Machine shops are the “supporting actors” of the manufacturing world. Typically, a manufacturer sends unfinished parts out to a machine shop that performs some kind of refinement or finishing to the parts and sends them back. Machine shops might also finish the parts and send them on to another shop for assembly into a final product. And in some cases, a machine shop makes, repairs, or restores parts and sells them. Machine shops work on metal, but also plastic and even wood. Overall, machine shops take raw materials and shape, form, or finish them into parts of the required size and/or shape for use in another machine or product.
Manual and Automated Machine Tools
Machinists use various tools, depending on their operation’s size. Machine shops use tools to drill or bore holes, cut threads inside a drilled hole or cut threads into bolts, remove excess materials or imperfections from surfaces, and polish or burnish parts. They also cut and form materials into desired shapes and sizes using a range of machinery.
The kinds of tools in machine shops range from hand tools such as calipers, squares, rulers, and files to large machines such as drill presses, saws, grinders, sanders, lathing machines, and machines that do welding and sawing. Many shops now use robots or other machines controlled by computers running specialized software—called “CNC” machines (computer numerical control) in the machine shop world.
Machine shops take rough or raw parts and finish them by cutting, stamping, boring or polishing them.
Deburring is a key process in machining: parts can come out of the manufacturing process with flaws and imperfections in the form of bumps, knobs, or other flaws caused by stamping, cutting or heat. These imperfections, called “burrs,” must be removed for the part to function properly. Deburring machines are among the tools found in machine shops. These use friction to grind off excess material and polish parts to ensure they’ll fit and function correctly when they end up as part of the assembly of a larger item or machine. Deburring machines use either a tumbling motion or vibration to create friction between the parts and some kind of “media,” such as plastic or ceramic pieces, that rub against the parts in a drum or tub.
Some machine shops are DIY operations, run by hobbyists who work with metals or wood to create or restore all kinds of things, from jewelry and sculptures to cars. These shops need deburring equipment to remove rust and to do scaling on parts, or to polish metal to an attractive gleam.