An Overview of Machine Tools and Their Types

When working with metals, machine tools are extremely useful. With such an apparatus, metals can be machined through cutting, grinding, shearing, boring machines or other similar methods of deformation. While machine tools may come in many shapes and forms, all contain some type of tool to cut or shape metals and a method of securing and guiding the workpiece. In the present, many modern machine tools are powered through electrical, hydraulic, or line shaft means, and they are often used for the manufacturing of parts.

When machining a metal component, machine tools can either be operated through manual or automatic means. In many early machines, flywheels served as a useful component for stabilizing movement as well as operated levers for control. Soon after, the numerical control system was invented which allowed for motion to be controlled through paper tape and punch cards. Nevertheless, the subsequent rise of computers quickly allowed for the process to become more robust and complex, opening up new opportunities for manufacturing. Now, a variety of drill bits, shaping tools, and other tool contacts and accessories may be used and applied automatically through computer control.

Depending on what parts are being manufactured and what their intended use is, there are a number of common machine tool types and machine tool accessories that may be used. Grinding machines are a common type that may be relied upon for grinding down materials, and they feature an abrasive wheel for their tool. By pressing the workpiece against the abrasive wheel as it is moving, the abrasive grains will begin to chip away at the surface through shear deformation. As this process is very gradual and precise, grinding machines allow for high surface quality to be attained and can make creating accurate shapes and dimensions much easier. With the low amount of deformation that most grinding machines provide, they are typically used to finish pieces.

Milling machines are another major type of machine tool, and they feature rotary cutters that can shape a component through the removal of materials. Milling machines can provide a wide variety of operations as their cutters can be used in varying directions, pressures, axes, and speeds. With the variety of machine sizes available on the market as well, milling machines prove to be one of the most widely implemented tools for machining custom parts. As technology continued to advance over time and more robust machine tool accessories and systems came about, milling machines have since been capable of producing parts through machining centers.

As electricity became more common for the powering of machine tool, many new forms of tooling came about to provide new manufacturing abilities. With electrical discharge machining (EDM), a series of current discharges are enacted upon a metal object to remove materials. Through the use of dielectric liquids and voltage, dielectric breakdown will produce an arc capable of removing materials. Once the process is stopped, flushing can be carried out to replace the liquid dielectric and to dispose of removed materials. EDM is very useful for many metals that are incapable of being worked upon by more conventional machines due to their hardness, and they excel with conductive metals. Generally speaking, EDM is often used for small hole drilling, coinage die making, prototype production, closed loop manufacturing, and metal disintegration machining.


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