What, Exactly, Is Machining? Popular Types, Tools & Techniques

a piece of machining equipment
Posted on
May 19, 2020 by

Our experts explain exactly what machining is, the types of machining most commonly used, important tools and popular techniques used in machine shops.

What is Machining?

Machining is the production of materials into a desired shape and size. Usually machining refers to metal working; however, it can also be used in referring to the production of wood, plastic, ceramic, stone, and other materials. 

If you have raw materials that you want to be formed into a specific shape for a specific purpose, you would use machining processes to form that raw material into a finished product. Examples of machined products include nuts and bolts, automobile parts, flanges, drill bits, plaques, and many more tools and items related to a wide variety of industries.

Types of Machining

There are three main kinds of machining: turning, milling, and drilling. There are other processes that also fall into the category of machining, but when it comes to modern machining processes, turning, milling, and drilling cover the majority.

Turning

Turning refers to machining where the tool is spun against a tool that either shaves down or cuts the raw material. Turning may look a lot like using a lathe (which would be considered a kind of machining for woodworking), but unlike a lathe, turning does not require the tool to be controlled by a person. Computers can run the tool that then shapes the turned material, allowing for more precision and safety.

Drilling

Drilling is a machining process where holes are drilled into the raw material. A standard drill press is one of the most classic kinds of machining, but modern practices and technology allow drilling to be far more advanced than a worker-controlled drill press. Computers can control a selection of drill bits and cutting tools to create intricate holes in material — the modern sieve can be created with great ease thanks to the precision and advancement of modern drilling practices.

Milling

Milling is the process that cuts holes into materials using a rotating tool. Rather than spinning the material against a stationary cutting tool like turning, milling uses a computer to control the rotating cutting tool against a clamped-down piece of material. Unlike drilling, the tools for milling allows for different shapes to be cut, such as cutting the raw material in half or adding unique cuts.

Machining Tools

There are plenty of machining tools to choose from that do a wide variety of machining tasks. The major categories of tools for machining are: turning tools, milling tools, grinding tools, cutting tools, drilling tools, and boring tools. While there are more machining tools, these are the most common tools from classic machining.

Turning Tools

All turning tools work towards the turning machining process, spinning the raw material against a stationary blade or other cutting tool.

Milling Tools

Milling tools are used for cutting unique shapes and designs out of raw materials.

Grinding Tools

Grinding is a type of machining that is related to turning, but involves more of the cleaning rather than the shaping — deburring and the fine finishing of materials all require grinding.

Cutting Tools

When precise cuts are required, cutting tools such as shears and saws (manual or electric) allow for straight lines through tough material.

Drilling Tools

Drilling tools complete all the drilling processes, drill presses and many other drilling machines allow clear-cut holes to be drilled through any material.

Boring Tools

Boring is a way to enlarge previously drilled holes, expanding a hole to the proper size.

A new development in machining practices, however, is the introduction of CNC machining. Computer Numerical Control, CNC, is the addition of computers to machining practices, so rather than relying on human ability, CNC Machining allows for the different cutting, grinding, drilling, etc. tools to be controlled by a computer that is fed precise designs.

Machining Techniques

The different types of machining and the different tools combine to create specific machining techniques. Cutting, milling, drilling, grinding, boring, and turning are all classic types of precision machining.

Cutting

Using cutting tools either controlled manually or through CNC machining processes, cutting the raw material to its specifications is the precision machining technique, cutting.

Milling

Using milling tools, such as a fly cutter or hollow mill cutter, milling allows the worker to create unique shapes and designs in the raw material, so it’s a very important technique for precision machining.

Drilling

Drilling is one of the most classic machining techniques, as drilling holes in materials without compromising the material is a necessary application of machining.

Grinding

The technique of grinding material to smooth the surface or create very small cuts is an important finishing technique, and a major part of precision machining.

Boring

Boring is an important precision machining technique that allows hole sizes to be increased rather than re-drilled, which saves time and energy.

Turning

Another classic technique, turning allows raw material to be shaped and engraved quickly and precisely, much likely sculpting out of hard material, turning removes raw material to create the proper shapes.

Machining Applications

There are many applications for machining processes. Machined products are used in many industries, such as construction, engineering, and manufacturing, Automobile manufacturers require every part to be machined precisely in order to run properly. In the oil industry, engineers give very specific design and machining instructions for parts for pumps, pipes, and structural aids. In the construction industry, machining is used to produce drill bits, hammer heads, other tool pieces, and larger elements like structural steel beams and rebar for piles.

Machining is a necessary process for many industries, especially those related to construction and manufacturing. Because machining is so versatile and precise, it allows businesses and industries to design products and tools that suit their needs exactly.