature, thus thermal dependant tool wear leads to poor surface finish of the product. The amount of heat loss in cutting region is dependent on the thermal conductivity of tool itself and the cooling strategy being applied [13]. In order to reduce heat generation for the purpose of quality improvement and cost effectiveness, new cooling approaches have been introduced such cryogenic cooling and compressed air cooling and minimum quantity lubrication.

Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL) is a machining applicationin which very small amount of lubricant in mist form is delivered to the cutting zone by compressed air. In MQL machining, heat removal during cutting is achieved mainly due to convection by compressedairand partially by evaporation of cutting fluid. Thislittle amount of lubricant isless polluting, and has few other biological and environmental advantages[14].Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL), also known as “Microlubrication” [14] and “Near-Dry Machining” [15],is the most recent procedure of conveying metal cutting fluid to the work/tool interface. Utilizing this innovation, somewhat liquid, when appropriately chose and connected, can have a considerable effect on tool performance.  In traditional operations utilizing flood coolant, cutting fluids are chosen on the premise of their commitments to cutting execution. In MQL, optional attributes are essential.  These incorporate their safety properties, condition contamination and human contact, biodegradability, oxidation and storage stability.MQL can save money, enhance tool life and improve the final part. But it may involve changes to both the tooling and the functional strategy.

At their ideal working conditions, there is a requirement for machining to accomplish the standard measurement and surface wrap up [16]. So, it isproposed that the utilization of MQL upgrades the rebinder impact and in this manner diminishes the work because of plastic distortion [17]. Conceivable parameters and machining conditions influencing the execution of MQL machining are delineated in fishbone outline as presented in Fig.2.

Figure 2: Cause and Effects in MQL assisted Machining

Fig. 2 Cause and Effects in MQL assisted Machining
Click on image to enlarge


Machining of Materials

Some of the problems associated to machining of Al and Aluminium Metal Matrix Composites are presented in this section.

Machining of Aluminium

Al and its alloys are most machineable of all the basic materials. The low melting temperature of the material and the higher thermal coefficients of expansion along with relative softness and elasticity make it necessary to disseminate the generated heat. Else, it is difficult to keep up tolerances of the workpiece. Al alloys normally have significant measures of Si, causing them to be adhesive, leading to quick heat formation resulting in chip welding and built up edge [18]. At the point when contrasted with alternate materials, the machining of Al combinations is much easier as it is a comparatively soft material, thus resulting in a longer tool life and much reduced cutting forces. Be that as it may, notwithstanding these properties, for an agreeable result, alternate components that additionally must be fulfilled are the issues of material adhesion and also the development of BUE that reduces the tool life and causes other machining issues.Subsequently, optimized tool geometry as well as the machining parameters is highly recommended for the machining of Al and its Al alloys in order to accomplish proper results [19].

Machining of Amcs

Aluminium Matrix Composites (AMCs) are extremely difficult to machine due to their abrasive properties and the wear rate of the tools is also high, so that machining is extremely expensive [20]. The evaluation of machining of SiC reinforced aluminium matrix composite showed that initial flank wear on brazed polycrystalline diamond and chemical vapour deposition diamond coated tools were generated by abrasion due to the presence of very hard SiC particles [21]. For proper machining of Al/SiCMMC at high speed and low depth of cut, without BUC or flank BUC, the rhombic and fixed circular toolings are most effective tooling systems [22].During machining of Al (Situ Al4C3) metal matrix composite, elemental and arc chips formation were observed and hardness increased due to high volume fraction of situ Al4C3in the MMC. It resulted in a decrease in the formation of BUE but increased the surface quality at high cutting speeds[23]. Diamond tools are reasonably suitable for MMC machining. Furthermore, diamond coatings appeared to be more economically viable than PCD for MMC machining[24].The machining of MMCs has been difficult due to the extremely abrasive nature of the reinforcements and presents a significant challenge to the industry[25]. During machining of Al-Al2O3MMC it was found that at lower cutting speeds and due tolack of formation of a lubricating layer, the friction between the abrasive particle and the cutting tool can be reduced. The tool life was increased, under wet conditions,when turning at higher speeds. However, the surface quality was disintegrated, due to the flushing away of the partially debonded particulates from the machined surface. In this manner, higher rate of pit gaps and voids were formed[26].The cutting force during machining of AMC is based on particle fracture, ploughing and chip generation. Thus the resistance offered by SiC particles against fracture, ploughing out and makes it difficult to machine[27].The surface roughness values were predicted experimentally using fuzzy logic modelling technique in drilling of Al-SiC composite. The feed is the primary parameter which affects the surface roughness of Al-SiC composite, followed by point angle, tool material, speed and cutting environment [28].When machining the (Ti) MMCs, the tool wear at the initial wear period was completely different from the steady wear period. At the first moment of machining, the effect of accelerated cutting force and temperature gradient lead to high stress and friction between the poorly conforming cutting tool and workpiece surfaces; hence, the tool layer damages.The adhesion is the most important wear mechanism of the initial wear period under all experimental cutting conditions [29].During machining of Hybrid Metal Matrix Composite,the surface roughness mainly depends on the feed rate followed by the cutting speed. Influence of the approach angle is less on the surface roughness of the metal matrix composite.Optimization of machining parameters, nose radius and operation conditions were very important for minimizing the tool wears; maximizing the metal removal rate and better machinability[30]. Machining can be improved by the application of MQL.

From the machining study, it is revealed that machining of prepared composite is difficult due to the abrasive nature of reinforcements. It also found from the review of the literature that the use of coolant during turning of composites increases tool wear and surface roughness. The flank wear rate is high at low cutting speed due to the generation of high cutting forces and formation of built-up edge during traditional machining of prepared composites. The hard reinforced particles in the composites do not part off during machining at low cutting speed by the action of the cutting tool edge. Its rolls over the cutting tool edge and plough over the machined surface, which may cause of creation of high cutting force and formation of poor surface finish. Low feed and low cutting speed gives lower flank wear and thus better tool life in both coated and uncoated inserts when machining the prepared metal matrix composites. Flank wear of coated tool is less when compared with the uncoated insert.

Wear Behaviour of Aluminium Matrix Composites 

Wear standsout amongst the most important mechanical issue where the material is influenced principally by speed, naturalconditions, and working load [31]. Wear is a moderate and dynamic loss of material which is subjected to rehashed rubbing activity. Wear causes a tremendous measure of use by repairing or supplanting the well used out parts or hardware [32]. Aluminium matrix composites reinforced with in situ AlB2 particles were successfully fabricated by powder metallurgy. The wear resistance of the pure aluminium is improved significantly due to the formation of in situ AlB2 particles. The friction coefficient and wear area of the samples also increase almost linearly with the increase in the loadapplied [33]. The wear resistance of metal matrix composite depends chiefly on different microstructural qualities like molecule size, volume part, dispersion of reinforced material, and shape [34–38]. Among the differenttypes of reinforcements, particulate type of ceramics reinforced with AMCs have alluring and appealing properties like ease of fabrication, higher working temperature and oxidation resistance contrasted with different geometries of reinforcement, for example, fibres and particulates [35]. The application of AMCs is restricted due to poor wear resistance under dry lubrication conditions [36–37]. The increase in wear rate was reported due to increase in the metallic intimacy with increased load and the coefficient of friction of composite is lower as compared to the Al alloy at low values of the load [39-40]. The load, sliding speed and weight %age of reinforcement affected the coefficient of friction, where the sliding distance had no effect on it during dry sliding wear tests on Al–SiC–Gr hybrid MMC [41].Wear behaviour can be improved by the application of MQL because of reducing the cutting zone temperature.

Machining of Materials By Mql

Points of interest of MQL helped machining are: Fluid supplied to the workpiece/tool interference is less so there is no need of fluid preservation  and disposal [42]; lessening60% of solid waste, water use by 90%, and aquatic toxicity by 80% due to delivery of lubricants in air instead of water [43];diminished coolant costs due to low utilizationof cutting fluid, nontoxic and hazardous effects as mostly vegetable oils are used [44]; lessened cleaning expense and timedue to low residue of lubricant on chip, tool and work-piece [45]; better visibility of cutting processing [46]. With increasing cutting speed,the average chip thickness decreased regardless of the feed during turning with WC cutting tool. Surface roughness is assumed to be better because of low chip thickness observed due to reduced vibration and lessen power consumption, [45].The cutting performance of MQL machining is superior to that of dry machining in light of the fact that MQL gives the advantagesmainly by reducing the cutting temperature,reduced tool wear, improved tool life and better surface finish as compared to dry machining.Surface finish and dimensional accuracy enhanced mostly because of decrease of wear and harm at the tool tip by the use of MQL [47]. Whenthe cooled air MQL technique in finish turning of Inconel 718 is applied, it results in drastic reduction of tool wear and surface roughness and significant improvement in chip shape[40]. The MQL technique used for machining of Inconel 718 with three different types of carbide tools depicted that the application of MQL enhances the tool life to a considerable level in comparison with the dry condition. It was also found that the argon gas as a carrier gas of oil mist instead of air provides better cooling to the cutting point[48].It is therefore resumed that, the MQL condition will be a very good alternative to flooded coolant/lubricant conditions if MQL is employed properly.Not only the machining will be environmental friendly but also it will improve the machinability characteristics[49].The different cooling strategies investigated on titanium Ti-6AL-4V bring out that although shorter chips are produced with cooling air condition but chip curl cannot be promoted[49].The application of MQL on the turning of AISI 13 concluded that adopting MQL technique is better option than dry and wet machining;200 ml/h came out to be optimal value of the lubrication [50]. The performance of MQL using CBN tool during hard turning of AISI 4340 was studied, the result indicated that application of MQL techniques leads to 40% decrease in cutting forces, 36% decrease in cutting temperature and there is 30% improvement in surface finish[51].The minimum cutting fluid applications enhance the cutting performance and also improve the surface finishduring turning of OHNS steel[57].MQL provides these benefits mainly by reducing the cutting temperature, which improves cooling effect and results in better surface finish[52].MQL is a better option than Wet machining if the machining is to be conducted at higher speed and feed rates. MQL reduced the friction at the tool-work piece interference [53].The flow Penetration into the cutting zone was dependant on the flow velocity and number of nozzles and the most effective MQL performance is with the three nozzle arrangement having aconstant rate of mass flow [54].

It is evident from above literature that minimizing the uses of harmful cutting fluids is of dire necessity which has led innumerable researcher towards investigating the MQL during machining of materials irrespective of the machiningprocess[54]. The continuous MQL supply showed better results in terms of tool life rather than an intermittent MQL supply [53].Application of MQL system reduced the cutting zone temperature leading to reduced wear. The use of MQL system using vegetable fluids in the lubrication of A306 cast Aluminium alloy resulted in reduced cost of recycling,storage and waste disposal. Also decreased the temperature during the process and increased the life cycle of the tools[55]. Compared with liquid paraffin MQL; vegetable oil MQL has a lower coefficient of friction.Vegetable oil with high viscosity and surface tension achieved low thermal flux and friction coefficient, which indicates good lubrication performance[56].Compared to that in unlubricated condition, the friction coefficient of TiAl-TiB2 materials is significantly lower and the wear rate decreases in sea water.The friction coefficient of TiAl-TiB2 materials in sea water is insignificantly related with the amount of TiB2, but their wear resistance increases with the increase of TiB2 content and is superior to the TiAl alloy. The improved wear resistance for the composites is owing to the high hardness and relatively poor corrosion resistance, which is conducive to the formation of the protective oxidation-corrosion film [57].

The literature reveals that applications of MQL has resulted in better tool life, enhanced surface finish, lessening in cutting temperature, reduced cutting forcesandbetter chip forms. As number of factors are included in MQL helped machining, a watchful choice of parameters is required to make the procedure viable and productive. Appropriate combination of cutting parameters is must to guarantee proper chip removal and departure for effective functioning of MQL.


It is evident from the literature that for machining of hard material under MQL condition makes use of four kinds of tools coated tungsten carbide (WC), cermet, Polycrystalline diamond (PCD) and cubic boron nitrite (CBN). However these combinations of MQL and above mentioned tools are largely devoted to low speed machining. Although some scattered works are seen in area of machining of composites under MQL conditions but no significant research is seen. An investigation of the tool wear and expected tool life with higher cutting speed and feed rate but minimal depth of cut is still to be compressively evaluated. When it comes to metallic composites, the hard natures of the reinforcements make it even difficult to machine under dry conditions and it adversely affects the tool as well as the machined surface.

The composition of reinforcement material in MMCs is particularly less than 40%.  The most commonly used MMC material is the reinforcement of SiC particles in an aluminium matrix. Further combinations include titanium and magnesium alloys with Silicon Carbide (SiC), boron carbide (B4C) or alumina (Al2O3).  The machining of these materials becomes a laborious task due to the highly abrasive nature of reinforcements used in them. The presence of hard abrasive reinforcement particles during machining operations results in working tool to wear quickly. It thus becomes necessary to characterize the machining in perspective of required tool material selection, machining conditions, machinability and their impacts on tool life by the use of MQL on MMC.


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