Tool wear adversely affects surface integrity due to higher cutting forces and temperatures. However, an accurate and efficient tool wear measurement is a challenging problem. The traditional direct tool wear measurement methods such as optical microscope and scanning electron microscope (SEM) leads to error of tool reassembly, tool orientation, and low accuracy, while the indirect measurement methods cause poor accuracy. In this paper, tool wear phenomena in milling of tool steel AISI H13 and superalloy Inconel 718 have been studied. A novel online optical system has been developed to integrate with a CNC machine to directly inspect and measure tool wear conditions in milling which minimizes the above-mentioned measurement errors in traditional methods. The evolutions of tool flank wear of PVD-coated inserts in end milling of the two materials were inspected to demonstrate the function of the optical measurement system. The tool wear evolution versus cutting time were obtained and examined. The characteristic images of fast tool wear in milling of Inconel 718 were captured using SEM and compared with the optical images to estimate flank wear. Three basic modes of tool wear-flank wear, nose wear, and crater wear-were compared and analyzed. A two-parameter method has been developed to evaluate both flank wear and nose wear with respect to cutting time in milling of Inconel 718. The advantages of the on-line optical tool inspection system were discussed. © 2012 Springer-Verlag London.
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