In the world of the mechanical manufacturing industry, metal machining is considered the broadest metal-shaping process.
That’s why metal machining tools make a major and global investment, in which the wealth of a nation can be judged by the type, complexity, and amount of metal tools it has.
If you’re into the manufacturing industry or even in the automotive and any field involving cutting technology, metal works, or the use of mechanical components, it’s a must to learn about metal machining. So how can metal machining help your business? How does it work?
In this post, you’ll learn the definition of metal machining, it’s benefits, how it works, and its applications, so you’ll have a better understanding and can make better choices when it comes to your manufacturing business.
What Is Metal Machining?
CNC machining refers to a manufacturing process using programmed computer software that commands the movement of machinery and tools used in factories. This process involves using complex machinery, such as mills, routers, lathes, drills, and grinders.
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. It’s an automated control of machining metal, plastic, or any material and using 3D printers controlled by a computer. Metal machining involves the use of a CNC industrial machine shop to process metals to meet desired specifications or requirements following the coded instructions on a computer. So, once metal machining has been programmed or coded, it won’t need a manual operator to do its job of producing metal parts or metal products.
Benefits of Metal CNC Machining
When it comes to metal machining, the service of metal CNC machining can be sophisticated, but trusted metal CNC companies could help you meet your manufacturing requirements, given their sophisticated machining tools and techniques. If you’re responsible for planning and operating the manufacturing of metal components and parts, you would want to understand the benefits of CNC machining fully.
Here are the benefits of metal CNC machining:
Precisely Done Metal Components
Because of the autonomous machining and digital template of CNC machining, it will get rid of human error. CNC machines are programmed to meet your specific product requirements in terms of shape, size, hole diameter, and other features you want for your metal end product.
Tough and Reliable
When it comes to endurance and reliability, CNC machines are top-notch. These machines work around-the-clock and would only stop if they need maintenance or repair.
When CNC machines are used in tandem with sophisticated design software, the outputs cannot be created by manual machines. Traditional machines that gifted engineers use cannot match what advanced design software can do with metal CNC machines. With CNC machines, you can produce any shape, texture, or size as needed.
Scalability and High Production
CNC machining executes huge quantities according to the set specifications or design parameters. You can scale the parameters as required.
Uniform Quality Product
One great benefit of metal CNC machining is that you get outputs that match exactly. Even the best engineers using a conventional machine may still produce metal parts and components that differ slightly. On the other hand, each part makes a perfect match with CNC machining according to the exact specifications of the prototype.
Less Manual Labor
Because CNC machines are programmable, they can do the manufacturing job automatically. So it means that you don’t need to hire many people to perform production tasks. Only one programmer can get the CNC machines loaded with the required designs, and one skilled operator is enough to run several CNC machines. You’ll be able to save money on manpower and pass them to your customers, which makes it a competitive advantage for your business.
Lower Production Cost
Aside from saving money on labor costs, you’ll benefit from lower production costs. It is because CNC machines are efficient, high-speed, precise, and can handle high-volume orders. You’ll make and save more money with CNC machining, which is good for growing your business.
Also, you’ll get to save on the low maintenance of CNC machine software because it will automatically update itself as needed. Generally, CNC machines don’t require much service. You only have to replace the cutting implements and perform light cleaning. It saves money in hiring a professional maintenance service company.
Safe to Use
The operators of conventional-manual lathes, punches, drills, and other tools have direct contact with the machines. On the other hand, CNC machine operators are at a safe distance from sharp tools. In this way, you avoid facing the legal consequences of injured workers by embracing CNC machining. It is better for safety. Also, you provide a safer work environment because machines work instead of humans.
Retain Design and Fewer Problems
Manual machining is susceptible to human elements, such as absenteeism, tardiness, and workplace injuries. With CNC machining, you eliminate concerns about being short-staffed or operators who aren’t performing and meeting your expectations.
Also, CNC machining promotes design retention. Designs can be programmed to CNC machine software and create a perfect prototype. The program can be retrieved because it is saved on the CNC software to create the same product again. With a master file at hand, the CNC machine can always produce the exact object match anytime.
You can create any metal component with CNC machining with accessories and special features that further simplify and hasten the production process.
How Does Metal Machining Works
The metal machining process includes the following:
Turning is a form of metal machining that creates rotational parts to remove unwanted material using a lathe or turning machine, fixture, workpiece, and cutting tool. A pre-shaped material or workpiece is placed to the fixture that is attached to the lathe, rotating at high speeds.
Also, a cutter or a single-point cutting tool is secured in the machine. In some manufacturing operations, multi-point tools are used. The cutter is fed into the rotating workpiece, cutting away the unwanted material in small chips to attain the desired shape of the product design.
The raw materials you can use for turning include brass, aluminum, nickel, magnesium, steel, nickel, zinc, titanium, and thermoset plastics. When choosing a material, you should consider the cost, resistance to wear, machinability, and strength. Choose a material that will result in a great surface finish, requires low power and forced to turn, easy chip collection, and longer tool life.
With turning, different features can be created, such as holes, tapers, grooves, threads, contoured surfaces, and various diameter steps. Fasteners and custom-designed shafts are some examples of parts that can be fabricated completely via this procedure. Turning is an ideal method to add precision rotational features to a metal part with an already formed basic shape. It is also used to refine or add features on metal parts that were initially manufactured using a different process.
Milling is used to creating parts that aren’t axially symmetric, including slots, holes, pockets, and three-dimensional surface contours. Brackets and custom-designed fasteners are some examples of metal parts that can be fabricated completely through milling. Metal tools are fabricated using milling and so as three-dimensional molds.
Cutters used in milling can be made of carbon steel, carbide, high-speed steel or HSS, or high-speed cobalt steel. The material needed to mill a metal depends on the type of workpiece material and the properties of the cutter, such as toughness, hardness, and resistance to wear.
Reaming refers to a metal machining process using a multi-edged fluted cutting tool. This tool is used to enlarge, smooth, or accurately size an already existing hole. It’s performed using the same machine types as drilling.
The rotary cutting tool used in reaming is called a reamer with either one or more cutting elements for enlarging the contour or size of an existing hole. Reamers can be made of carbide or high-speed steel or HSS in different sizes, depending on the application. The workpiece provides the main support during the cutting action.
Grinding pertains to an abrasive metal machining process. A grinding wheel is used as the cutting tool. There are different machines used for grinding, such as grinders, grindstones, or hand-cranked knife-sharpening.
In a machining process, grinding utilizes hard abrasive particles to cut metal or other material. The surface speed of a grinding wheel is faster than other machining processes, like turning and milling. During this process, the abrasive sawdust, and bond material are mixed together with temporary binders, holding it in the green state. The metal is shaped with the press made by the grinding wheels.
Boring in machining refers to enlarging an already cast or drilled hole. CNC machines have different boring cycles that can be used depending on the requirements.
Here are the different types of boring:
- Line Boring: The boring bar can be supported one or both ends.
- Back Boring: It’s the boring process of reaching an existing hole and boring on the “back” part of the workpiece.
- Lathe Boring: It’s a cutting operation using a single-point cutting tool to enlarge an existing hole in a workpiece, creating cylindrical or conical surfaces. You can make either tapered holes or square holes.
Honing refers to an abrasive machining process creating a precision surface on any metal workpiece. The abrasive stone is scrubbed against it in a controlled path. It is used to improve a surface’s form and surface texture.
During a honing metal machining operation, a rotating tool that carries abrasives removes unwanted metal material from the interior surface of a cylinder or bore. The main purpose of honing is for finishing a surface according to required diameter or geometric cylindricity.
In a metal machining process, broaching uses broach, a toothed tool, to remove material. The two main types of broaching include rotary and linear. Linear broaching is a common process, in which the broach is run linearly on a workpiece’s surface. A rotary broach uses a screw or lathe machine. The cut performed in both processes is one pass, making it very efficient.
If precision metal machining is required, then broaching is used, most especially for creating odd shapes. Some examples of commonly broached machined surfaces include keyways, flat surfaces, splines, circular, and non-circular holes. Typical workpieces include castings, screw machine parts, stampings, and forgings. Broaches can be expensive, but it’s favored for high-quantity, and quality production runs.
One type of metal shaping is hot forging in which a workpiece or a malleable metal part or billet is worked to form a predetermined shape by hammering, pressing, upsetting, and so forth. The workpiece is usually heated up to 75 percent of its melting temperature to achieve the desired shape.
Laser marking or engraving in metal machining involves adding labels on metal parts in high precision. With the chemical-free and non-contact laser technology, the properties of the workpiece are not altered.
Here are the advantages of laser engraving:
- Flexibility with materials, shapes, and dimensions
- Variable data can be engraved
- Material-friendly labeling
- Integration into production lines
- Non-contact material processing capabilities
- Permanent marking
- Fast cycle times
- Cost-efficient production
Electrical discharge machining or EDM is used to achieve high accuracy, which is greatly in-demand in different machining applications in which traditional metal removal is deemed difficult or impossible.
It is also called as burning, spark machining, or arc machining.
The concept of the EDM process is very simple. An electrical current is passed between a workpiece and an electrode separated by a dielectric fluid that serves as an electrical insulator. The resulting spark discharge eventually erodes the workpiece, thus forming a desired final shape.
Here are the three types of EDM machines:
- Ram EDM or Die Sinker
- Cheese Cutter or Wire EDM
- Hole Popper EDM or Hole Drilling
Note: All these types of EDM operate on the same principle of electrical discharge erosion discovered in 1770 by Joseph Priestley with varying methods and applications.
Metal machining plays a vital role in manufacturing metal parts and components. With CNC machining, metal designs can be programmed using CNC software to create prototypes. So if your business involves producing metal components, like electrical, automotive, or mechanical parts, adopting metal CNC machining is a good idea.