What is Machining?

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Yarbrough Industries offers a variety of machining processes to ensure success with various types of projects and help your company successfully create the workpiece you need. But what exactly is machining?

The term machining encompasses a broad range of technologies and techniques. A high-level definition might be that it is removing material from a workpiece using power-driven machine tools in order to shape it into an intended design. Almost all metal components and parts require some form of machining during the manufacturing process. Other materials, such as plastics, rubbers, and paper goods, are also commonly fabricated through machining processes.

Machining Tools

Machining tools may be used alone or in conjunction with other tools. There are many types of tools that can be used for various steps of the manufacturing process, and all are important to achieve the intended part geometry. You will typically hear the following terms when referring to different machining tools:

Boring tools – These tools enlarge holes previously cut into the material and are typically used as finishing equipment.

Cutting tools – Saws, shears and other sharp instruments are basic examples of cutting implements. These can be used to cut material with predetermined dimensions, such as sheet metal, into a desired shape.

Drilling tools – These are similar to boring tools, but they are used to create holes with two-edged rotating devices. The round holes typically run parallel to the axis of rotation.

Grinding tools – These instruments apply a rotating wheel to grind down rough edges and achieve a fine finish or to make light cuts on a workpiece.

Milling tools – A milling tool employs a rotating cutting surface with several blades to create non-circular holes or cut unique designs out of the material.

Turning tools: Lathes are the most commonly recognized turning tool, but these tools can be anything that rotates a workpiece on its axis while a cutting tool shapes it to form.

Machining Technologies

There are two primary types of technology that are used to shape your workpiece. Burning machine technology uses heat, such as welding, while erosion machine technology uses water or electricity to erode material off the workpiece. You can find more in-depth information on types of cutting in this article.

The most common types of welding and burning technologies include laser cutting, oxy-fuel cutting and plasma cutting.

Laser cutting machines emit a narrow, high-energy beam of light that effectively melts, vaporizes, or burns material. CO2 and Nd:YAG lasers are the most common types used in machining. Laser cutting is a great choice for shaping steel or etching patterns into a piece of material. Its benefits include high-quality surface finishes and extreme cutting precision.

Oxy-fuel cutting is also known as gas cutting. This method employs a mixture of fuel gases and oxygen to melt and cut away material. Acetylene, gasoline, hydrogen, and propane are frequently used due to their high flammability. This method’s benefits include high portability, a low dependence on primary power sources, and the ability to cut thick or hard materials, such as sturdy steel grades. It’s a great option for on-the-go machining.

Plasma cutting torches fire an electrical arc to transform inert gas into plasma. This plasma reaches extremely elevated temperatures and is applied to the workpiece at high speed to melt away unwanted material. The process is often used on electrically conductive metals that require a precise cut width and minimal prep time. 

Erosion machining tools differ from burning tools by doing exactly what it sounds like, they erode the workpiece to shape it, rather than melting the excess stock. The two main types of erosion technologies are water jet cutting and electric discharge machining (EDM).

Water jet cutting uses a high-pressurized stream of water to cut through material. Sometimes abrasive powder is facilitate more efficient erosion. Water jet cutting is typically used on materials that can suffer damage or deformation from a heat affected zone.

Electric discharge machining is also known as spark machining because it uses electric arcing discharges to create micro-craters that rapidly result in complete cuts. EDM is used in applications requiring complex geometrical shapes in hard materials and at close tolerances. EDM requires the base material to be electrically conductive, which limits its use to ferrous alloys.

CNC Machining

Computer numerical control machining (CNC machining) can be used in conjunction with a broad range of technologies and tools. It is a computer-aided technique that requires software and programming, usually in the G-code language, to guide a tool in shaping the workpiece according to preset parameters. As opposed to manually guided methods, CNC machining is an automated process. There are many benefits to CNC machining including high production cycles, low manufacturing costs and uniform production. Once a CNC machine has been properly coded, it usually needs minimal maintenance or downtime, allowing for a faster production rate. Also, due to its turnover speed and low manual labor requirements, CNC can be a cost-efficient process, particularly for high-volume production runs. CNC machining is typically precise and yields a high level of design consistency among its products.

Precision Machining

Precision machining is any machining process that requires unusually small cutting tolerances (between 0.013 mm and 0.0005 mm, as a rule of thumb) or surface finishes finer than 32T. Like CNC, precision machining can be applied to a wide number of fabrication methods and tools. Factors such as stiffness, damping, and geometric accuracy can influence the exactness of a precision tool’s cut. Motion control and the machine’s ability to respond at rapid feed rates are also important in precision machining applications.

If you are looking for a machining expert for your next project, be sure to look for someone who offers the full range of tools and technologies. Yarbrough Industries can help determine what you need for a successful outcome. Give us a call today!

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