An AISI 4340 Steel (325 BHN) was machined at various speeds up to 2500 m/min (8000 SFPM). Longitudinal midsections of the chips were examined metallurgically to delineate the differences in the chip formation characteristics at various speeds. Chips were found to be continuous at 30 to 60 m/min (100 to 200 SFPM) but discontinuous below this speed. Instabilities in the cutting process, leading to different types of cyclic chip formations, were observed at cutting speeds above 60 m/min (200 SFPM). Fully developed catastrophic shear bands separated by large areas (segments) of relatively less deformed material, similar to that when machining titanium alloys, were observed in the chips at cutting speeds above 275 m/min (800 SFPM). The intense shear bands between the segments appeared to have formed subsequent to the localized intense deformation of the segment in the primary shear zone. As the cutting speed increases, the extent of contact between the segments is found to decrease rapidly. At speeds of 1000 m/min (3200 SFPM) and above, due to rapid intense, localized shear between the segments, these segments were found to separate completely as isolated segments instead of being held intact as a long chip. The speed at which this decohesion occurs was found to depend upon the metallurgical state of the steel machined and its hardness. As in the case of machining titanium alloys, the deformation of the chip as it slides on the tool face, i.e., “secondary shear zone,” appeared to be negligible when machining this AISI 4340 steel at high speed. Based on the metallurgical study of the chip and the similarities of machining this material at high speed and that of titanium alloys at normal speed, a cyclic phenomenon in the primary shear zone is identified as the source of instability responsible for the large-scale heterogeneity and a mechanism of chip formation when machining AISI 4340 steel at high speed is proposed.

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