What is a CNC machine shop?
This is the first question that would come to mind. A CNC machine shop is a business that subtractive manufacturing is carried out. Subtractive is simply any process where the material has to be removed in order to create the final part, welding, fabrication, or 3D printing are processes that require a material to be added.
It’s also not a ‘shop’ in that sense, you can’t buy Egyptian Cotton sheets there. It’s where we carry out all of the processes that require the manufacture of parts. At our machine shop, you’ll find the latest in CNC machines; lathes, milling machines, gun machining machines, etc.
What are the CNC machines we use?
The machines in this case are various pieces of equipment with cutting tools. All of these machines have different uses, some are for cutting, drilling, and shaping. As a modern machine shop, we utilize CNC – Computer Numerical Control. Using CNC allows us to produce the highest quality available at speeds allowing the manufacture of high-precision parts at high production speeds. We are able to machine most materials such as various steels, aluminum, plastics, etc.
The typical machine shop may be operated by manufacturers of a specific product or by third-party manufacturers who offer their outsourced service to a particular brand. We offer our CNC machine shop to businesses of all sizes, from a simple high volume part to short runs of very complex parts in what could be termed as exotic steels.
Machine shops themselves have been in existence since the 19th century, in essence, the operators from that time would easily recognize the processes, to a point. The real difference is the addition of CNC, you can read more about CNC here.
Here’s what you’ll find in a typical CNC Machine Shop
CNC machine shops contain many pieces of equipment, and if they’re a modern machine shop such as ours then they are equipped with the best machines available.
This is a machine that uses rotary cutters to remove material from the workpiece. There are many types and sizes of milling cutters, allowing us to carry out different kinds of cuts, from threading to roughing. Have a read about milling machines here.
A machining center is another term used to describe a CNC milling machine, a mill controlled by computer instructions. Machining centers are multifunctional pieces of equipment capable of carrying out complex procedures at high production rates.
A kind of machine that rotates a workpiece as it makes contact with the cutting tool, giving us the ability to carry out operations like sanding, knurling, and facing. A CNC lathe sometimes called a CNC turning center, is controlled by computer instructions.
A grinding machine is a kind of power tool that uses an abrasive wheel to grind the workpiece. Grinding is usually employed as a finishing process because it provides a high surface quality.
A drill press is a kind of mounted drill whose movement is controlled by a lever. Drill presses are more powerful and stable than handheld drills and can be used for various manufacturing tasks besides drilling holes.
A bandsaw is a multi-use cutting machine used to make straight cuts. It is used for roughly removing sections of the material before further cutting.
Surface finishing tools
Most parts require a surface finish of some sort, and various pieces of equipment are used to buff, polish, sandblast and color them.
Our machines are used for different manufacturing operations, and may be either manual (operated by a machinist) or equipped with Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technology – which still requires an operator.
Of course, as a CNC machine shop, we don’t just keep machines, for the sake of economy and efficiency we also have a large warehouse with stocks of the raw material a customer may require. This ability to keep many difficult to source materials also allows us to provide great pricing on various rod and bar stock, have a look at which metals we stock here.
How digitalization has changed the machine shop
Computer Numerical Control became commonplace in the latter half of the 20th century, changing machine shops forever and it continuos to evolve.
Before the advent of the CNC machine shop, all machining equipment was operated manually or mechanically, which meant that the accuracy of machined parts depended largely on the skill of the machine operator, affecting not only the speed of manufacture but also the quality.
CNC machines, on the other hand, have their movements fully guided by computer instructions, these instructions are based on very tight tolerances which can only be met with CNC.
Digital 3D designs are converted into G-Code, which tells the CNC machine what to do in order to create the 3D shape, whether it’s a simple shape or a complex part that required several tools. Every single movement of the cutting tool is controlled to +/- .0004” precision by the program for us on our Swiss Machines, which allows the machine to produce perfect duplicate parts to a tight tolerance without error.
Our CNC machines are also capable of carrying out highly complex cutting operations in a short span of time. For instance, our 5-axis CNC mills, have swiveling spindles or tables, which allows the cutting tool to cut the block of material from any angle without interruption.
These 5-axis machines can machine parts very quickly, which is useful when we need to be producing large quantities of parts.
Our modern CNC shop is capable of much more than an old-fashioned machine shop. But this would not be possible without our machinists, they are highly skilled and experienced in their roles.
Wisconsin Metal Techs CNC machinists have good experience in manual machining, as this skill helps them better understand the CNC machining process. Our machinists are constantly adding to their skills as technology evolves and techniques in machining change.
If you’re reading this and thinking about a career within a CNC machine shop, have a read to see if you’re right for the job.
We we need both CNC Machining and Manual Machining
Some people may find it difficult to believe but the rise of the CNC machine shop in the past few decades hasn’t made manual machining redundant.
Obviously, CNC machines have clear advantages over their manual cousins; there are generally more precise, they offer repeatability and the process can take place with minimal supervision, and that means that a machinist is free to take up other tasks, increasing efficiency even further.
But manual machining has its benefits too. For a start, manual machines are much cheaper than CNC machines. That means machine shops can invest in and operate several manual machines without breaking the bank. Granted, this may be more of an advantage to the machine shop than the customer, but the lower overheads may result in lower costs for the customer too.
More importantly, manual machines can be operated without prior computer programming. This means machinists can get to work on a part in an instant, potentially resulting in shorter turnaround times than would be possible with a CNC machine.
For simple, one-off parts and components that need to be delivered fast, manual machining still represents a valuable service
It’s also handy for a machine shop to keep manual machines around for simpler projects, as they can support while the multi-axis CNC machines are busy with other operations.
Safety in a Machine Shop
Safely operating a machine shop requires many years of experience , and several rules must be followed to ensure machine shop safety.
Our machine shop safety rules include:
- Wearing appropriate clothing. Loose-fitting clothes, flammable clothes, jewelry, and open-toed shoes are all prohibited in our machine shop. Safety shoes are preferable in any manufacturing environment.
- Operators must wear safety glasses. Goggles or other eye protection are worn when operating any kind of machine. Chips removed from the workpiece can cause serious injury and we only have one pair of eyes.
- Be healthy. Workers cannot operate machinery if ill, tired, inebriated or taking performance-affecting medication. We take the health of our workers very seriously and do not compromise on this in any way.
- Know the machinery. Only qualified and experienced machinists are allowed to operate machinery. All operators are made fully aware of every new machine and only allowed to operate it once we are fully confident in their ability to work safely.
- Keep the shop clean. Dirty floors can cause slippage, while the buildup of dust and scraps can become a fire hazard. The environment and machinery must be kept dry. Tools are kept clean and inspected regularly.
- No distractions. Workers operating machinery should not wear headphones, use their phones, or engage in any other potentially distracting activity.
- Do not leave machines unattended. Our machines are always monitored when operational. Workers cannot exit the shop until machinery has come to a complete stop.
- Store items safely. Materials and tools should be stored in a clean storage place where they cannot fall or be tripped over by workers.
Choosing the right machine shop
For businesses and product developers looking for a CNC machine shop to carry out manufacturing, there are several things to consider.
A good machine shop should offer all of the following:
- Competitive prices
- Confidentiality – Reject any machine shop that refuses to sign an NDA.
- Quality, reliability & honesty
If your CNC Machine shop does not offer any of these to your satisfaction then you should be speaking to us. Contact us or complete the quotation form.