The three principal machining processes are classified as turning, drilling and milling. Other operations falling into miscellaneous categories include shaping, planing, boring, broaching and sawing.
- Turning operations are operations that rotate the workpiece as the primary method of moving metal against the cutting tool. Lathes are the principal machine tool used in turning.
- Milling operations are operations in which the cutting tool rotates to bring cutting edges to bear against the workpiece. Milling machines are the principal machine tool used in milling.
- Drilling operations are operations in which holes are produced or refined by bringing a rotating cutter with cutting edges at the lower extremity into contact with the workpiece. Drilling operations are done primarily in drill presses but sometimes on lathes or mills.
- Miscellaneous operations are operations that strictly speaking may not be machining operations in that they may not be swarf producing operations but these operations are performed at a typical machine tool. Burnishing is an example of a miscellaneous operation. Burnishing produces no swarf but can be performed at a lathe, mill, or drill press.
An unfinished workpiece requiring machining will need to have some material cut away to create a finished product. A finished product would be a workpiece that meets the specifications set out for that workpiece by engineering drawings or blueprints. For example, a workpiece may be required to have a specific outside diameter. A lathe is a machine tool that can be used to create that diameter by rotating a metal workpiece, so that a cutting tool can cut metal away, creating a smooth, round surface matching the required diameter and surface finish. A drill can be used to remove metal in the shape of a cylindrical hole. Other tools that may be used for various types of metal removal are milling machines, saws, and grinding machines. Many of these same techniques are used in woodworking.
More recent, advanced machining techniques include precision CNC machining, electrical discharge machining (EDM), electro-chemical erosion, laser cutting, or water jet cutting to shape metal workpieces.
As a commercial venture, machining is generally performed in a machine shop, which consists of one or more workrooms containing major machine tools. Although a machine shop can be a stand-alone operation, many businesses maintain internal machine shops which support specialized needs of the business.
Machining requires attention to many details for a workpiece to meet the specifications set out in the engineering drawings or blueprints. Beside the obvious problems related to correct dimensions, there is the problem of achieving the correct finish or surface smoothness on the workpiece. The inferior finish found on the machined surface of a workpiece may be caused by incorrect clamping, a dull tool, or inappropriate presentation of a tool. Frequently, this poor surface finish, known as chatter, is evident by an undulating or irregular finish, and the appearance of waves on the machined surfaces of the workpiece.
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