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What Is Machining? A Beginner's Guide

What Is Machining? A Beginner's Guide
What Is Machining? A Beginner's Guide
Did you know our word for "machine" in English likely came from Greek for "remedy" or solution?

Somehow, it's fitting that our word for shaping raw materials into a product or piece to solve a problem is called "machining."

So then what is it, and how can it continue to shape our world? In this beginner's guide, we're going to introduce you to the wide world of what machining is, and what it isn't.

Grab your earplugs and goggles, it's going to get noisy!

What Is Machining?

As we already mentioned, machining is one platform of using machines to create products for us. While the process of material removal is usually extremely simple, the tools for doing it are often extremely complex.

Let's start chipping away!

The Cutting Edge

The most common and simple types of machining involve cutting away raw materials such as steel, wood, plastic, or other metals and alloys. The three most common are:

  • Turning
  • Milling
  • Drilling

Turning is where the work piece spins on one axis at high speed, while a sharp tool presses against it. This is best for cylindrical objects.

Milling is a term for a tool that spins and removes material from the stationary work piece. While the bit of the tool is spinning, the arm holding that tool can work on all axes and precisely shape the materials.

Drilling, finally, is taking a rotating tool and removing material from the stationary work piece. This is usually to create a hole, or a channel, in the piece.

There Is No Edge

Who said it was a bad thing to lose your edge?

Something like glass or plastic might shatter or melt.

How can you machine materials like this? A few ways come to mind:

  • WaterJet Cutting (WJM)
  • Rotary Ultrasonic Machining (RUM)
  • Electrical Discharge
  • Laser

If there is high heat or a lot of pressure required, though, not all materials are ideal for the kinds of material removal we've already talked about. This is exactly when not having an edge-tool is ideal.

Building Up Instead Of Tearing Down

Not all types of machining are destructive. Sometimes, we have to build our products from the ground up to craft new and complex products.

This is where the exotic world of 3D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing. From plastic to glass, titanium to human flesh, there is a need for better and better materials.

Aside from creating less waste and being more eco-friendly, 3D printing is able to make an internal structure that isn't possible using normal processes.

What Machining Isn't

Machining is either an additive or subtractive process, by the definitions we've laid out today. So it might make you wonder "what is not machining?"

A few processes such as:

  • Hot rolling
  • Cold rolling
  • Extrusion
  • Forging

These processes neither add nor subtract material, but rather change the form.

Forging, for example, is basically hammering a material to make a sheet, whereas cold rolling makes something like wire or rod, which makes coil reels for storage.

We've Topped Out

Congratulations, newbie, you've "topped out" and your apprenticeship is over!

This was a brief summary of basic machining techniques and technologies, but many production problems still need solutions. Machining is projected to reach a market share of $414.17 billion by 2022, so you're still in time to catch up!

If you just can't get enough, be sure to check out our other great topics!

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