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Precision Machining and Automation

Precision Machining and Automation Trends

Precision machining paired with computer aided design or manufacturing (CAD/CAM) delivers an unmatched level of speed, accuracy, and quality control for manufacturing processes. Machining can be performed on wide variety of materials including metal, glass, and plastic using lathes, drill presses, saws, grinder, and milling machines. But how much of this work still requires human intervention?

Manual and Semi-Automated Precision Machining

This may sound like an oxymoron, but manual operation of precision machining equipment is not uncommon. This process is a bit slow, the level of accuracy isn’t perfect, and an operator must be present the entire time. However, manual machining makes sense for short runs or one-off production of components—and for parts that simply can’t be produced by CNC machines.

This may sound like an oxymoron, but manual operation of precision machining equipment is not uncommon.

Partial automation is the most common approach in modern machine shops, with automated CNC equipment handling the bulk of the machining to get work done faster at high volume. Manual steps may include feeding in raw materials or inspecting and finishing items as intermediate or final steps. It takes experience to set up a shop to make the most of both human and machine resources and avoid bottlenecks in the workflow.

Lights Out Automation

Is full automation that requires no human intervention or oversight a realistic end goal? It would offer the advantages of energy and labor savings as well as ensuring operators aren’t exposed to potentially hazardous substances or environments. However, true end-to-end precision machining automation is difficult to achieve in the real world.

Is full automation that requires no human intervention or oversight a realistic end goal?

Reliability and responsiveness are critical factors. For example, some materials throw off long, stringy chips as they are machined. These chips can wrap around the machining tools. Without someone available to fix the problem, the machinery can be damaged. And without a way to verify that each step in the machining process is being done correctly, components can go out of spec.

If machining is part of an assembly line process, a single faulty step could create a massive amount of rework or even cause a line to shut down. Full automation requires the use of technology to carefully monitor and manage the production process.

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Robotic Precision Machining

High-end manufacturing companies are experimenting with robotics to solve issues surrounding automation for precision machining processes. Metrology-based solutions use an adaptive tracking system to reposition robot arms in real time. This allows automated course correction in response to factors such as robotic arm warm-up, drift, and backlash. An additional advantage of turning industrial robots into precision machine tools is that they can be readily reprogrammed for a variety of machining jobs.

High-end manufacturing companies are experimenting with robotics to solve issues surrounding automation for precision machining processes.

Does Your Manufacturing Process Require Precision Machined Components?

As precision machining becomes more advanced, there are more moving parts to consider. This means it’s more essential than ever to pay attention to quality control each step of the way. At TFG USA, we provide precision machined components for our clients across a wide variety of industries. We can fulfill requests for short runs and specialty parts as well as high-volume CNC jobs. To learn more about our available services and our commitment to quality, contact our team today.  

We sincerely hope you found this article informative and valuable. We welcome your comments or suggestions regarding this article or any other subjects you would like to see us write about.

Thank you,
The Federal Group USA