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What is Machining? A Machining FAQ

example of machining

What is machining?

Machining is a prototyping and manufacturing process that creates a desired shape by removing unwanted material from a larger piece of material. Since a part is built by taking away material, this process is also known as subtractive manufacturing. For information on additive manufacturing, read our companion FAQ on rapid prototyping.

What are different types of machining?

Various machining techniques have been around for decades, but most fall into three principle processes each requiring a specific tool and experienced machinist. They are:

  • Turning- Turning or Lathing involves rotating the workpiece on a machine, while a single-edged cutting tool remains stationary. The cutting tool is slowly moved parallel to the workpiece’s rotational axis, removing material as it goes.
  • Drilling - Drilling results in creating a round hole by rotating a cylindrical tool parallel to the workpiece’s axis of rotation. The hole created is equal in diameter of the tool that was used.
  • Milling - Milling is the process of removing material, using rotary cutters, from a workpiece in a feed motion perpendicular to the rotational axis of the cutting tool. This is one of the most common forms of machining used today.


How does machining work?

In modern product development, machining is most often done using a CNC machine, which stands for Computer Numeric Control. In essence, the machine uses computer software to take CAD design models and map out toolpaths, turning the designs into 3D machined parts. The CNC can create parts from a wide variety of materials, in varying types of finishes, with tolerances created to the nearest .001” from solid material. Unlike rapid prototyping, parts are machined using real materials reflecting the density, finish, and porosity of the finished design. Machined parts can be used for representative testing, models including sliding components where friction is a factor, and for sealed components requiring 0 rings and gasketed surfaces.


What are some advantages of machining?

  • Choice of a variety of finishes and materials
  • Tighter tolerances down to .001"
  • Real materials and real densities


What are some disadvantages of machining?

  • Only works from one side at a time. The object needs to be turned and repositioned manually
  • Requires a skilled machinist
  • Materials and time to machine can be expensive


What is an example of machining?


Ready to start prototyping or manufacturing? Synectic utilizes multiple prototyping and manufacturing methods in house. Find out which method is right for your project and see how we can help get your invention off the ground. Contact us and get started today.

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