Micro tools with macro benefits


Technical Editor Steed Webzell chats all things micro machining with Greg Johnson, Product Marketing Manager and Paul Fitton, UK Sales Manager at one of the world’s leading cutting-tool suppliers in this segment: OSG UK Ltd

Micro machining is an extremely broad term that makes definition open to interpretation. OSG UK has a wide variety of options aimed at this market with milling tools starting at 0.10mm diameter, taps available off the shelf at M1 and drills as small as 0.7mm diameter with through-coolant, and down to 0.02mm diameter without. The company can also supply a 1mm drill with up to 30xD capability. The mind boggles.

“We work in sectors such as watchmaking where you can’t actually see the tap going into or out of the hole,” says Product Marketing Manager Greg Johnson. “It can be a little scary for our clients at first, but with the right tool and production process, it’s perfectly feasible.”

The applications for micro machining are wide-ranging. In the UK, the semiconductor sector is currently very strong, driven by major industry players in line with growing demand for AI-enabled technologies. These advanced semiconductors find their way into products such as communication devices, electric and autonomous vehicles, robotics, healthcare equipment, military technology, quantum and cloud computing systems, and a number of everyday consumer devices.

Mould and die tooling, medical implements, electronic enclosures and civil/military aerospace parts are all seeing an increase in demand for smaller diameter componentry and even smaller tolerance allowances.

“All of these applications require technologies in smaller form factors, thus providing manufacturers with new problems in the planning stages,” says Greg Johnson. “The task for OSG is to offer cutting tools that are capable of enduring long cycle times without compromising surface finish, dimensional accuracy or tool life. All too often we hear people speak about the cost of manufacturing in this modern age and for us it’s all about tool accuracy and repeatability. For these applications, the tool must be accurate and sufficiently strong to withstand the challenging operations, but efficient enough to produce parts in a lead time that meets expectations.”

For many years now OSG has been supporting customers in the micro-manufacturing arena with products such as its WXL and WXS series end mills, which are available in diameters from 0.1mm upwards and prove popular for machining hardened materials. A recent expansion to the portfolio is the introduction of the AE ranges, which utilise OSG’s latest technology to add further support for ferrous and non-ferrous materials. In all instances, the use of high-quality carbide is paramount, which is why the company has invested heavily in its R&D resources. OSG’s in-house R&D team develops numerous patented technologies, including coatings, ensuring customers can be 100% confident in the deployment of the company’s proprietary cutting-tool solutions.

This ethos of self-sufficiency dates back to the origins of OSG in 1938, when the company began making its name as a manufacturer of thread-making solutions. Over the years the business has grown exponentially in both physical size and ambition, delivering cutting-tool breakthroughs in a range of application areas. OSG’s operations currently span 33 countries. It holds the number one position in the Japanese cutting-tool market, as well as a top ranking globally.

Expanding the range dramatically over the past three years, micro mills from OSG today come in a variety of form factors, including ball-nose end mills, as straight and tapered cutters. The company will have a dedicated micro-tools catalogue available in 2024 showcasing even more options.

Regarding support, the company employs six area managers covering every region of the UK, all highly skilled, time-served engineers who provide advice on tools and assist with process planning. Further support comes from OSG UK’s dedicated Technical Department in Basildon.



The company has numerous manufacturing facilities located in Japan, the EU and the UK. As a point of note, in early 2024 OSG will embellish its flagship Nuneaton branch with a high-specification, Walter micro-grinding machine.

“Sited in a temperature controlled environment for tolerance and repeatability, the new machine will enable us to make any special micro tool below 3mm diameter, which not many in UK can offer,” explains UK Sales Manager Paul Fitton. “If UK customers need a quick turnaround on a special tool, we are investing accordingly.”

OSG is clearly not interested in selling cheap tools that lack performance. Instead, the company provides premium ‘solutions’ with demonstrable productivity and quality advantages.

“We believe in our products and their ability to save money for customers,” concludes Paul Fitton.

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