Precision machining technology has significantly advanced the capabilities of subtractive manufacturing machines. Though machining is often thought of as traditional manufacturing, technological innovations within this field have progressed machining into the advanced manufacturing world.
Numerical control machines launched modern machining practices, and advanced precision technologies have made it possible to easily create products with intricate and complex designs using machining equipment. Precision machining technology has also advanced enough to produce high-quality parts and components with a high level of repeatability and accuracy. Various manufacturing industries rely on precision machining for integral parts used in their end products.
Precision Machining Advancements
Though numerical control machines ushered in modern machining, computer numerical control (CNC) machines are now used across machine shops for subtractive manufacturing. Precision machining relies on these advanced machines. The computerized machine tools used by CNC machines are capable of meeting the stringent tolerances and producing the complex designs required for precision machining.
Machine Tool Sensors
Automated CNC machine tools were such a successful advancement in precision machining that today most machined parts are made using CNC machines. Though the machining process is automated, most CNC machines still require designers or engineers to create CAD/CAM files to provide specifications for the machines to produce parts.
The rise of advanced manufacturing and the fourth industrial revolution have brought about new technologies that have helped advance precision machining. These new technologies include sensors for machines and machine tools that monitor performance and can respond autonomously to situations.
Additionally, these sensors can connect with artificial intelligence (AI) systems that can analyze the machine performance data collected by the sensors. After this analysis, the AI systems can then connect with the sensors to essentially self-diagnose any issues with the machines, or even to determine how the machines can improve performance. Depending on the capabilities of these systems, they can either resolve the issue by scheduling maintenance to be performed by a human worker, or, if the systems are more advanced, by autonomously resolving the issue.
Another advancement in precision machining technology is multi-axis machining, which has gained prominence in the machining world because of how efficiently it can create products while minimizing errors. There are three main types of precision multi-axis machines: three-axis, four-axis, and five-axis. Five-axis CNC machines can work with intricate designs and produce complex 3D shapes, making them the most advanced multi-axis machine of the three.
Multi-axis machines have several advantages that make them ideal for precision machining. They require fewer fixture setups and less re-fixturing, which increases part accuracy due to less chance for error. The tool paths of these machines are often more optimized for cutting, meaning they can produce complex parts better than traditional CNC machines while also extending the machine tool’s lifespan due to the positioning of the tool.
Other benefits include reduced labor costs due to less re-fixturing, better surface finishes, and less waste. Overall, multi-axis CNC machines offer increased efficiency with mass production capabilities.
Advanced Types of Precision CNC Machines
When it comes to types of CNC machines, those most commonly thought of are mills and lathes. But there are several different types of CNC machines, some of which have more advanced capabilities than others.
One of these types is a water jet cutter. CNC water jet cutting machines cut through materials such as metal or granite using a stream of high-pressure water. These machines are very efficient at cutting materials and can easily cut through most hard metals. They also perform accurate cuts with less impact when compared to traditional cutting methods. However, water jet cutting is expensive, making it better suited to large-scale projects.
Another type of CNC machining is done on an electric discharge machine, or EDM. An EDM uses electric sparks to mold parts or components, essentially using thermal energy to remove material. This type of precision machining is used for cuts that can’t be completed by traditional methods, such as sharp internal corners or especially deep cavities. This method is usually used in conjunction with traditional methods when an intricate geometrical cut is required. It is a slow process, better suited for small-scale needs.
Plasma cutters are another precision cutting tool used by CNC machinists. Plasma cutters can slice through almost any material and are used for various tasks. A plasma cutter is versatile and extremely efficient. Machinists often turn to plasma cutting when they need to quickly get the production process going. CNC plasma cutting machines can make parts all day long and are mainly used by large-scale manufacturing companies.
To learn more about precision machining technology, meet with CNC machine vendors, and see live machining demonstrations, attend HOUSTEX.