Machinability Index


The term machinability refers to the ease with which a metal can be cut (machined) permitting the removal of the material with a satisfactory finish at low cost. Materials with good machinability require little power to cut, can be cut quickly, easily obtain a good finish, and do not wear the tooling much; such materials are said to be free machining. The factors that typically improve a material’s performance often degrade its machinability. Therefore, to manufacture components economically, engineers are challenged to find ways to improve machinability without harming performance.

Machinability can be difficult to predict because machining has so many variables. Two sets of factors are the condition of work materials and the physical properties of work materials. The condition of the work material includes eight factors: microstructure, grain size, heat treatment, chemical composition, fabrication, hardness, yield strength, and tensile strength. Physical properties are those of the individual material groups, such as the modulus of elasticity, thermal conductivity, thermal expansion, and work hardening. Other important factors are operating conditions, cutting tool material and geometry, and the machining process parameters.

Machinability can be based on the measure of how long a tool lasts. This can be useful when comparing materials that have similar properties and power consumptions, but one is more abrasive and thus decreases the tool life. The major downfall with this approach is that tool life is dependent on more than just the material it is machining; other factors include cutting tool material, cutting tool geometry, machine condition, cutting tool clamping, cutting speed, feed, and depth of cut. Also, the machinability for one tool type cannot be compared to another tool type (i.e. HSS tool to a carbide tool).

Related formulas


Mimachinability index (%) (dimensionless)
Vcutmatcutting speed of free-cutting steel for 20 minute tool life (mm/s)
Vcutsteelcutting speed of material for 20 minute tool life (mm/s)