Machining efficiency could be increased and chatter vibrations could be suppressed by employing irregular pitch angles onto milling cutters. Applying variable pitch cutters could improve machining stability by disrupting the regenerative chatter mechanism and reducing cutting forces due to decreased nonlinear dynamic chip thicknesses. Previous studies on variable pitch cutters have been mainly investigating vibration suppression and dynamic modeling. There is a lack of efficient and practical variable pitch cutter design methods for practical industrial applications. An analytical method for designing milling cutters with alternating variable pitches has been proposed in this paper. In this method, a new variable, the generic sum of phase difference between the inner and outer waves, has been defined to model the machining dynamics and the stability of the variable pitch cutter. The phase difference value has then been investigated to obtain its generic optimal solution to the stability limit considering different cutting conditions. Based on this, the analytical variable pitch cutter design method is derived. The experimental results have manifested that, compared with uniform pitch cutter, the variable pitch cutter, designed using the proposed method, was able to achieve: 1) a critical stable axial depth of cut improvement of 126% under the desired spindle speed; 2) a cutting force reduction of 53%; 3) a decrease of 75% and 52% in Sq (the root mean square length of the scale limited surface) and Sz (the maximum height of the scale limited surface) of the machined surfaces, respectively. These significant improvements approved the superiority and robustness of the proposed design method for chatter suppression and may promote the application of variable pitch cutter technologies.
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