Mechanical rock cutting is a process encountered in different engineering applications including rock excavation, mining and deep oil well drilling. Rock mechanical properties vary with depth in the subsurface and also at different geographical locations due to different environmental conditions. Understanding of fragmentation mechanisms in specific rock materials allows the determination of optimum cutting parameters that improve cutting efficiency and increase tool life during cutting operations. In the present investigation, numerical models that accurately predict the rock fragmentation and stress profiles in the rock slab during cutting were developed using the explicit finite-element method (FEM). In the numerical models, a damage material model was utilized to capture the rock fragmentation process and a rigid steel cutter (at different rake angles) was displaced at different velocities against a stationary rock slab. Rock slabs with significantly different mechanical properties were incorporated with a constant friction factor and a cutting depth of 1 mm. The variation of cutting forces and stresses, and fragmentation of the rock slab were analyzed. The simulation results indicated that the explicit FEM is a powerful tool for simulating rock cutting as the formation of fragments were distinctly observed at different cutting conditions. The rock mechanical properties and tool rake angle were found to have the most significant effect on the rock fragmentation during cutting operations. The cutting forces were also influenced by mechanical properties of the rock and tool rake angle.

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