State-of-the-art machining is the way of the future.

Machining is the heart and soul of the manufacturing process. It’s how we build the machines that build the machines that build the machines most of us take for granted.

Generally speaking, modern approaches to machining come down to three different options. Despite vast advancements in technology, older methods sometimes prove better for certain jobs. With that said, state-of-the-art machining is undoubtedly the way of the future.

Let’s take a closer look at the various machining methods being used by modern manufacturers and fabricators:

Traditional

As the name suggests, traditional machining involves less computerized assistance and relies almost entirely on the hands-on actions of the operator. In other words, the final product is almost entirely dependent on the skills of the machinist. With this in mind, a traditional machinist is like a craftsman or an artist.

Of course, there are several downsides to traditional machining. For one thing, it’s more dangerous. Secondly, it’s more time consuming. These add up to it being a very expensive option.

So why would anyone opt for traditional machining? It’s a niche market, but one that still exists. Chances are, a traditional machinist works on the fabrication of parts and components for very old equipment and machinery. For instance, if you’re restoring an old sailboat and need a new steering system, you’ll likely want the parts made exactly like they were 150 years ago. If so, you’ll need a traditional machinist to get it done.

CNC

Computer numerical control machining is the natural progression forward from traditional methods. It takes the fine-tuning and precision work out of the hands of the operator and relies instead on specialized hardware and software to get the job done. As a result, CNC machining is inherently safer and more reliable at scale.

CNC machining involves sophisticated components and more moving parts, which means more scheduled maintenance and extended downtime in the event of failure. Most manufacturers using CNC come to rely on ProTechMachineTool.com technicians and similarly qualified professionals to inspect and repair their tools on a regular basis. Otherwise, they risk days-long stoppages that cripple productivity.

Despite the high likelihood of eventual breakdowns, CNC machining is the most cost-effective option currently available to manufacturers. Furthermore, CNC technology continues to improve, meanwhile the tools get less and less expensive. The reliability and improved safety provided by numerical control machining tools outweigh the negatives.

3D

Now we arrive at the new frontier. 3D printing is the future of machining. Once they press the start button, operators are essentially out of the picture until it’s time to retrieve the final product. The result – in theory – is an even more cost-effective and reliable machining process compared to numerical control.

Since 3D printing remains in its infancy, there remain limitations to this method of machining. For example, 3D printers can’t work on materials with high-melting points.

The enduring benefit of 3D printing versus CNC will be its sustainability. Rather than whittle down from a block of wood or metal, 3D builds an object piece-by-piece. There will be less waste, which is both good for the planet and for the manufacturer.

The machines we use everyday – home appliances, motor vehicles, ATMs, etc. – all depend on dozens if not hundreds of parts and components. These pieces are made by other machines, and so on, until we get to the point where the parts need to still be made with human involvement. It’s where machining enters the picture, a process that gets done one of three ways.