Everything That You Have to Know about Machine Shop Services
Machining is when you have a piece of raw material like metal, and then you use that cut the raw material with tools in various ways until you have a finished product. There’s more to it than that, of course, though that’s the gist of it. The machining process can be done in a shop that you can build for your own company or factory, or you can partner with a separate machine shop business to do the machining for you.
Which Businesses May Need a Machine Shop?
For many businesses, a machine shop solves a lot of problems. Machining is a vital component for many industries:
- Automobile and steel industries. The businesses in these industries obviously use a lot of metal parts in their tools and factory equipment, and they often require help with emergency breakdowns. A machine shop can provide repair and overhaul services, among other things.
- Military and defense contractors. The businesses who design new weapons and equipment for the military often require a machine shop to build their prototypes. A machine shop can also provide parts the businesses need, as well as various components and assemblies.
- Food processors. A machine shop can be essential for food processing companies, as it can rebuild malfunctioning conveyors and provide every needed part from bearings to power transmission parts.
- Farming and agriculture. Local farmers may often require a lot of machining assistance so that their farms will operate smoothly. The machine shop can supply everything they need such as bearings, or repair various pieces of metal equipment.
- Mining and mineral processing. Mineral equipment often has to withstand a lot of harsh conditions and terrible climates, so miners don’t really get an easy time doing their job. But at least a machine shop can make things less difficult, by providing various parts that are useful for mining operations. The shop can also manufacture parts that the mining company needs, or repair damaged parts.
- Alternative energy. Many local businesses are cutting costs with alternate energy, and a machine shop can make sure that these pieces of innovative energy equipment will run reliably. A machine shop can provide monitoring equipment for wind farms, as well as lubrication systems and other parts that improve energy efficiency.
- Any type of manufacturing or design company. Basically, if your business involves the production of prototypes, then you will need a machine shop to make that prototype for you. This is actually one of the most commonly used services offered by machine shops.
Types of Machining
If you have a need for conventional machining, then just about any machine shop can help. These services include producing prototypes of designs, repairing equipment, and even production of items in small batches.
The tools involved for general machining include engine lathes along with ram and turret milling machines. You’ll also find horizontal boring mills plus surface and cylindrical grinders. With these tools, a machine shop can make prototypes and parts that fit your custom requirements.
Most of the best machine shops these days offer CNC machining, which is much more advanced than conventional machining. CNC stands for computerized numerical control, which is a fancy way of saying that the machining tasks are all done with computerized tools.
The addition of computers in the machine shop has revolutionized machining in many ways:
- You don’t need to make a prototype right away to test it. The CNC software can actually “test” your design in a virtual setting. This can save you a lot of time because you don’t need a lot of tweaking for your prototype to get it to work as you’d hoped. Production time can be cut by weeks, or even months.
- The parts and prototypes are much more precisely made. In CNC machining, often the design is in CAD (computer aided design). This design is then inputted into the computer of the CNC machine, so the machine is able to cut and shape the raw material to the exact specification that’s in the design.
- Complex shapes can be made flawlessly. With conventional machinery or by hand, some product designs are just almost impossible to manufacture. You’ll need a veritable genius to create them, and not many machinists have that kind of skill. But with computers, everything’s much easier.
- You can use CNC machining to manufacture items from different types of materials. It can be used for different metals, like steel, aluminum, or bronze, and it’s even possible to use them for silver or gold. Then you can also shape and cut different types of polymers, like PTFE, polycarbonate, and ABS.
- You can get the same results repeatedly. This means that each and every prototype or part you make in a batch will be the same, because the machine will make the same types of cut over and over again.
It’s like the difference between producing a document with a word processor and then printing it, and writing 2 copies of a document by hand. With the handwritten notes, they won’t be the same even if you try hard. With a word processor you can just print out 2 copies and they’ll be the same.
Choosing a Machine Shop
It’s not always easy to pick the right machine shop. Pick the wrong one, and you can end up with a lot of problems instead of the solutions you were hoping for. You may get parts that aren’t up to par on quality and your deadlines may be missed. With so many failures in the parts, your total overall costs may be higher than you anticipated. Your products may also fail in field, which in turn can really hurt your own reputation. You may even end up in messy litigation.
So how do you choose one machine shop over another? There’s no single right way to determine which one will suit your needs. However, you may want to take the following factors into account:
- History and work experience. You don’t really want to settle on a machine shop that’s quite new in the business, unless it was founded and manned with people with numerous years of experience. You’ll want people who have been in business for several years so you can be sure they know what they’re doing. Experienced machinists are more likely to complete projects on time and within budget, because they know the proven effective processes.
- Reviews and industry reputation. You can start with Google News, and check if a particular machine shop is involved in some sort of scandal or litigation. After that, you can talk to a prospective machine shop and ask for a referral list. You may also want to ask for pictures of their installed or completed work, to see if they’re capable of machining and making projects that are similar to the parts you want fabricated.
You should contact the various references to check if they were satisfied with the services they’ve received. Websites and advertisements are nice, but nothing beats the word of a satisfied (or dissatisfied) client.
Ask these clients if the machine shop can really ensure perfect quality each time. The parts you need must be within the tolerances you specify. You should check if they also deliver the parts on time.
- You don’t really need a machine shop that only uses new technology. Since there are many types of projects that need doing, it’s often best if a machine shop has a combination of old and new technology. Old tools are proven tools, and people know they work reliably. New equipment can offer faster and more accurate results.
Just make sure that the machine shop does have the equipment needed for the project you have in mind. Discuss which machines will be used for your product, and see if it can deliver the results you need. Also, if you’re in the machine shop you may as well check for shop organization and cleanliness. If they’re messy, then they may also be as sloppy in their work.
- Customer service. Unfortunately, this is one part of the business that not all machine shops pay attention to. This is one aspect that you have to discuss with your references, and you should also note your own experiences. From the initial point of contact with the machine shop, note down if it is easy or hard to move your project forward.
The best machine shops have a project manager who is actually knowledgeable about your account. They should also be open and willing to discuss various ways of addressing your project requirements. Generally, the impression you should get from the people in the machine shop is that your project isn’t just another job. It’s actually a partnership, and they should be ready to collaborate and work with you to achieve your goals.
- Price. This comes last, because frankly it’s not as important as the other factors. Choosing a machine shop simply because they’ll charge you less can be your biggest mistake, since they may not be as good as they ought to be. Their mistakes can be your problems, and you’ll end up paying more in the long run.
If you have any more questions about using a machine shop, drop us a line. Or visit us here https://www.appalachianmachine.com We can provide you with then answers you need so that you’ll know what you deserve and what to expect when you work with a machine shop.