Hellinger says micro-layer coatings are becoming
more widespread. With the layers becoming smaller and
smaller, they are able to react in a more positive way to
higher temperatures and are more abrasion resistant.
The end goal of infusing more carbide into cutting
tools is the same as it’s always been with tool hardening
over the years: reduce friction. Any time the friction
can be lowered on a blade or drill, it can spin faster at a
lower temperature, making it last longer, and making it
more valuable overall.
A popular value-added offering in the cutting tools
industry is in tool repair and reconditioning. Being able
to re-sharpen a tool multiple times and extend its life
increases its value exponentially instead of buying a new
tool every time it dulls. Hellinger said a growing trend is
for manufacturers to offer this service in-house.
“Why offer reconditioning services? A high-perfor-
mance carbide drill could cost between $50-250, and you
don’t want to throw it away after one use. The user will
want to recondition the tool if possible,” Hellinger says.
“If they regrind the tool themselves, they might not get
near the same performance as new. If they send the tool
to a local regrind house, they may not be able to mimic
the geometry correctly and the tool performance will
suffer. Manufacturers are starting to offer their own
reconditioning service so the end user can get a facto-
Distributors are in on the action as well. In the re-
grind room at independent distributor John Day Com-
pany (Omaha, NE), a carbide steel gear cutting hob
– costing $2,500-4,000 brand new – can be sharpened
16-20 times for $250-300 each time. Such a service can
be extremely valuable.
As far as other value-added opportunities for distributors, Knutson says end user education is the most prominent, as misuse and uneducated customers are always a
“A lot of people in the industry are not very aware.
The consumer market is really dumbing down people,”
he says. “You really have to make it super simple for
them to pick and choose the right product. I call it point-and-grunt: ‘There’s my tool. There’s my blade.’ Maybe it’s
a color chart, a picture, something a third grader could
look at and know what it does. Maybe point-of-purchase
materials. It’s a little degrading, but if you’re not making
it dumbed down, people look away.
“Most people in the oscillating tool industry, 90 per-
cent, don’t know how to use the tool. Unbelievable.”
Knutson doesn’t hold himself above the consumer. He
recalled how when he first got in the business, he would
“just buy something that had the most teeth,” because
he was admittedly uneducated about the decision-mak-
ing process. Distributors and end users need to consider
teeth patterns and what the material is made of if they
want to get the most out of their dollar.
Hellinger and Knutson both say that a trend that is likely
to carry on through 2015 in cutting tools is brand consolidation — distributors and hardware stores are looking
to carry fewer brands of the same tool, instead of having
as many known brands as they can. The more brands a
store carries, the harder it is to display them properly.
“People are backing up the truck and going, ‘how
come I have this junkyard of a spot in my store that has
eight different brands?’” Knutson says. “The industry
in general is coming to the table and looking at all the
lines in a streamlined approach: ‘What do I really need?
Do I really need 10 oscillating brands, when I can have
just one that will cover everything?’”
Market Consumption Update
The latest figures from the U.S. Cutting Tool Institute
showed that February U.S. cutting tool consumption
totaled $179.3 million, down 2. 3 percent from January’s total, but up 1.6 percent year-over-year from February 2014. Association For Manufacturing Technology
analysis said that the decrease mirrored the same pattern as U.S. manufacturing of durable goods, and that
January and February surpassing last year’s totals are
positive conditions, considering the first quarter faced
adversity of harsh weather conditions and a strong
dollar in a weakening global economy.