JMST Advances

, Volume 1, Issue 1–2, pp 89–106 | Cite as

From macro to micro, evolution of surface structures on cutting tools: a review

  • Zhengyang KangEmail author
  • Yonghong Fu
  • Dong Min Kim
  • Hang Eun Joe
  • Xingyu Fu
  • Theodore Gabor
  • Hyung Wook Park
  • Martin Byung-Guk JunEmail author


In modern tool industry, the design and manufacture of cutting tool surface have been highlighted to fulfill the ever-increasing demands of advanced manufacturing, e.g., lean production, intelligent manufacturing and Industry 4.0. Chip-breaker is a triumph of applying the specific macro structure on rake face, not only contributing to chip controlling, but also being capable to reduce cutting force and tool temperature. In recent decade, surface texturing has been emerged on tool surface, indicating that research focus of surface structures on tools is evolving from macroscale to microscale. The present study reviews functions, optimization and manufacture approaches of different scale structures on cutting tools, aiming at providing a global view of related technologies and revealing the possible developing tendency in this field. This paper could greatly facilitate future research and industrial application of tool surface modification, especially for the integrated application in multi-scale.


Cutting tools Chip-breakers Multi-scale structure Surface structure Surface texturing 

1 Introduction

From the perspective of social productivity, human civilization is prevailingly driven by the progress of tools. It is also the core idea of three-age system, which segments mankind history into stone, bronze and iron ages. In modern industry, the cutting tools in high performance are able to reshape almost all kinds of raw materials, e.g., metal, ceramic, glass, etc. Cutting is also employed as post-treatment of forging and casting to achieve higher accuracy and better surface quality. Since its significances, almost all the major progresses of engineering technologies have been applied in machining tools, such as ultrahard materials, advanced coating, lubricant, etc.

The importance of surface structure on tools has been highlighted as well. In the past, the design of tool surface structure mostly focused on macroscale. The chip-breaker could be a triumph of applying macrostructure on tool rake face, and it has been regarded as a vital technique for productivity and operator safety as early as 1950s [1]. The properly designed chip-breaker contributes to not only chip controlling but also cutting force and tools’ temperature reductions.

In recent years, surface texturing has been emerged on tool surface, indicating that the design and manufacture of tool surface have stepped into micro, even nanoscale. A textured surface consists of vast controllable and functional microstructures, e.g., grooves, dimples or bulges [2, 3], generating several functions such as friction reduction, abrasive resistance, heat dissipation, etc.

A globe-view of the development of surface structures on tool surface is shown in Fig. 1. The whole period can be roughly divided into two periods: macro (1990s–2007) and micro (2007–after).
Fig. 1

Development of surface structures on tool surface

In the initial stage, 1900s–1940s, chip evacuation did not draw too much attention in tool design until 1960s, together with the industrial application of carbide tools, the grooved chip-breaker was attempted on rake face. Then, the chip control ability gradually became one of the key criteria in tools selecting and planning cutting process. However, in this time period, it was still a challenge to design chip-breaker effectively and precisely. Before 1970s, researchers mainly employed experimental methods to reveal the chip behaviors such as flow, curl and breaking. Afterwards, some new analysis approaches, such as FEM and slip-line theory, were applied. At the same period, the forms of chip-breaker became diversified. The 3D chip-breaker with complex shape emerged and became the most prevailing type up until now.

To the best of our knowledge, the first paper about surface-textured tools was published in 2007 [4]. However, since this paper was written by Japanese, this new concept was not well-known until 2009, two academic papers were published and indexed by Web of Science [5, 6]; they expounded the possibility and effectivity of applying micro/nano surface texture on tool surface. Another turning point could be found in around 2014, the experimental studies were supplemented by numerical and FEM methods. Since then, a systematics research system was established in this field, including theoretical analysis and various experimental approaches. In recent years, surface-textured tools have attracted a rising attention, while the continuing researches are still strongly needed to achieve the optimum design of tool surface structures.

As shown in Fig. 1, there are boundaries between macro- and microsurface structures in terms of timeline and their capabilities, and we believe that their distinct objectives could be the main reason: chip-breakers in macro scale are designed for chip controlling, while surface texturing is fabricated for tribological optimization. Meanwhile, several conjunct functions can be found from both sides, including lower cutting forces, reduced tool wear, restrained tool–chip contact and tool temperature.

The above common virtues not only show the similarities of surface structures in different scales, but also imply that macro and micro surface structures could be integrated to promote tools’ performances. In this case, it should be a good strategy to consider different scales structures in one framework for the sakes of design, manufacture and management.

At present, however, the researchers usually choose one scale, macro or micro, as a starting point of their studies. This phenomenon motivated us to review the works from both sides, aiming to form an integral view of artificial surface structures on cutting tool surface and facilitate future research and industrial applications, especially for the integrated application in multi-scale.

2 Macro surface structures

2.1 Functions

Metal-cutting is a continuous process of work material been plastically deformed, fractured and formed into chip ultimately. In a workshop, considering the chip disposal, machining quality and operators’ security, the ideal shape of chip is regarded as helical curve at limited length. To achieve chip controlling, various chip-breakers have been meticulously designed on tool surface. As shown in Fig. 2, chip-breakers can be classified into obstruction-type and groove-like type.
Fig. 2

Different shapes of rake faces and chip. a Flat rake face, b obstruction-type and c groove-type chip-breakers

Jawahir [7] classified the shapes of chip-breakers into 2D, simple 3D and complex 3D. For the cemented carbide tools, the complex 3D chip-breaker can be easily made by sintering process; however, this convenience further complicated the optimum design of chip-breakers.

Additionally, the well-designed chip-breakers could also benefit to about 30–50% power consumption reduction [8], lower cutting forces [9] and prolonged life-span compared with the flat rake face tools.

The early research indicated that these macro bumpy features are able to disturb chips’ free-flow or generate the backflow effect, creating tensile stresses in the chip and resulting in chip breaking [7, 10, 11]. The chip breakability of chip-breaker could be greatly affected by cutting conditions, such as workpiece material, lead angle, feed rate, depth of cut and tool geometry [7]. This multifactor feature made the design and validation of chip-breakers very challenging. The “try and see” method is still popular, despite it is highly dependent on the experiences of designers [12].

Besides the chip-breaker, the macro surface structures shown another function in the previous research. Shu et al. [13] manufactured inlet and outlet channels within the tool holder, and then assembled the insert upside down on the tool holder. The channels and grooved chip-breaker made up a sealed flow channel, which functioned as an internal cooling system. By this system, the cutting temperature can be controlled and measured simultaneously. Sun et al. [14] developed an insert having a similar structure. According to the review paper published by Wu et al. [15], the manufacturing of macro holes, grooves or channels is a key technique to build tools’ internal cooling system.

2.2 Manufacture approaches

Several approaches have been developed for manufacturing macro structures on tool surface. For cemented carbide tools, the shape of chip-breaker can be easily formed by pressing method, followed by the sintering and finishing processes. To shorten the production period in laboratory environment, Fang et al. [16] manufactured chip-breakers by grinding. Despite the shape of chip-breaker changed from symmetric to asymmetric, the cutting experiment result indicated that they were interchangeable.

High energy beam machining is another option to produce macro surface structures on tools with high precision and acceptable efficiency. Gonzalo [17] and Elkaseer et al. [18] applied laser ablation to make 3D chip-breakers on PCD insert and blades of milling tool. In addition, the electro-discharge machining (EDM) is also turned out feasible for making chip-breaker [19]. It is worth mentioning that the high energy beam processes are more suitable for super-hard cutting tools, such as PCD and ceramic tools, because these materials are difficult to be 3D structured by conventional machining.

The additive machining is applicable as well. Shi [20] fabricated a raised dot, 700 μm in height and 1.2 mm in diameter, on HSS tool rake face by laser cladding. Similar to the obstruction-type chip-breaker, the effectivity of macro dot was highly influenced by its location on rake face. The authors suggested that more tool materials and laser-cladded shape should be further studied.

2.3 Optimization methods

2.3.1 Cutting experiment

To design the chip-breaker effectively, many design of experiments (DOE) have been used in the previous researches. The first kind is chip-breaking diagram, which presents all shapes of chip in a coordinate of cutting conditions. Generally, chip shapes change continuously in these diagrams; hence, tool developers can easily find out the applicable cutting conditions for a specifically designed chip-breaker. Five types of chip-breaking diagrams have been emerged in the previous literatures as shown in Table 1.
Table 1

Types of chip-breaking diagrams




Depth of cut vs. feed rate


Depth of cut vs. cutting speed


Feed rate vs. width of cut


Feed rate vs. cutting speed


Width of cut vs. cutting speed

Kim [21] employed type-A and type-B diagrams, as show in Fig. 3. Three distinct regions can be located on these diagrams, i.e., controlled region, transient region and uncontrolled region. It can be speculated that the new-developed chip-breaker is much more sensitive to cutting speed compared with feed rate and depth of cut.
Fig. 3

Chip-breaking diagrams of the new-designed chip-breaker

The chip-breaking diagram can also be applied to find the applicable chip-breaker design for base on the specific cutting conditions. Jawahir et al. [8] carried out a two-stage cutting experiment to compare the chip-breaking performances of six different tool inserts. In Stage-I, type-C diagram was plotted with a constant cutting speed, 100 m/min, showing the joint influence of feed rate and width of cut. In Stage-II, the effect of cutting speed was investigated by diagrams type-D and type-E. The chip-breaking performances were analyzed by comparing the size of controlled chip regions on the diagram. The similar methodology also appeared in Choi and Lee’s research [10], which investigated the performances of three different chip-breakers with variant nose radius, land width and groove width. In addition, Wu et al. [22] adopted type-A diagram to contrast the performance of the same insert in heavy-duty cutting of AISI 1045 steel and 2.25 Cr-1Mo-0.25 V steel.

Another DOE method in this field is Taguchi method, which is able to analyze the multifactor problems with a reasonable amount of experimentation. Kuo et al. [23] applied Taguchi method to analyze the impact of chip-breaker’s geometry on chip-breaking ability and found that the width of the groove has the greatest impact among all the parameters.

Using single factor test method, Gurbuz et al. [24] investigated the geometric effect of chip-breaker on turning process of AISI 1050 steel. It was found that the more complex for chip-breakers, the higher cutting forces and stresses forces. Similarly, Soares et al. [25] considered three different chip-breaker geometries on PCD tools in turning AlSi9Cu3 alloy. The result indicated that the chip-breaker with small groove has better chip control ability, while its cutting forces and power consumption are also promoted.

Generally, systematical cutting experiment is time-consuming and expensive, not to mention its highly empirical dependence. It is difficult to balance chip controlling, cutting quality and power consumption [10, 26]. Therefore, many researches focused on the theoretical and numerical approaches.

2.3.2 Numerical simulation

The theoretical work started from the numerical description to the helical chip. Nakayama [27, 28] expressed nine kinds of helix chip as the function of three items: upward curvatures, ρx, sideward curvatures, ρz, and chip flow angle, η, as shown in Fig. 4. In Eqs. (1)–(4), the θ, ρ, p and e are four parameters determining the helix shape in Cartesian coordinate. Kharkevich [12] further amended this theory to satisfy all the up-curl and side-curl criteria.
$$ \theta = tan^{{\text{ - 1}}} \frac{{\rho_{x} }}{{\rho_{z} cos\eta }}, $$
$$ \rho = \sqrt {\frac{{1 - \sin^{2} \eta \cos^{2} \theta }}{{(\cos \eta /\rho_{x} )^{2} + (1/\rho_{z} )^{2} }}} , $$
$$ p = \frac{2\pi \rho \sin \eta \cos \theta }{{\sqrt {1 - \sin^{2} \eta \cos^{2} \theta } }}, $$
$$ e = \frac{\rho \sin \eta \cos \theta }{{\sqrt {1 - \sin^{2} \eta \cos^{2} \theta } }}. $$
To model the chip breaking, the following criterion [29] has been used in a lot of studies:
$$ \varepsilon_{b} < \frac{{t_{2} }}{2}\left( {\frac{1}{{R_{0} }} - \frac{1}{{R_{L} }}} \right), $$
where εb represents the tensile strain on the chip, t2 the chip thickness, R0 the radius of initial chip curl, and RL the radius of chip at fracture point.
The main idea of this criterion is chip breaks if the strain of its skin reaches the maximum elongation of the chip material. Cook et al. [30] adopted this criterion to reveal the mechanism of chip straightening. Choi and Lee [10] employed this criterion in their 3D cutting model; the predicted chip-breaking region agreed with experimental result well.
Fig. 4

Schematic of the a formation of helix chip, compounding of b two orthogonal circular arcs

The slip-line field theory is another feasible numerical method for chip flow analysis, assuming that the work material is perfectly plastic [31]. Shi et al. [32] proposed slip-line field models for obstruction-type and groove-type [33] chip-breakers in orthogonal cutting. The groove-type chip-breaker was also considered in the model put forward by Mesquita et al. [9] to promote the precision of cutting force prediction. In subsequent model, Das et al. [34] computed the chip radius of curvature, cutting ratio and effective position of chip-breaker. After reviewing the major slip-line field models in previous literatures, Fang et al. [31] developed a universal slip-line model for orthogonal cutting with groove-type chip-breakers.

One of the limitation of slip-line field theory is that it can only analyze the simple cutting processes that plastic deformation dominates, for instance orthogonal cutting in certain work material. For the oblique cutting, other approaches are needed to obtain convincible results.

2.3.3 Finite element modeling (FEM)

FEM has a long history in chip flow simulation. Shinozuka et al. [10] claimed that the criterion in Eq. 5 is far from the actual cutting, mainly because the chip’s plastic deformation was not taken into account. Therefore, a thermos-elastic plastic FEM model was developed; a stress-dependent fracture criterion was used to simulate chip breaking. In the 3D FEM cutting model proposed by Buchkremer [35], the ductile fracture of chips was further considered based on the Eq. 5. In this study, the predicted locations of fracture were compared with the observation of high-speed videos in turning, and the direction of crack propagation was validated by scanning electron microscope.

In the FEM analysis and experimental study conducted by Lotfi et al. [36], it was observed that the bending moment generated by the upper level of breadth surface has the highest contribution in the development of combined and nonuniform state of stress at the root and body of deformed chip. Meanwhile, the geometry of chip-breaker had a significant effect on the cutting force value. Wu et al. [22] and Gonzalo et al. [17] simulated chip formation and breaking by 2D and 3D FEM models, aiming at providing theoretical instructions to the design of complex chip-breaker.

Overall, FEM has shown its potential in chip-breaker design, even for the complex topographies. In the future, to generate a better analysis result, the FEM model could be much more complex and closer to the real cutting conditions, such as considering the effects of coolant, tool wear and adhesion.

2.3.4 Neural network

Neural network is a computing system inspired by the biological neural network. Kim et al. [37] applied this algorithm to predict the performance of chip-breaker. It is possible to improve chip-breaker design without fully understanding the complicated theories about chip formation and cutting process.

Figure 5a presents a four-layer neural network, where the inputs are elements for chip formation including depth of cut, land, breadth and radius. Chip patterns were classified into three linguistic levels: stable, usable and unstable. Figure 5b shows the computing process at a node. First, the artificial neuron evaluates the inputs, Xi and determines their weighting factors, Wij; then the weighted inputs, XiWij, are summed and added a bias, θj; this result is treated as input to a transfer function, f(z), by which the output, yj, of the node will be determined. f(z) is called active function in some literatures. After this node, the value of yj is transmitted as an input to subsequent node.
Fig. 5

Neural network. a Architecture of neural network; b diagram of artificial neuron

The precision of neural network is dependent on Wij values of each neuron. The neural network training is a process that determines these values to promote the predictive accuracy.

2.3.5 Knowledge-based database

The knowledge-based database is a system, which is able to process the input information such as work material properties, tool geometry, tool material, etc., and output the optimum cutting conditions for a specific goal. It was believed that such an intelligent system would greatly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of process planning, contributing to the feasibility of unmanned manufacture [38]. To develop appropriate knowledge rules, it is necessary to fully understand the effects of every input information on cutting process.

Figure 6 is the workflow of knowledge-based system developed by Jawahir et al. [26]. It is an integrated system consisting of reference database, grooved chip-breaker database, natural contact length database and 3D chip flow database. Using this system, the optimal parameters of chip-breaker can be estimated to achieve effective chip breaking at minimum power consumption.
Fig. 6

Schematic diagram for designing effective grooved chip-breaker

2.4 Limitations of macro surface structures

Based on the previous studies, the macro chip-breakers achieve chip controlling mainly by mechanical effects. On the other hand, it has been realized that the tribological performance of chip–tool and tool–workpiece friction pairs could impact cutting process obviously. The latest point of view has related tribological performance to surface structures in micro-scale. Although the attempt of micro surface structure on tool surface is behind other applications, some significant effects and characters that have been revealed in previous literatures will be discussed below.

3 Micro surface texturing

The research of surface texturing can be traced back to 1966, Hamilton et al. [39] theoretically predicted that micro bulge could generate lubrication effect in sliding surfaces; however, it was not extensively studied until micro machining became widely applicable in 1990s. Since then, surface texture has been employed by various mechanical applications, such as piston/cylinder, mechanical seals, hydraulic motors, bearings, cams/tappets, magnetic tapes and prosthetic joints. As a new application object, textured tool has drawn an increasing attention. Two review papers in this field were published in 2016 [40, 41] could be an obvious evidence.

3.1 Functions

3.1.1 Chip controlling

Instead of chip breaking, Shamto et al. [42] controlled the direction of chip flow by micro-grooves on rake face. These micro-grooves were 100-micron width and 50-micron depth, as show in Fig. 7. With the help of chip-pulling system, chip was steadily collected. In the experiment conducted by Xie et al. [43], the micro-grooved tool produced much smaller chip length and width; in the case of diagonal grooves, the chip length reduced greatly compared with the flat tool. Overall, the surface texture in micro-scale presents weaker chip controlling ability compared with macro chip-breaker.
Fig. 7

Chip guidance effect of micro-grooves. a Morphology of texture; b stable guidance of chips

Micro surface texture has an obvious influence to chip surface. On the bottom surface of chip generated by textured tool, periodical grooves can be observed. These groove features could be derived from the micro-grooves on tool rake face [5]. Duan et al. [44] further revealed that the buried groove texture generates bulges on rake face and leads to groove traces on chip bottom. Base on the conclusion of cutting fluid research, these micro-grooves could function as capillaries, enhancing the coolant transportation [45].

With comparing the chip shape of flat and textured tool, it can be found the later one has less chip saw-tooth. Since the saw-tooth relates to machining stability, micro-grooved tool may reduce chattering during dry cutting.

Lei et al. [6] related the decreased main cutting force to the radius of the coiled chip and pointed out that chip curl radius may be used as an estimate for the frictional condition at the chip-tool interface. Xing [46, 47] and Arulkirubakaran et al. [48] claimed that the reduced friction force will lead to more curved chip. Meanwhile, the edge of the groove may act as a secondary cutting edge and increase the moment that curves chip.

3.1.2 Cutting forces reduction

Table 2 extracts percentage of cutting forces reduction from the published literatures. Overall, the textured tools have shown a great probability in reduction of cutting forces for various materials, cutting speeds, depth/width of cut, feed rate and coolant conditions. The capacity of cutting forces reduction varies from 10 to 25%. In the research conducted by Kawasegi et al. [5], the nanoscale surface texturing showed a more effective force reduction than micro-ST on the rake face in aluminum alloy machining. Compared with the grooves perpendicular to chip flow, the parallel grooves leaded to severe adhesion and higher cutting forces, which was accounted for the plastic deformation of work material in parallel grooves. Xie et al. [49] found that groove texture reduced 32.7% cutting force; increased grooves’ depth resulted in larger tool–chip contact area and higher cutting forces. However, in the research conducted by Obikawa et al. [50], the deeper grooves showed higher lubrication effectiveness in machining aluminum alloy A6061-T6. Their distinct cutting conditions could be the main reason for their conflicting conclusions.
Table 2

The percentages of cutting forces reduction in previous literatures

Deng [51], Xing [46] and Koshy et al. [52] attributed cutting forces reduction to the decreased shear strength and tool–chip contact area. This view point is endorsed by friction model of tool–chip friction pair. The friction force, Ff, at tool rake face can be calculated by Eq. (6) [53]
$$ F_{f} = a_{w} l_{f} \tau_{c} , $$
where lf is the chip–tool contact length, aw is cut width, τc is the shear strength of the lubricating film at the tool–chip interface.

In fact, awlf is tool–chip contact area in the case of flat tool cutting. The void cavities of textured rake face could sharply reduce the tool–chip contact area, resulting in Ff reduction. For the self-lubricated tools, the solid lubricant released form texture morphologies formed continues lubrication film at the chip–tool interface, resulting in τc reduction and Ff decrease as well [46].

Another explanation for cutting forces reduction is the promoted lubricity on rake face. By assuming that the separation region of tool–chip contact is hydrodynamic lubrication domain, Kang et al. [54] indicated that the micro-grooves texture generates extra carrying capacity compared to the flat tool.

3.1.3 Adhesion and wear resistance

Severe chip adhesion could cause machining error and rapid wear [55, 56]. To promote anti-adhesion ability of cutting tools, the group of Sugihara and Enomoto carried out systemic work in face milling of aluminum alloy. In their inceptive stage of research, the 150 μm width grooves texture was clogged easily by chip [4]; hence, the texture scale was reduced to nanoscale in the following research [57]. The treated tools, 100 nm depth and 700 nm apart textured and DLC coated, exerted noteworthy anti-adhesion and lubricity properties, especially for paralleled nano-grooves (paralleled to the main cutting edge). The decreased tool–chip contact area and lubricant film thickness were regarded as two main mechanisms of performance promotion in wet cutting. Soon after, the above tools were further tested in dry cutting; however, from the view of EDX-Al analysis, the anti-adhesion ability of nano-groove-textured tools were not obvious [58] and can be completely worn out in steel cutting [59]. To overcome these deficiencies, the micro stripe texture, a mutation of micro-grooves texture, was designed to restrain chip adhesion and tool wear in carbon steel machining. The optimum anti-adhesion micro stripe texture was 5 μm depth, 20 μm convex wide and 50 μm concave wide [60].

The promoted adhesion and wear resistance of textured tools could be contributed as a joint effect of (1) improved lubricity [60, 61], (2) micro-trap for wear debris [60], (3) cutting force reduction [62] and (4) cutting temperature reduction [62, 63]. It is worthy to note that Kümmel et al. [64] revealed another mechanism of anti-wear of textured tool. The dimple texture on the rake face could stabilize the built-up layer (BUL) on the rake face in cutting process, resulting in a better wear behavior compared with the untextured cutting tool. Sasi et al. [65] also pointed out that the stabilized BUL increases the effective rake angle, leading to cutting forces reduction.

The above mechanisms were also tried on others tool faces and types. Sugihara et al. [61] introduced micro-grooves texture into flank face of cemented carbide tools, and the new tool presented obvious wear resistance; the width of the flank wear reduced from 170 to 120 μm. This phenomenon was attributed to the enhanced cutting fluid storage ability of textured flank face. Recently, the application of micro-grooves on CBN tools flank face showed that the texture could stabilize the adhesion layer, preventing it from flaking, which remarkably extended the tool life-span in high-speed machining of Inconel 718 [66]. Similarly, Liu et al. [67] found that the textured flank faces stored powder of chip in dry cutting of green alumina ceramics; these powders protected the texture groove from abrasion. Fang [63] tried flank face-textured tools in dry and high-pressure jet coolant cutting separately, the micro-grooves texture paralleled to the main cutting edge showed minimum flank wear. Ling et al. [68] fabricated rectangular surface textures on the margins of drill bits to reduce adhesion and prolong drilling life.

3.1.4 Cutting temperature reduction

Temperature rising in tool cutting zone is a common problem in continuous machining, especially for the materials having lower thermal conductivity [69]. Several researches monitored cutting temperature of textured tools and indicated that surface texturing could be a supplement approach to restrict tool temperature, as shown in Table 3.
Table 3

Summarization of cutting temperature reduction effect




Xie et al.

62% on tips, predicated


Xing et al.



Ling et al.

Slightly decreased


Fatima et al.



Grabas et al.

Tool-coolant heat transfer increased nearly 50%


Xie et al. [49] measured tools’ temperature by thermocouple. It was shown that grooves surface texture decreased cutting temperature by 103 °C, and a 62% reduction of tip’s temperature was further predicted. Xing [46] obtained temperature distribution of the self-lubricated tools using infrared thermography; the newly developed tools presented 10–20% cutting temperature reduction compared with the conventional tool. Similar measure method was also employed in Ling’s research [68], indicating that textured features on drill margins did not demonstrably decrease tool temperature. In addition, a 12% temperature reduction at tool–chip interface was observed at lower cutting speeds in the experimental research conducted by Fatima et al. [70].

Recently, Zhang et al. [71] put forward a temperature distribution model on rake face of coated cutting tools. This model assumed the rake face was absolutely flat, and cutting heat came from plastic deformation and tool–chip friction, wherein the heat generated by tool–chip friction was given by
$$ \theta_{f} = \frac{{2R_{2} F_{0} v_{\text{ch}} {\text{sin kr}}}}{{a_{p} lc_{M} \rho_{M} ( 4\pi a_{M} v_{\text{ch}} {\text{X)}}^{ 1 / 2} }}, $$
where, R2 is tool–chip fraction heat partition into the chip, F0 is frictional force at the tool–chip interface, kr is tool cutting edge angle, ap is depth of cut, l is the length of tool–chip interface, cM is specific heat of workpiece material, ρM is density of workpiece material, aM thermal diffusivity of workpiece material, vch is chip velocity.

The rake face texture is able to reduce l greatly, while this reduction becomes insignificant as the cutting speed increases [70]. It can be concluded that surface texture is more effective in reducing friction-caused heat in lower speed cutting.

Surface texture is able to change the lubricity of the processed surface. In Li’s experiment [72], the shapes of water droplet were changed by surface texture on various silicon surfaces. The droplet was lengthened along the grooves direction, changing from circle to ellipse. The increased grooves space, p, could enhance this effect. Moreover, Moon et al. [73] found that the dimple ST surface decreased maximum contact diameter of the impinged droplet; the changed liquid–solid interface area also increased the cooling effectiveness of processed surface in the case of total-wetting state. It can be concluded that the control of wetting state would be important in heat transfer of an impinging droplet on solid surface.

Several researchers studied the behavior of coolant by cutting experiment. Alagan et al. [74] integrated surface texture and forced coolant in cutting process, and in this condition, tool wear decreased about 24–33% compared to the textured-only insert. Fang et al. [63] further revealed that the heat transfer between coolant and tool could be promoted by textured flank face. This result matched the thermal test conducted by Grabas et al. [75], who recorded a significantly increased heat transfer coefficient and heat flux values for the textured surfaces.

3.1.5 Solid lubricants container

The tribological properties of ceramic material can be improved by mingling softer solid lubricant into ceramic matrix [76]. Based on this conclusion, Deng et al. [77] developed an Al2O3/TiC ceramic cutting tool with the additions of CaF2 solid lubricant. Although a self-lubricating film on the tool–chip interface was formatted, decreased tool strength, fracture toughness and hardness were unavoidable. After the technology of surface texturing emerged, the idea of filling solid lubricant into surface’s micro features was naturally put forward. This method can avoid the side effect of tools’ strength loss and form continuous self-lubricating at tool–chip interface.

Different shapes of surface texture have been made as container for solid lubricant, including micro hole (see Fig. 8a) [78, 79], holes-grooves combined (see Fig. 8b, c) [80, 81], curved grooves (see Fig. 8d–f) [51] and hybrid of nano- and micro-scales (see Fig. 8g–i) [46].
Fig. 8

Photos of the rake face textured tools filled with solid lubricants

Cutting experiments are a major approach to test the performances of self-lubricating tools. The turning experiments of 45# steel [51] and Ti-6Al-4V [62] showed that the elliptical grooves filled with MoS2 on the rake face improved carbide tools’ performances and resulted in a 10–30% tool life prolonging. These effects were more obvious at low cutting speed and appropriate large feed rate. Besides that, it was found that the wavy grooves texture has better performance than linear grooves on ceramic tools [46].

Although previous studies did not give too much discussions to the filling process of solid lubricants (MoS2 and CaF2) into the micro surface structures, it could be a challenge to maintain the solid lubricants film as long as the tool life due to their poor adhesion and difficulty in replenishment. Recently, the magnetron sputtering technique has been used to deposit WS2 solid lubricant film on nanoscale-textured and TiAlN-coated surfaces [82]. This combined treatment improved the bonding strength between WS2 and coating layers.

3.2 Fabrication approaches

Diversified methods have been used to manufacture micro/nano ST on tool or tool materials’ surface. Table 4 enumerates these approaches and their capabilities based on the previous literatures. It can be seen that the laser machining is the major route, and it is able to manufacture all kinds of tool materials. Various pulse widths of laser have been used, including nanosecond (ns), picosecond (ps) and femtosecond (fs); among them, only fs laser can texture tools in nanoscale.
Table 4

Published ST methods and dimensions on cutting tool materials




Dimension* [μm]




w = 50−300, d = 7−149 [49, 51]



w = 100, d = 100 [52]; w = 500 [83]


w = 250, d = 100 [48]

w = 4.5, d = 7.5 [84]

ns Laser



φ = 38 [65]


φ = 50 [64, 85]


w = 50, d = 100 [51]; w = 50, d = 20 [86]


d = 13/40, w = 40−50 [44, 46, 103]


w = 50, d = 2.5−7 [87]


w = 60, d = 55 [88]

ps Laser



w = 50, d = 4 [68]

fs Laser



w = 0.7, d = 0.1−0.15 [4, 57, 58]

w = 2.2, d = 1.3 [5]

w = 20, d = 10 [89]

w = 10−20, d = 50−150 [90]

w = 20/50/100, d = 5 [60, 61]


φ = 70 [6] /20 [89]



w = 20, d = 5 [46]


d = 0.12−0.15, w = 0.35−0.4 [66]





w = 25/50, h = 0.5/1.0/1.2 [50]




w = 5, d = 1.2/2.2/3.1 [91]

w = 4.5, d = 7.5 [84]

* d: Depth; w: width; φ: diameter; h: height; G: grooves; D: dimple

Another feature in Table 4 shows that grooves type is the most common surface texture on tools; while, only a few studies focused on the dimple and dot types. Their distinct texturing process could be the main reason: micro-grooves can be manufactured by CW laser easier with controlling laser power, scanning speed and times; while, for the dimple array, laser pulse control is essential.

From the perspective of textured scales, the previous researches adopted micro-scale much more frequently than nanoscale. In our opinion, the higher cost of fs laser and the risk of rapid wear of nanoscale surface structure are two possible reasons.

3.3 Assessment methods

3.3.1 Cutting experiment

Cutting experiment is a direct way to investigate the performances of new-developed tools. In this section, the previous experimental studies are classified by machining scenarios, including vertical machining, orthogonal cutting, oblique cutting, milling and drilling.

Most of the work carried out by the group of Enomoto and Sugihara were conducted on a vertical machining center [57]. The tool was cemented carbide, non-coated or DLC coated; cutting fluid was supplied at a flow rate of 12.6 L/min. It was easy to observe the wear and adhesion on tool surfaces, while cutting force analyzing became more difficult.

The orthogonal cutting experiment has two virtues: (1) chip slides vertically to the cutting edge, creating an observable and inerratic trace of tool–chip contact; (2) only two cutting forces, normal force, N, and friction force, F, are needed to be measured and analyzed. The disk and tube cutting are two approaches to realize orthogonal cutting, as shown in Fig. 9. The workpieces in disk or tube shapes need to be prepared in advance. Comparing with the disk cutting, tube cutting is easier to achieve higher and constant cutting speed. The cutting forces, N and F, and coefficient of friction, µ, were calculated by Eqs. (8)–(10)
$$ N = F_{c} { \cos }\gamma - F_{t} { \sin }\gamma , $$
$$ F = F_{c} \sin \gamma + F_{c} \cos \gamma , $$
$$ \mu = {F \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {F N}} \right. \kern-0pt} N}, $$
where Fc and Ft are cutting and vertical forces measured by piezoelectric dynamometers, γ is rake angle.
Fig. 9

Settings of a orthogonal cutting; b disk cutting and c tube cutting

Most of cutting experiment of ST tools were carried out in the form of oblique cutting, which is more similar to the conventional machining in real industry. Cutting forces, tool–chip contact length, chip adhesion and wear, cutting heat, chip shape, etc., can be used to assess the performance of ST tools. In this case, the average friction coefficient at the tool–chip interface could be calculated based on the following equation [92]:
$$ \mu = { \tan }\beta = { \tan }\left( {\gamma_{0} {\text{ + arctan}}\left( {F_{y} /F_{z} } \right)} \right), $$
where β is the friction angle, Fy is the radial thrust force, Fz is the main cutting force and γ0 is the tool rake angle.

Only a few literatures related to surface-textured milling and drilling tools [40]. The main reason could be that the complex geometries of these tools demand special technique of fabrication. Chang et al. [84] textured grooves on carbide end mill cutters by FIB method. The diameter of the mill cutters was 1 mm. The tools were evaluated through three sets of slots milling trials on a NAK80 specimen. The results showed that the perpendicular grooves obtained the smallest cutting force and deferred tool wear. Soon after, Obikawa et al. [91] conducted a similar micro ball end milling experiment in Ti alloy. The investigation of chip forming processes using a high-speed camera shown that the micro-grooves at the rake face could change the chip flow direction, resulting in the reduction of cutting forces.

Ling et al. [68] successfully controlled the titanium adhesion on drill tool by creating rectangular slots on the margin side. In this study, a G-code programmable positioning system with five degrees of freedom is used to move drill bits in an orientation perpendicular to the direction of picosecond laser beam. Niketh et al. [93] made dimple texture on the flute and margin side of drill tool by laser micromachining. Drilling experiments were performed on Ti-6Al-4V work material. It was observed that even at the higher cutting speed of 60 m/min and feed 0.07 mm/rev, the margin-textured tool shown 10.68% reduction in thrust force and 12.33% reduction in torque compared to non-textured tools.

3.3.2 FEM simulation

Kim et al. [94] established a FEM model to simulate the textured CBN tool in turning bearing steel. Johnson–Cook (J–C) material model was implemented to define the plastic deformation and crack of workpiece, and the simulative result was validated by turning experiment. The result predicted that the perpendicular groove texture reduced 6% main cutting force and 25% frictions compared with the flat tool. Olleak [95] built a 3D FEM model, and contrasted parallel, perpendicular and diagonal grooves and holes texture in cutting of titanium alloy Ti-6Al-4V. Overall, the texture contributed to reduce temperature and wear of rake surface. The perpendicular and diagonal grooves generated the highest reduction in the cutting forces.

Ma et al. carried out a series of simulative studies in tools with grooves texture [96, 97], holes texture [98] and bumps texture [99]. In these studies, dimensional and locational parameters were considered, as shown in Table 5. All textured tools presented lower energy consumption and cutting forces. Generally, a reduction of 10% in the main force and 20% in the thrust force can be expected. The optimal width-to-depth ratio and edge distance of micro-grooves were 10–16 and 70–90 μm in machining Ti alloy. For hole-textured tools, the diameter in 80 μm achieved the minimum cutting force, and the optimal diameter-to-depth ratio should between 10 and 14. Additionally, bulge-textured tools shown lower cutting forces and energy consumption in machining AISI 1045 steel.
Table 5

Parameters and optimal values in Ma’s simulative work


Texture parameters

Optimal values [μm]

Grooves [96]





Edge distance


Holes [98]






Edge distance

As small as possible

Bumps [99]


20 or 400



Edge distance


3.3.3 Numerical analysis

In FEM model, it is very difficult to consider the lubricity of cutting fluid. Actually, the research of the lubrication effect of textured surface has a long history, and gradually formed the numerical analysis method on hydrodynamic lubrication, which extracts analytical model from the actual object with several approximate assumptions, and then obtains simulation results by solving equations [100, 101].

Kang et al. [54] numerically studied the hydrodynamic lubrication of micro-grooves texture on the tool rake face. The analytical model of sliding region dominated by hydrodynamic lubrication is illustrated in Fig. 10. wg and hg are groove’s width and depth. The chip (lower slider) moves in a speed U beneath a fixed textured tool (upper slider), the slope angle of which, ω is given by
$$ \omega = \tan^{ - 1} \left( {{{h_{l} } \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {{h_{l} } l}} \right. \kern-0pt} l}} \right), $$
where l is millimeter level (assume 1 mm) and hl is maximum film thickness (assume 10 μm).
Fig. 10

Analytical model of tool–chip friction pair in separation region. a Tool–chip hydrodynamic lubrication model; b top view of textured rake face

With the Newtonian fluid and laminar flow assumptions, the generalized Reynolds equation for the hydrodynamic pressure can be written in the following form:
$$ \frac{\partial }{{\partial {\text{x}}}}\left( {h^{3} \frac{{\partial {\text{p}}}}{{\partial {\text{x}}}}} \right) + \frac{\partial }{{\partial {\text{y}}}}\left( {h^{3} \frac{{\partial {\text{p}}}}{{\partial {\text{y}}}}} \right)\, = 6 {\text{U}}\eta \frac{{\partial {\text{h}}}}{{\partial {\text{x}}}}, $$
where h is the film thickness, which is determined by hg and ω in specific position.

The results of hydrodynamic pressure distributions indicated that the flat tool and grooves texture that is vertical to the cutting edge cannot generate hydrodynamic lubrication; the optimum grooves direction is parallel to the chip sliding.

Ling et al. [68] numerically estimated the fluid pressure around the rectangular groove texture on the margins of drilling tool based on the Payvar–Salant cavitation approach. The governing equation is
$$ \frac{\partial }{{\partial {\text{x}}}}\left( {\frac{{h^{3} }}{\eta }\frac{{\partial {\text{F}}\phi }}{{\partial {\text{x}}}}} \right) + \frac{\partial }{{\partial {\text{y}}}}\left( {\frac{{h^{3} }}{\eta }\frac{{\partial {\text{F}}\phi }}{{\partial {\text{y}}}}} \right){ = 6}\frac{U}{{P_{0} - P_{c} }}\frac{{\partial (\left[ { 1 { + }\left( {1 - F} \right)\phi } \right]{\text{h)}}}}{{\partial {\text{x}}}}, $$
where  = (P – Pc)/(P0 – Pc), ρ/ρc = 1 + (1 – F)ϕ, F = 1 in full film region, F = 0 in cavitation region; x and y are the Cartesian coordinates, p is the local pressure, h is the film thickness, g is the dynamic viscosity, q is the density of the lubricant, U in this case is the velocity of the moving surface, p0 is the ambient pressure and pc is the cavitation pressure. Compared to the traditional Reynolds equation, F is added as the cavitation index.

3.3.4 Tribological test

The tribological test is a convincible method to investigate the performance friction pairs. At present, it is still difficult to fully simulate cutting process on the tribological tester, while this kind of researches is very helpful in revealing the mechanism of surface texture on tool surface.

Geiger et al. [102] textured ceramic with micro dimples and investigated its tribological properties using block-on-ring tribometer. The results showed a significant improvement in the lubricant film thickness even at lower sliding velocities. As a supplement to cutting experiment, Xing et al. [103] contrasted the performance of wavy with linear groove-textured specimens by tribological tester. The results of these two experiments matched well in general.

4 Discussion

Several motivations can be found in the evolution of tool surface structures from macro to micro. The first and the most fundamental motivation is the ever-increasing demand of higher performance cutting tools. Another impetus is derived from researchers, who have developed tool techniques assiduously and persistently. The progress of micromachining is another reason, accelerating the research and development.

Table 6 contrasts macro- and microstructures on tool surface. In general, more similarities can be found than differences. In terms of research approaches, various methods have been developed to achieve the optimum design of surface structures. Thereinto, cutting experiments, FEM and numerical methods have been employed in both macro and micro-scales. Furthermore, the neural network and knowledge-based methods that have been used on macro chip-breakers could be also very effective to solve the multi-parameter optimization issues for micro surface structures. In addition, tribological testing could not be applicable for chip-breaker, since its performance can hardly be analyzed by tribological test.
Table 6

Comparison of micro/micro surface structures on cutting tools




Research approaches



 Numerical method

 Neural network

 Knowledge based

 Tribological test


Machining processes

 Press and sintering



 Laser ablation

 Laser cladding





 Chip controlling


 Temperature reduction

 Force reduction




√: Practical; ×: not possible; ○: possible but not try

Similarities can also be found in machining. Noting EDM, grinding and laser ablation processes are able to manufacture surface structures in multiple scales; in other words, they will be much more promising for the fabrication of surface structures in multi-scale. Several literatures introduced pressing and sintering for micro surface patterning [104]; however, to the best of our knowledge, this methodology has not been tried on tools. In the previous studies, laser cladding, on the other hand, is very difficult to make microstructures in high precision due to the laser thermal effect. FIB process has outstanding precision, while its material removal rate is relatively low. In addition, based on the existing literatures, femtosecond laser is the only approach for making nanoscale surface structures on tool surface.

Although the scales are different, macro and micro surface structures have shown positive effects in several aspects, including chip controlling, anti-wear, temperature reduction and force reduction; while only micro surface structures have shown anti-adhesion and container functions on tool surface.

Figure 11 shows the distributions of published papers on micro-textured tools in different coordinates. The work materials are ranked based on their machinability rating. In Fig. 11a, it can be seen that cemented carbide was the most popular (82%) tool material used in the machining of all kinds of work materials, from the soft Al-alloy to hard ceramic. Most of the researches selected Al-alloy (16.4%), steel (44.3%) and Ti-alloy (29.5%) as work material because of their wide application in industry. Figure 11b presents the publication number for all kinds of tool materials in each year from 2009 to 2017. Obviously, carbide tools were always a hot field in this time span, the number of related paper reached its maximum in 2017. In 2014, the micro surface texture was introduced to the ultrahard tools, including ceramic, CBN and PCD. The research history of machining Al-alloy and steel throughout the whole history of textured tools, is shown in Fig. 11c. Recently, Ti-alloy has drawn more attentions, and its publication number exceed steel in 2017.
Fig. 11

Distribution of published papers on micro textured cutting tools, a in the coordinate of tool and work materials, b in the coordinate of year and tool materials and c in the coordinate of year and work materials

The distribution of publication indicated that similar to the chip-breaker, the micro surface texture has a wide range of use on tool surface.

Based on the analyses above, the microsurface-textured tools have drawn increasing attentions in the past decade. Although the emerged studies of micro texture on tool surface have proved the feasibility of this technology, a lot of work are still needed for pervasive application.

Several research methods could be borrowed from the research of macro chip-breakers, such as neural network and knowledge-based methods, to optimize the multi-parameter in design of micro surface texturing. In addition, the previous researches investigated macro and micro surface structures separately. Since different scales of surface structures have similar and distinct functions on tool surface, the synthetic or integrated effects of them can be looking forward, especially for the complementary purposes.

5 Conclusions

The current work reviewed the development of surface structures on cutting tools. The main conclusions are summarized below.
  1. 1.

    The distribution of published literatures indicated that the micro surface texture has a wide range of use on tool surface, which is quite similar to the chip-breaker.

  2. 2.

    The macro and micro surface structures influence the performance of cutting tools dramatically. Chip flow, shape and breaking can be controlled by macro chip-breakers in proper design. On the other hand, cutting force, chip adhesion and wear can be further improved by micro surface texturing. Extensive attempts have been made on surface-textured tools because of its tribological functions, motivating the research of tool surface evolves from macroscale to micro-scale.

  3. 3.

    The integrated application surface structures in multi-scale, nano, micro and macro, on tool surface could be an interesting and promising orientation. However, the previous researches investigated macro and micro separately. Therefore, systematic studies are urgently needed to reveal the synthetic effects of micro surface texture and macro chip-breaker. It is essential to fully understand the functions and mechanisms of these surface structures in various cutting conditions.

  4. 4.

    Neural network and knowledge-based methods could be referred from chip-breaker to optimize the parameters of surface texturing on tool surface.




This work supported by Research Program supported by the Technology Innovation Program (10053248) funded by the Ministry of Trade, industry & Energy (MOTIE), Korea and Technology project (BE2016144) funded by of Science and Finance Departments in Jiangsu province, China. The first author wants to give special acknowledgements to China Scholarship Council (CSC), providing the financial support from July, 2017 to June 2018 (No. 201708320234) and to the prominent research conditions at Purdue campus.


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Copyright information

© The Korean Society of Mechanical Engineers 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhengyang Kang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Yonghong Fu
    • 3
  • Dong Min Kim
    • 2
    • 4
  • Hang Eun Joe
    • 2
  • Xingyu Fu
    • 2
  • Theodore Gabor
    • 2
  • Hyung Wook Park
    • 4
  • Martin Byung-Guk Jun
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Mechanical and Power EngineeringNanjing Tech UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.School of Mechanical EngineeringPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.School of Mechanical EngineeringJiangsu UniversityZhenjiangChina
  4. 4.School of Mechanical EngineeringUlsan National Institute of Science and TechnologyUlsanSouth Korea

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