Master the Language of Metal Machining: A Comprehensive List of Commonly Used Terms

When I first visited a machine manufacturing production floor, I felt overwhelmed by the workers' unfamiliar jargon. However, as I gained experience in the industry, I became more familiar with the terminology and better understood it. Looking back, I realize that having a glossary of technical terms would have helped me greatly. As a result, I compiled a list of the most common words.

Welcome to our word list of the most commonly used terms in the metal machining industry. Whether you're an experienced machinist or just starting, this list will be a helpful reference tool. From lathe turning to milling, we've covered all the essential terms you need to know to succeed in this industry. So, let's dive in and expand our vocabulary together!

Metal Machining: Metal machining involves shaping or removing material from a metal workpiece for the desired shape, size, or finish. Techniques include cutting, drilling, milling, turning, and grinding.

CNC Machining: CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining involves using computer-controlled machines to precisely cut metal workpieces based on coded instructions, resulting in accurate and repeatable manufacturing processes.

Lathe: A lathe is an essential machine tool used to shape cylindrical or conical objects by rotating the workpiece while removing material with a cutting tool. It's critical in metalworking and woodworking.

Milling:  Milling is a machining process where rotary cutters remove material from a metal workpiece. This process creates various shapes, slots, and features on the workpiece's surface.

Drilling: Drilling creates holes in workpieces using a rotating cutting tool called a drill bit. This operation is essential for fastener installation and component assembly.

Grinding: Grinding is a process that involves removing small amounts of material from a metal surface using abrasives. It enables tight tolerances and a sleek finish.

Tooling: Tooling refers to the cutting tools, fixtures, and accessories used in metal machining. These tools are essential for shaping, cutting, and finishing metal workpieces accurately and efficiently.

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Cutting Speed: Cutting speed refers to the velocity of the cutting tool on the workpiece's surface, affecting surface finish, material removal rate, and tool lifespan.

Feed Rate: During machining, the feed rate is the speed at which the workpiece or cutting tool moves. It affects material removal and surface quality.

Chip: Chips are small, curled metal removed from the workpiece during machining. The type and characteristics of chips can provide insights into the machining process's efficiency and tool performance.

Tolerances: Tolerances are acceptable variations in the dimensions or specifications of a machined part. They define the range within which a claim must fall to meet design requirements. Precision machining requires tight tolerances.

Tool Wear: Tool wear is the gradual degradation of cutting tools due to friction, heat, and the abrasion of machining. Monitoring and managing tool wear is essential to maintain machining accuracy.

Coolant: During machining, coolant is crucial in reducing friction, dissipating heat, and removing chips. This fluid, usually water-based, improves the tools' longevity and the machined surface smoothness. Its ability to regulate temperature and minimize wear and tear on the equipment makes it an indispensable component in machining.

MQL: A conventional coolant system continuously floods the workpiece with coolant to cool it down and wash away chips from the working area. Such an approach could be more efficient, and to improve efficiency, cut costs, and limit environmental impact, the MQL (Minimum Quantity Lubrication) technique was developed. This technique means that a required amount of coolant is sprayed on the workpiece and working area during the machining process, reducing coolant usage.

Chatter: Chatter is an undesirable vibration or oscillation that can occur during machining. It can lead to poor surface finish, tool wear, and reduced machining accuracy.

Machinability: Machinability refers to a material's ease of being machined, with good machinability resulting in effective and high-quality machining processes.

Workholding: Workholding refers to the methods and devices used to secure a workpiece in place during machining. Proper work holding is crucial for achieving precision and consistency in machining operations.

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4-axis machining: The technology of four-axis machining has developed from the original CNC machine that only worked with 3-axis technology. With three-axis machining, the spindle can only move along three linear axes (X, Y, and Z), which can limit the complexity of operations. However, with 4-axis machining, the spindle or part can rotate on one axis, allowing for more intricate functions in one setup. The rotation is made possible by the 4-axis, which permits rotation of the spindle or the workpiece during machining, making it possible to machine four sides of the part in one fixture setup.
5-axis machining: 5-axis machining is a CNC process used in manufacturing and machining industries to achieve precision and efficiency. This technology simultaneously operates five axes - X, Y, Z, A, and B or C. Its capability to create complex metal parts from any angle reduces the need for multiple setups. Industries that demand precision and complexity, such as aerospace, automotive, and medical, find this technology particularly useful.

High-speed machining: High-speed machining can increase productivity and improve quality when working with soft and hard metals using lighter milling sequences, high feed rates, and spindle speeds. This advanced technique involves using cutting tools that operate at exceptionally high speeds and feed rates, resulting in faster material removal, improved surface finishes, extended tool life, and enhanced precision in metalworking processes.

Extrusion machining center:  An extrusion machining center is a machine specially designed for extrusion machining (also known as profile machining) and is used to machine parts into finished shapes. Extrusions are available in an unlimited number of different shapes, which places high demands on the machining center's flexibility. The extrusion machining center uses various techniques to achieve the desired shape of the extrusion with pockets, holes, and other features, including sawing, deburring, drilling, turning, milling, and tapping.

Bar machining center: A bar machining center is a machine dedicated to bar machining. In contrast to extrusion machining, where a machining center is machining an extrusion or profile with a cross-section, bar machining means machining of a solid material. The machining centers use various tools to perform different processes, such as cutting, deburring, drilling, turning, and sawing, to finish components during bar machining.

Horizontal machining: Horizontal machining is a type of machining process where the workpiece is clamped horizontally on the machine's worktable, and the cutting tool operates horizontally, parallel to the fabric floor or worktable; this means the chips generated during machining can fall away from the workpiece, reducing the risk of chip buildup and tool damage.

Vertical machining:  Performing vertical machining means the spindle and cutting tools operate vertically and approach the workpiece from above.

Inverted machining: Inverted machining is a new manufacturing technique where the spindle processes from below, making chip evacuation easier and requiring less coolant. This is because gravity helps the chips fall naturally from the workpiece and working area, resulting in easier chip handling, greater accuracy, and faster machining.

Mill-turn: A mill-turn is a fast, powerful, and flexible machine that integrates both rotating tools and the rotating functions of the workpiece. The machine can work very quickly and perform complex operations faster and with greater accuracy because it can perform multiple operations simultaneously.

Universal machining center: A universal machining center is a versatile machine tool used in manufacturing and machining processes. It performs various machining operations on multiple types of workpieces, typically with multi-axis capabilities.

Turnkey solutions for machining:  Many companies in several industries, including aerospace and automotive, seek a holistic approach to their manufacturing today, meaning they request complete machining solutions, including machining centers, fixtures, automation solutions, programming, education, and aftermarket support. This kind of all-in-one solution is known as a turnkey solution for machining. Customers can purchase all the equipment and assistance needed for a specific project. This trend has led to increased machine tool manufacturers providing a convenient one-stop shopping experience for metal parts manufacturers. With this approach, they can purchase everything needed for a specific machining project, including machining centers, tools, fixtures, and automation for handling workpieces from one source.