Manufacturing 101: What Is Precision Machining

Precision Machining
Precision Machining

In 2020 the global CNC machine market reached a value of $81.95 billion.

Precision machining is one of the most accurate forms of machining available and makes use of CNC machines to produce a wide range of components.

There are many reasons to choose precision machining over other processes. If you want a rundown of what precision machining is, and how it can benefit you, keep reading.

What Is Precision Machining?

Precision manufacturing is a form of technical manufacturing that allows the manufacture of many types of technical parts. These are generally tools, machines, and other hardware that are often used in manufacturing processes.

It ultimately leads to the production of a lot of items that people use in everyday life, especially products that are made up of small parts. Precision machining allows these small parts to be made accurately and fit together to function as a larger item.

The general concept is that precision machining uses the highest function of different software, tools, and equipment to create parts within the tightest possible tolerances.

Advancements that are made with time improve how precise these tolerances can be, and therefore the quality and accuracy of the final product.

The whole process is human-designed and computer-controlled, allowing a lot of control and giving excellent results when products are machined.

Different Methods

Precision machining involves using automated computer numerical control (CNC). This is what allows such a high degree of accuracy, and the advanced computing systems allow for a lot of complexity.

CNC Machining

Computer-aided design (CAD) software makes it possible to design parts, and these are then translated into computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) files. CAM files provide all the instructions to CNC machines, telling them what tools and processes are needed for the parts.

Some common tasks performed by CNC machines include:

  • Tapping
  • Drilling
  • Boring
  • Turning
  • Milling

Multi-Axis CNC Machining

This method requires a CNC machine that is multi-axis capabilities. Normally parts may need to be repositioned manually, which can lead to human error, but this process can carry several processes simultaneously.

The advantage here is that it eliminates the possibility of human error at this stage, and allows for high-speed cutting.

Multi-axis CNC machines normally operate on a minimum of 4 or 5 axes, as opposed to 3 with a regular CNC machine. More advanced machines allow up to 9 axes for the best speed efficiency and highest precision.

Swiss Machining

Unlike the other two methods, this works by keeping the tool in place and moving the part. Swiss machining allows an incredible level of accuracy with tolerances within ±0.0001 inches.

The automation of this process means it can be set up and then left to run for long periods, minimizing the amount of labor required.

Programming

As important as the machining aspect is, it would not be possible without the programming side. Automation software is what allows the CNC machine to make parts accurately and in large volumes with minimal user input.

CAM files that are generated after the design stage contain code that controls CNC machines.

G-code (geometric code) is the more common type and simply instructs the machine on when, where, and how it needs to move. M-code (miscellaneous function code) controls any auxiliary functions performed by the machine.

Applications of Precision Machining

The accuracy that precision machining allows makes it ideal for applications where precision is essential, such as applications where tolerances need to be very tight (as much as ±0.0001 inches).

On top of this, if reliability is key and/or you need a large number of parts this may be the best process.

Medical

The medical industry is always in need of parts in high volumes. Precision is key here too for items such as MRI machines, research equipment, safe enclosures, and orthotic devices.

Automotive

Precision machining is perfect for producing prototype parts for cars. Other existing parts are also made, including components for transport trucks, shipping vessels, and more.

Aerospace

If there is one thing that’s essential in the aerospace industry it is precision. Maintaining exact specifications is key for many parts like airfoils, manifolds, bushings, and landing gear ports.

Military and Defense

Modern defense systems and ammunition need to be produced accurately and in large quantities. Precision machining is also ideal for making plane parts, communication components, and transportation components.

Advantages

Accuracy and production volume are perhaps the two most important benefits. There are, however, several other advantages to precision machining.

Cost

Compared to other common machining processes like injection molding, using a CNC machining service can often come out cheaper. This is especially true for larger volumes of parts.

Speed

Precision machining is incredibly fast, without any sacrifices to quality. An order that could take several months to complete via injection molding can be done in just weeks through precision machining.

Prototyping

Prototyping can be far more effective through precision machining. Materials are inexpensive and making parts takes less time, meaning they can go through testing processes faster.

Suitable Materials

Metals are the most common raw product for parts made through CNC Machining. If desired it is also possible to use several plastics.

Metals

  • Aluminum
  • Titanium
  • Copper
  • Bronze
  • Tool Steel
  • Brass
  • Steel
  • Stainless Steel
  • Carbon Steel

Plastics

  • Polycarbonate
  • Polymethyl methacrylate
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
  • Polyoxymethylene
  • Polyamide

Precision Machining Services

Having parts made to the highest degree of quality is a benefit in any basic industry. Precision machining allows that and can produce a large number of parts in a shorter time.

If you are interested in reading more tech-related articles check out some of our other blog posts. 

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