Cellulose nanofiber (CeNF)-reinforced polymer composites have wide potential applications in the manufacturing of optical and mechanical parts owing to their light weight, high mechanical strength, and optical transparency. In this study, CeNF-reinforced homogeneous polypropylene (PP-CeNF) was machined under various conditions by ultraprecision diamond turning, and the results were compared with those of pure PP without CeNF addition. The influence of CeNFs on material removal was investigated by examining the surface topography, chip morphology, cutting forces, and cutting temperature. It was found that the surface defects in pure PP cutting were surface tearing, while the surface defects of PP-CeNF were surface tearing and micro-holes induced by the pulling-outs of CeNFs. Surface tearing increased with cutting speed; pulling-outs of CeNFs were slightly affected by cutting speed but strongly dependent on the tool feed rate. Under a small tool feed rate, the surface roughness could be reduced to ∼10 nm Ra for PP-CeNF. The thermal effect was insignificant in the experiments, whereas the effect of strain rate-induced material hardening was dominant for both workpiece materials at a high cutting speed. This study helps to understand the mechanisms for ultraprecision cutting of CeNF-reinforced polymer composites and provides guidelines for improving the machined surface quality.
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