Following seven years of intensive research and development, Duralor has perfected cubic boron nitride (cBN) composite coatings for metal cutting tools and is now marketing those coatings as TuffTek® to tool makers. This technology can significantly help the global effort to increase manufacturing efficiency while reducing costs, increasing output and saving energy. The first commercial contract for sales of TuffTek is with a major automobile manufacturer.
cBN has long been available as a tool material, albeit at high cost, but the successful application of it as a coating had not been realized despite several previous multi-million dollar development efforts by large cutting tool companies. With the release of Duralor's patented TuffTek product line, users can now gain the performance and longevity advantages of cBN at vastly lower cost.
"This is a significant breakthrough in the machine tool industry. For the first time, all manufacturers have a cost effective and chip control option for cutting hard materials," said Jim Adams, P.E., a cutting tool applications expert and president of A-Tech Services, Inc. in Rochester Hills, Mich.
In side-by-side comparison for the machining of hardened steel, TuffTek-coated tools outperformed traditional coatings by 300 percent or more. For example, in turning A2 steel (58 HRC) shafts, TuffTek tools yielded nine finished shafts per tool while conventional titanium aluminium nitride coated tools typically yielded three. In addition, TuffTek provided a 50 percent reduction in the time required to machine each shaft thus reducing labor.
In an October 2008 feature story spotlighting Duralor and the upcoming TuffTek product release, Cutting Tool Engineering magazine described cBN as the "Holy Grail" of tool coatings. cBN has long been known for its outstanding thermal stability, extremely high wear resistance and chemical inertness - but the technology for successfully utilizing or commercializing it as a coating was elusive.
Duralor took a non-traditional approach and developed a way to electrostatically spray cBN particles on the tool. They follow that with a chemical vapor infiltration of traditional coating materials. The resulting composite is TuffTek. The material applied by chemical vapor infiltration can be titanium nitride, titanium carbo-nitride, titanium carbide, hafnium nitride or other materials so that TuffTek can be tailored to a specific application.
The core technology behind TuffTek was exclusively licensed from the University of Arkansas in 2002 by Duralor's parent company, NanoMech, a technology company based in Fayetteville, Ark. The technology is covered by multiple patents and patents pending. NanoMech is a designer and manufacturer of application-specific nanoparticle-based coatings and coating deposition systems. The company was recently recognized for "Excellence in Innovation" by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Further, application of cBN nanoparticles by NanoMech (and Duralor) was chosen by the editors of R&D Magazine as representative of the best 25 micro- and nanotechnologies of 2006, and NanoMech was the 2005 recipient of the Frost & Sullivan award for excellence in technology in the field of advanced coatings and surface technologies.
Pinnacle Investments, www.pinnaclenwa.com, an Arkansas-based global technology venture firm, completed a funding round in 2008 in both NanoMech and Duralor. In addition to providing capital, Pinnacle's managing partner, James Phillips, recently joined the boards of both Duralor and NanoMech to further guide the penetration of those companies' products into the marketplace. Phillips' experience with technology companies is vast and well chronicled in U.S. media. He has held executive and/or ownership positions with Motorola, SkyTel, Mobilecomm, Luminetx, FedEx Institute of Technology, iPIX, the U.S. Council on Competitiveness and Morgan Keegan. He holds patents in cell phone, PDA and data modem design and has brought many new technologies to the market.