A Brief History of Cutting Tool Technology

Tooling manufacturing

The modern cutting tool industry may seem sophisticated today, but that’s only thanks to the long history of tool engineering behind it. Cutting tool technology has advanced rapidly over the years, and with it, our ability to promote the growth of the manufacturing industry that supports so many jobs today.

A brief look at the history and development of these technologies helps us appreciate just how easy we really have it today, while still inspiring new innovations for the future. Here are some of the key dates in tooling manufacturing, as well as the important innovations and discoveries that have helped launch this field from one era to the next.

  • 1740: The first cutting tool was cast using a crucible steel production method.
  • 1868: Robert Forester Mushet, a British metallurgist and businessman, adds Tungsten to improve the hardness and longevity of cutting tools.
  • 1880s: Cutting tool solutions help fuel the Industrial Revolution. Frederick Winslow Taylor is often credited for conducting important research that leads to better alloys and product development.
  • 1900: High-speed steels are developed that can cut four times faster than the carbon steels they replaced.
  • 1926: Freidlich Krupp introduces the first cemented carbide products in Europe, followed by General Electric (GE) in the U.S. two years later. Similar products soon emerge in Japan by Mitsubishi and Toshiba.
  • 1980s: Whisker-reinforced ceramic tools take the market by storm, providing cuts 10 times as fast as carbide steel.

As cutting tool technology improves, so too do the imperatives to discover even better ways to utilize materials for efficient cutting. Recently, for example, researchers at North Carolina State University announced the discovery of a new and distinct form of solid carbon. This element is said to be possibly 10% harder than diamond — which means it may yet prove to play an important role in the development of machining.

New research and discoveries are constantly fueling the fires of innovation, especially when it comes to cutting tool technology. By looking back on our past now and then, we not only see how far we’ve come. We can see how far we have yet to go — and that serves as an inspiration to us all.

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Sarah Todd

Sarah Todd

Sarah Todd, an investment banker, is a reporter and researcher for one of London’s leading media outlets. Formerly a trader and market maker at FTSE, she turned to media during the global recession. This website features some of her best and favourite articles, from all parts of the business world. Please let her guide you and your enterprise along the path to prosperity.