What Are Precision Machine Shop Services?
Precision machine shop services make it possible to shape and cut objects through a combination of carefully controlled, computer-guided motion and special cutting tools.
These services include a series of capabilities that yield precise and uniform components made to highly specific criteria. Through this special power machinery, it’s possible to efficiently shape all types of materials to very close tolerances and exact dimensions.
Precision machine services yield results that cannot be easily achieved or reproduced using more standard tooling and production methods. This makes these capabilities especially relevant and valuable when it comes to producing intricate, exact, or custom results.
Precision machine shops will offer machining and tooling services for shaping materials that are otherwise difficult to modify with conventional equipment. Examples of these materials are refractory metals, exceptionally delicate or thin substances like graphene, as well as materials too tough to be shaped with standard dies, such as carbide.
Precision machine shops will also create parts from standard materials, including conventional industrial alloys like stainless steel and aluminum, and even plastic. Although these materials may be standard and easy to machine, precision machining makes it possible to complete very precise shaping. Precision miniature machined plastic parts, for example, can be made to much tighter tolerances than can be gained through additive manufacturing, extrusion, and molding.
Precision machining can make parts for extremely scaled-down, micro applications. It’s possible to achieve tolerances that far exceed what is possible through standard machining. For example, a standard milling machine will be able to complete shaping as precise as 1/5,000 of an inch. With a precision milling machine, shaping as precise as 5/10,000 of an inch can be easily achieved.
Precision machine services have been essential to the tool and die industry. Since tool and die parts are made from extremely tough minerals and alloys, special machinery is needed to cut and shape the raw materials that form the dies.
With technology driving demand for specialty parts, and various innovations changing which materials are now required for certain components and applications, precision machining is more relevant than ever.
Manufacturers and maintenance specialists in aerospace, transportation, defense, and various industrial sectors, will rely on precision machine services for the production of vital components. Precision machine capabilities are also essential for prototyping needed by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
In general, precision machining is completed by removing material from a workpiece, which is then shaped to produce a part that meets with exact dimensional specifications. This can be completed by many different types of equipment, including CNC (computer numerical controlled) mills, lathes, grinders, drills, and various cutting tools.
The precision machining process is completed through computer-aided design (CAD) software, which then determines the movement of automatically operated cutting and grinding tools. The process is entirely hands-off. And since it is mechanically controlled and software-guided, results are precisely uniform.
Precision machine shops will usually maintain one or a combination of the following equipment: turning machines, shapers and planers, drills, mills, grinders, saws, and presses. Some precision machine shops will also maintain wire EDMs (electrical discharging machines).
Wire EDM capabilities make it possible to shape materials through a process known as spark eroding or die sinking. In this process, electrical discharges, applied between electrodes and buffered by a dielectric liquid, are used to fabricate metal parts by eroding away parts of the workpiece. The EDM process is commonly used to shape cutting tools and dies, create molds, and shape parts for specialty aerospace, automotive, and electronics settings.
Other types of precision machining will include water jet cutting, laser cutting, and electromechanical machining (ECM).
When choosing a precision machine shop for various services, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
The first is the shop capabilities. Not all machine shops will maintain the same equipment, employ the same types of machinists, or work with the same materials. Therefore the resulting services will vary.
To determine which capabilities are required for a specific job, identify factors that include the workpiece material, final dimensions of the part or parts needed, the end application, etc.
Gathering as many of these details as possible will greatly streamline the process of identifying which precision machine shop has applicable services and qualified machinists to complete the job.
Additionally, some precision machine shops may specialize in the machining of unique materials or serving certain markets. For example, a shop that specializes in the production of custom pneumatic manifolds or stainless steel manifolds may not be as readily able to cater to customers seeking prototyping for medical equipment or aerospace parts.
When parts must be made from specialty materials, some shops may offer dedicated material procurement services, while other shops will leave this step up to the client.
The shop’s location should also be identified, particularly when dealing with larger workpieces and parts. Shipping workpieces to or from a machine shop can be costly and will require careful planning when dealing with specialty materials. For this reason, shops may cater specifically to local or regional customers.