Machining is a term that refers to a variety of technologies and procedures in the manufacturing field. There are also different types of machining processes and tools, where some are standalone while others are used in conjunction with others. To help simplify what machining is, the processes and the techniques, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide.

What Is Machining?

Machining is the process of cutting material into a final form and size to make parts, tools, and devices. While machining is most commonly used to shape metals, it can also be used on a wide range of raw materials, including wood, plastic, ceramic and stone. Machine shops use the necessary equipment and tools such as mills, lathes, and drill presses to cut material while 3D printers add specific material.

What Are Machine Shops?

A machine shop is a place where metal parts are cut to size and combined to form mechanical units or machines. These machines are used directly or indirectly to produce the everyday necessities and luxuries our modern society requires.

Inside machine shops, you will find machinists who use specific equipment for certain tasks. From lathes and mills to drill presses, a machine shop can turn nearly any material into useful tools using these impressive pieces of machinery.

To ensure parts meet the requirements and fit the intended machining tool, parts must be cut with a high level of precision. Some examples of what machining is used for include engines, bicycles, appliances, and kinetic or mechanical projects among many others.

Machining A Wide Range Of Materials

Machining is mostly used to manufacture objects, parts or tools made from metal such as stainless steel, aluminium, brass, titanium, and copper. Stainless steel is common in precision machining as it is strong, durable and corrosion-resistant. Aluminium, however, is lightweight, easy to work with, and cheaper than stainless steel.

Brass is another less expensive machining material but should not be used in semiconductors since it contains zinc and tin. Titanium is also strong and lightweight with good resistance to corrosion but it is more expensive than other materials and can be difficult to work with.

Copper is a good electrical conductor, and its malleability makes it suitable for the manufacture of items such as jewellery. This versatile and robust metal works extremely well as an electrical conductor. Plastics are cheap and non-conductive, making them ideal for machining and use in a wide range of industries, including medical, electrical and scientific.

Different Machining Processes

Machining is the act of removing material from a workpiece to create a precise item or part. A machinist will use the following machining processes to cut and remove material in a machine shop.


Turning is the process of rotating a workpiece while moving metal against a cutting tool, which is primarily done on lathes.


Milling involves using a rotating cutting tool that applies cutting force against the workpiece. This is among the most versatile machine shop equipment and method.


Drilling is the process of making a hole or improving an existing one with a rotating cutter. Drilling is most often done on drill presses, although occasionally drilling tools are used to create holes in specific lathes and mills.


The boring method is one of the most popular ways to finish and expand pre-existing holes because it is one of the most dependable methods. This technique delivers precision, and it’s simple to do on a workpiece.


Reaming refers to the use of a rotary cutting tool to smooth an existing hole on a workpiece. This cutting operation removes material and is primarily used to level the walls of a hole.


Primary Machining Techniques

The two primary machining techniques are subtractive and additive manufacturing. Machinists use these techniques to either remove or add material to a particular part or component.

Subtractive Machining

Machining is a prototyping and production technique that removes unwanted material from a larger piece to create the required form. This method is also known as subtractive manufacturing since it involves removing a substance.

Additive Machining

Additive machining, which is also referred to as 3D printing, is a newer production approach. It enables machinists to construct lightweight but strong 3-dimensional objects from a digital model with absolute precision.

Related: CNC Machining Versus 3D Printing: Choosing The Right Technology

What Are The Basic Machining Tools?

There are many types of machining tools which may be utilised alone or in combination with other equipment at various stages of the manufacturing process. While some machine shop tools have more specialised functions than others, here is a list of the basic machining tools.

Cutting and Boring Tools

In a machine shop, cutting tools include saws and shears which are used cut materials, such as sheet metal, with specific dimensions.

A boring tool is used to expand or reshape a previously drilled hole. To correctly locate the hole’s exact centre, machinists may use a jig borer or a horizontal boring machine to make the cut. Today, companies are relying on CNC machines as they offer tremendous accuracy and repeatability.

Drilling and Turning Tools

Drilling tools are instruments that rotate to produce round holes in a workpiece by removing material. A machine shop may have a dedicated drill press for hole creation or specialised equipment such as a lathe or CNC machine that can be attached to compatible machines.

Turning tools, on the other hand, rotate a workpiece while a cutting tool removes material and shapes it according to specification. In a typical machine shop, the most common type of turning machine is horizontal lathes.

Grinding Tools In Machining

Grinding tools use a rotating wheel to make light cuts, sharpen tools, or create a finish on a machined workpiece. Pedestal grinders are commonly used in machining to sharpen cutting functions on turning and milling machines. Grinding tools can also deburr and remove any surface imperfections on a workpiece, creating a smooth finish.

Milling Tools For Machining

A mill uses a rotating cutting surface with several blades to create holes or cut designs out of the material. The milling machine is used to mill flat and irregular surfaces, and also to drill, bore, cut, and create slots on a workpiece. The Bridgeport Mill is a brand that became ubiquitous in machine shops around the world.

Recommended: What Is A CNC Machine And How Does It Work?

Machining Services At PRV Engineering

PRV Engineering can work with all types of metals offering a wide range of precision machining services. We manufacture parts and components of nearly any dimension for a host of industries. Our team of experts works closely with several companies in construction, oil and gas, automotive, aerospacedefence and rail. Some include the following:

  • CNC Machining with True 4th Axis Capability
  • Full 5 Axis Synchronous CNC Machining
  • Deep Hole Drilling
  • Large Format Machining
  • Prototype Development and Testing

Please visit our website for more information about our wide range of products and services. To keep up to date on all things manufacturing, engineering and technology, please follow our weekly blog filled with fascinating articles. Don’t forget, we are attending Subcon Show 2022 which is taking place at the NEC Birmingham from 7 – 9 June. Register now and come talk to us at stand E121.

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