Humanity has been creating different types of objects for many millennia. In fact, the earliest known stone tool dates back to at least 2.6 million years ago, when early humans created the Oldowan stone implements that included basic tools like stone flakes, hammerstones, and lithic cores. Arguably, these were the first objects ever to be machined by people, except for the fact that machine tools—as they are known today—would come to be developed much, much later in the history of our species—around the 1800s, to be more exact.
The term “machining” today refers primarily to the different types of processes in which workpieces are cut or “machined” into desired final shapes and sizes. It was after the Industrial Revolution—when the manufacturing of different types of products became more commonplace—that tools like lathes, mills, grinders, planers, and others came to be known as “machine tools.” Afterwards the idea of “machining” as a process also became more and more commonplace.
Today, conventional machining processes are supplemented by more novel procedures that are made possible by equally modern machinery. This short guide will help fill you in on some of these traditional and modern machining tools that are used by today’s manufacturers.
Cutting tools is a general term used to describe any tool that is used to subtract material from a workpiece by means of cutting. Traditionally, solid cutting tools like saws were used to cut materials like metal, wood, and plastic. Since these tools needed to be made of materials that were tougher than the workpieces they were cutting, very hard materials like diamond and cemented carbide were favored by tool manufacturers for the cutting components of their machines.
Today, other types of technologies are used for cutting as well. Laser, water, plasma, and oxy-fuel are all used to cut different kinds of workpieces, and they have proven to be just as effective or even better than traditional cutting tools. This is because these machine tools can achieve very high levels of cutting accuracy and precision, thanks to their motion control components. Precision linear motion stages, efficient motors, and high-quality drives are just some of the motion components that such machines rely on.
Planers and Shapers
Planer and shaper machines perform repeated horizontal movements across the surface of a workpiece in order to create flat or angled surfaces, as well as depressions like grooves and slits. Planers and shapers are very similar, except that the workpiece is the one that is usually moved in a planing machine, while in a shaper machine, the cutting implement is the one that is usually translated.
A milling machine is another type of machining tool that removes material from a workpiece. It uses rotary cutting implements, into which a workpiece is fed such that it is milled horizontally, vertically, or at different angles until its desired shape is achieved.
Drilling and Boring Machines
Drilling machines are very useful when punching holes into a workpiece is desired by a machinist. On the other hand boring machines are typically used to enlarge and finish holes that have previously been drilled into a workpiece.
Grinding machines employs turning wheels with abrasive particles in order create fine finishes on workpieces. As you can imagine, they are mostly used for finishing, but they can also be used to remove more significant volumes of material from the workpiece, thus acting as a sort of milling machine in the process.
Indeed, machine tools are at the heart of our modern manufacturing industry. Without these very useful implements, we would never be capable of producing most of the products that have only previously existed in our imaginations.