This paper presents details of a study of the fundamental nature of the high amplitude acoustic emission (AE) signal generated during the complete breakage of cutting tools. A quantitative model of the peak AE rms voltage, incorporating the effects of tool material and the area of the fracture surface, is proposed. The model, derived from results of Linear Elastic Fracture Mechanics, and stress wave propagation in solids, is shown to be in good agreement with results of notched carbide insert fracture during turning and face milling operations.

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