Manufacturing has undergone drastic changes in the last ten years. Massive production plants give way to small-scale industries that deliver low volumes of custom parts. These facilities, called CNC machine shops, are well equipped to provide CNC machining and prototyping services.
Today, you can order and get CNC machined parts or prototypes from these machining shops in a short period. This guide contains valuable pointers to help identify the best CNC machine shop for your manufacturing projects.
What is a CNC Machine Shop?
A CNC machine shop is where suitable materials get fabricated into CNC machine parts. You’ll find that CNC machine shops are available as floors or rooms, even buildings. Specifically, the machinists in these shops use CNC machines to cut and shape metal and plastic materials into specific machine parts.
Moreover, some CNC machine shops are equipped with advanced multi-axis machines to create precise and complex custom parts.
Depending on the manufacturing capabilities, these shops concentrate on specific industries: automotive, aerospace, medical devices, and so on. Some shops have hired capable design and analysis engineers and can provide you with complete engineering design, verification, and production of your idea.
Thus, you’ll discover that top-tier CNC machine shops have advanced CNC technologies to handle all machining services. This ensures that they stay relevant and competitive in the machining space.
What Can You Find in a CNC Machine Shop?
You’ll find that functional CNC machine shops contain many pieces of CNC machining equipment used for various operations. They include:
1. Milling Machine
The milling machine is one of the most pivotal pieces of equipment in machine shops. Computer Numerical Control (CNC) milling machine uses pre-programmed software to automate subtractive manufacturing operations. This automated machine comprises a vertical spindle and revolving head. Further, the head contains a rotary cutter fed to the workpiece to remove excess material until almost any desired shape is formed.
Additionally, CNC mills are available in different configurations. They include the 3, 4, or 5-axis mills. Note that the higher the number of axes, the more CNC mills can fabricate parts with complex geometry and intricate details.
As such, the modern 5-axis CNC milling machine is most suitable for manufacturing complex parts. But it is more expensive due to its flexible features. Thus, this impacts the final cost of intricate custom parts.
Unlike the CNC mills, the manual milling machine doesn’t have a CNC system. Thus, it gets operated by hand, making it more labor intensive. But then, the manual model is an excellent option for fabricating a single metal part.
A CNC lathe comprises a chuck and multi-sized cutting tools. The lathe rotates the chuck holding the stationed workpiece while the cutting tool removes excess material. Thus, the lathe machine is most common for CNC turning operations. More so, CNC turning is well-suited for symmetric components and is compatible with many materials.
Before using the machine, the machinist sets the cut’s speed, feed rate, and depth to get the desired shape of the custom part automatically. Experts often use this machine to fabricate electrical components in machine shops.
3. Grinding machine
A grinding machine uses a high-quality grinding abrasive wheel made of small hard particles to shave off small layers of materials and form a very precise dimension with great or mirror-like surface finishes. Such operations are used for high-precision parts and it is recommended to use them only for tolerances IT 7 or higher. They are costly and take up time.
4. Drill press
The main components include the vertical spindle, chuck, clamp, and feed/manual lever. Generally, drill presses apply in drilling holes in any part. When using a drill press, the machinist uses the feed lever to control the movement and depth of the drill bit into the workpiece. Sometimes, a coolant or lubricant gets added to ensure a smooth, precise drill. More so, drill presses provide more power, stability, and accuracy than handheld drills. Thus, they are indispensable in CNC machine shops.
5. EDM Equipment
EDM stands for Electrical Discharge Machine. Unlike other machining tools, EDM uses electrical sparks to penetrate compatible workpieces and fabricate them into machined parts. The exceptional feature of this machine is that the cutting force is close to zero. So this ensures that the piece does not get deformed during its processing. Engineers often use this machine to fabricate hardened precision parts and die cavities.
6. Surface Finishing Tools
When the parts are complete, you sometimes need to get additional properties. Such as mirror-like surface finishes, colors, glossiness, or smoothness. All of them require special treatment so a good CNC machine shop usually has at least a small set of post-processing equipment. Some CNC shop manufacturers also offer polishing, bead blasting, and anodizing services.
7. Coordinate Measuring Machine
Control equipment remains essential to check the tolerance of the parts and evaluate their properties. Hence, coordinate measuring machines ensure error-free operation of various directives and provide data reports on machined parts. Moreover, they are precise and can measure almost any dimension.
Machinists move the 3D scanner around the workpiece to capture its different parts and provide its 3D model. With this model, manufacturers can quickly tell whether a workpiece is compatible with a machining process. The process usually takes 3-4 minutes.
9. Vernier Caliper
Vernier caliper applies in measuring different dimensions. They include inner sizes, outer dimensions, and depth of the workpiece.
10. Micrometers and Pin Gauges
Machinists use a micrometer screw gauge to measure a component’s precise depth, length, and thickness. Also, pin gauges measure and inspect the diameter of small holes.
In a CNC machine shop, the machines perform different production tasks, either manual machining by a CNC machinist or equipped with CNC technology.
In addition to machinery, the manufacturer usually stores raw materials that can be used for machining parts. However, for manufacturers with small-size CNC shops, their raw materials may be stored elsewhere, such as in a warehouse.
There is a specialized area containing computers equipped with CAD software where machinists can design CNC parts in digital ways.
How To Optimize Your CNC Machine Shop
As we know, once you’ve optimized your CNC machine shop and made it work in some way, you have limitless opportunities to improve and scale up your production. Here are some tips for optimizing.
1. Guarantee One-Stop Post Finishing
When you have an urgent project, it is wise to choose a machine shop that can offer one-stop services. It is because a complete CNC machine shop not only provides fully CNC machining services but also various post-processing options. In this way, you can get perfect prototypes or precise parts at one time without visiting different suppliers to reduce development cycles.
Following are the post-finishing techniques:
- Hand Finishing and Form fit function: A common aspect of hand finishing is adding inserts or functional assemblies. For example, when an item requires screws or bolts in the assembly process, adding metal threaded inserts can make the threads more durable.
- Sanding and Polishing: In this process, the product defects such as burr, machine line, and adhesive mark from the surface of the part were removed by efficient hand sanding and polishing which may take hours.
- Painting and Printing: Clean paint represents the quality of the product. Painting and printing are done in a strictly controlled environment which may be done by spray guns or airbrushes.
- UV Coating: It is used to protect the material from scratches and ultraviolet radiation.
- Laser Etching: Etching refers to the process of material removal and in a machine shop etching is done on a specific area for printing a brand name logo or custom message before moving to mass production.
2. Strengthen Quality Control and Inspection
A good CNC machine shop usually can carry out a complete quality control inspection throughout the entire production process in order to produce high-quality prototypes and tight tolerances of CNC machined parts.
Quality control process
There are detailed inspection steps that are used for the quality control process of the product being produced by the CNC machine shop.
- Inspection by machine operator: The operators usually perform various inspections on the parts while they are still on the machines or immediately after they are removed from the CNC machines.
- Customer Communication: Effective customer communication is an essential element of delivering customer satisfaction.
- Verification of Purchased Products: All purchased products are subjected to a visual inspection by the receiving quality control inspector.
- Inspection via in-process Probing: Process Probing refers to the use of the automated probe to check the tolerances of the part in a part program.
- Inspection in the Quality control department: After the parts come off the machine and leave the hands of the operators, the quality control department performs additional inspection steps based on the statistical process control system.
At WayKen, we give you 100% promise to carefully monitor each project from start to finish to meet all customers’ exact specifications.
3. Ensure High-Quality Machined Components
Another vital element that ensures the work of a CNC machine shop is its staff. If the machine tools are the heart of the shop, machinists are its brains. A capable machinist can take a drawing and turn it into a part without any previous preparation. He can set up the machine tool and the cutting tool and do everything himself. A good CNC machinist will create complex programs for the CNC machining centers and provide the shop with complex and high-quality parts.
A professional machinist and craftsman should have skills as follows:
- Problem Solving Skills: CNC machinists should be highly professional and know how to fix any error, how to increase efficiency, and why machines are not at peak performance.
- Technical knowledge: Machines controlled by computers will need operators who understand CAD/CAM technology.
- Attentive: A little negligence can lead to a serious accident, so the machinist should have his full attention while working on the CNC machines.
- Math Skills: For understanding complex instructions the CNC machinist should have good math skills, and make sure items are designed and built correctly.
- Stamina: The machinist should have good stamina in order to perform under strict working conditions.
At WayKen’s CNC machine shop, our team of CNC machinists carefully carries out every step of the machining process with state-of-the-art technology such as EDM, 5-Axis Machining and Micromachining, etc
4. Improve CNC Machine Shop’s Safety
A CNC machine shop can be dangerous if you neglect the operating instructions. Thus, CNC machinists undergo special courses on machine shop safety and adhere to the current rules.
Below are vital tips to help optimize your CNC machine shop safety:
4.1 Incorporate Flexible Work Schedules
Not all machinists are workhorses! As such, don’t let your employees weary from tight work schedules. Instead, incorporate flexible work schedules in your machine shop. Besides, agile and healthy workers will contribute to productivity.
4.2 Use Appropriate Dress code for Specific Situations
Above all, safety remains paramount! Thus, you must ensure that all workers wear the appropriate clothes and gear when performing production tasks. Sometimes, extra wears like a safety mask and glasses-wearing are also crucial for specific tasks such as painting.
4.3 Proper Waste Management
Your CNC machine must embrace the concept of eco-friendly manufacturing and take responsibility for industrial waste products. In the long run, the action of environmental protection and clean shop can leave a good impression on each customer and keep them coming back for more.
4.4 Implement Fire and Other Hazards Preventive Measures
At times, CNC machine shops may need to store some flaming machining materials. Hence, workers must carefully keep and handle them to prevent fire hazards. On top of that, ensure your workers have extensive knowledge of fire control peradventure a fire incident does occur.
4.5 Regular Machine Maintenance
CNC machines also need routine maintenance to stay in top condition. Besides, regular inspection of the equipment can improve its lifespan. Thus, this reduces the risk of machine breakdown or capital loss from having to buy a new one.
However, some production anomalies frequently happen, how do manage, or fix them in the right way? Here are five steps to manage production anomalies prototype shops for you.
Tips to Choose a Quality CNC Machine Shop
For product developers and business owners, there are many things needing to consider before beginning a working relationship with a CNC machine shop:
1. Look for Long-term Value and Offer a Competitive Price
When you send your orders to a CNC machine shop, you also invest your time and money. Seeking a long-term, reliable machine shop may help you to resolve many unnecessary troubles. Also, the right manufacturing partners can save production costs. Of course, low prices are unrelated to quality work.
2. Find an ISO Certified CNC Machine Shop
An ISO 9001-certified CNC machine shop establishes credibility and trust with its customers at ease. This is because the certification guarantees that the parts produced from the machine shop meet the acceptable standard through proper quality control during and after production. Thus, you can stay assured that the machined parts you buy from these machine shops are of good quality.
3. Keep Customer Privacy
Your privacy is also of utmost importance when it comes down to patented designs. So, you must choose a machine shop that agrees to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). This ensures that your design specifications won’t be passed on to mysterious third parties.
4. Good Communication and Understanding of the Needs of Customers
Most machine shops with good communication skills build a steadfast relationship with their customers. You’ll find that they are readily accessible to handle all your design details through diverse media. Aside from this, they use a suitable feedback mechanism and promote the project’s development.
A Reliable CNC Machine Shop – WayKen
Are you still looking for a trusted CNC machine shop? WayKen as a prototype manufacturer can provide advanced manufacturing and rapid prototyping solutions for global customers. We assure quality, precision, and affordability at any volume of machined parts. Contact us today as our expert machinists will handle all your machining services. You won’t go wrong with us!