Modern manufacturing is essentially a process of ordering materials in standard bulk sizes and then cutting them to create products that consumers will purchase. For instance, a car company might order a roll of steel and then feed it through several machines, cutting out sections and punching holes in it before sending it off for final stage assembly.
Manufacturers use a range of tools for cutting, each with different applications. The following is a list of cutting tool categories they may use:
Welding relies on blasting metal with a concentrated hot flame to melt it, thereby creating a cut. Typically, manufacturers use welding to join two pieces of material together since the cut itself is usually quite inaccurate. The flame heats a region of the metal, generating an irregular edge.
Chop saws are stationary rotary tools that cut material to length. The spinning saw blade usually connects to a sturdy base via an arm. Operatives or mechanical servos then bring the saw down towards material placed on the base, creating a chopping motion.
Chop saws can be automated. They produce relatively accurate cuts and are great for high-volume operations, potentially making thousands of cuts before requiring servicing.
Chop saws cut either using sharpened metal edges or abrasive edges.
Grinders are a portable or movable version of chop saws. Tools have a handle connected to a rotating chopping blade. The blade allows operatives to shape and mold materials that are not amenable to stationary cutting tools.
Milling machines are machines that can bore materials along several axes – sometimes X, Y, and Z. Manufacturers equip these tools with several rotary cutting tools to perform a range of actions, including both piercing, cutting and filing.
Many milling machines come equipped with CNC technology. This allows manufacturers to program precise cutting actions via computer software. Once programmed, the software then sends repeatable instructions to the machine for highly reproducible results.
Milling machines come in several varieties. Proprietary is milling machines that the manufacturer uses solely for its own benefit and processes. Commercially-available milling machines are standard products, available to all firms as off-the-shelf solutions. Lastly, specially-built machines are machines designed for a particular purpose designated by the manufacturer.
A drill press is a tool manufacturers use for drilling precise holes in materials. Most drill presses feature a stationary base and then a movable arm that moves the drill bit.
Manufacturers put material on the base and then activate the drill head, moving it down into the material to bore it out. Unlike milling machines, drilling presses only operate along one axis: up and down.
Lathes are machines designed to remove material in a controlled manner, usually from a piece of wood. Lathes allow manufacturers to create smooth curved cuts. They attach material to both ends of the lathe and then rotate it as it comes into contact with a cutting blade. Lathes can be both manual and machine-programmed.