What Is Precision Manufacturing?

Our guide to precision manufacturing will take you through what it is, how it works, and why it matters in any industry that strives to elevate quality, work quickly, and cut costs.

Precision Manufacturing: What Is It?

Precision manufacturing involves creating highly accurate and workable components from designs. It requires using tools like computer numerical control machines to remove areas from a piece of material until you have made a complete shape.

Accuracy is becoming more critical as parts become smaller. Precision engineering focuses on component design, while precision manufacturing is about the creation. CNC machines can cut pieces to precise specifications, small and accurate parts with tight tolerances — or little room for error.

Precision manufacturing has significant benefits in a world where users need accurate, high-quality products quickly and on budget. Manufacturers have evolved their processes over the years, and the addition of innovative technology that integrates machines with advanced computer programming allows them to respond rapidly to the evolving market.

The Core Principles of Precision Manufacturing

Precision manufacturing arose from the need to create components that work effectively and withstand the rigors of everyday life. The most notable difference between typical manufacturing and precision manufacturing is that the latter focuses on high tolerances. It produces components with greater accuracy, fewer defects, and high repeatability — the ability to perform repetitive tasks without deviation.

In addition, precision manufacturing applies lean principles, implementing efficiency, and waste management throughout the manufacturing process. Producing precision parts results in excess material, as the process requires removing pieces until only the final product remains. CNC machines reduce human error and, therefore, unnecessary waste. Precision manufacturers are always looking for ways to decrease scrap further, allowing the customer to benefit from cost savings on bulk orders.

Continuous improvement is another core principle of precision manufacturing, and constant technology advancements regularly enhance the process. Many precision manufacturers adopt a culture of continual improvement and commit to looking for methods to make the process faster, cheaper and more reliable.

Methods of Precision Machining

Precision machining is a high-velocity process used in precision manufacturing. It relies on machine tools controlled by computer software for producing components.

CNC machining starts with engineers or designers who use computer-aided design software. They translate their designs onto a computer-aided manufacturing file, instructing the CNC machines about the tools and processes. CNC machining is a broad term that can include milling, drilling, boring, tapping and turning.

Depending on the application and requirements, several precision machining methods are available.

  • CNC milling:Rotary cutters remove material from a workpiece in this subtractive process. Users can change the tool, direction, pressure, cutting speed, and angle to create different components.
  • Multi-axis CNC machining:Many CNC machining tools have multi-axis capabilities, which means they can perform several processes simultaneously. This innovation saves time in machine setup and component creation.
  • Swiss machining:This type of CNC machine creates parts by bringing stock to the tool, while typical CNC machines do it the opposite way. They are highly accurate and often run unattended for prolonged periods, reducing labor costs.
  • CNC turning:In this method, the workpiece rotates on a central axis, while a single-point cutting tool moves linearly to remove material.
  • Precision grinding:Precision grinders perform one of the final steps in the manufacturing process. Abrasive grinders create a flat surface on components with a smooth finish and produce close-tolerance finishes by removing any excess material.
  • Electrical discharge machining:This precision machining method uses sparks to shape metals. It brings the tool and the workpiece close together to create an electrical arc. This process raises the electrode’s temperature and melts the metal. Often, EDM is an ideal choice for hard metals, which can be challenging to shape with other CNC machines.
  • CNC laser machining:As the name suggests, this method uses a high-frequency laser beam to engrave or slice workpieces. While EDM only works on metal components that conduct electricity, laser machining is suitable for metals and non-metals.

Precision Manufacturing Industries and Applications

Precision manufacturing is essential for many industries and applications due to its tight tolerances, repeatability, and capacity. It has many applications in tooling and creating finished products, but some of the most common include the following.

  • Prototyping: Many industries require accurate reproductions of a design. Precision manufacturing is ideal for creating detailed and precise prototypes of many designs.
  • Automotive: Automotive applications require intricate components for engines, chassis, and more. Precision manufacturing makes many of these parts.
  • Medical: Technology has changed the face of the medical industry, and advanced machines can even perform surgeries. Medical components require micro-level detail, made possible by precision manufacturing.
  • Aerospace: Aerospace applications need the most advanced and reliable equipment and machining tools, suitable for rugged and durable materials. Precision manufacturing can create the quality of components required for aerospace performance and safety.
  • Defense: Similar to the aerospace industry, defense requires components that maintain reliability in even the most challenging conditions. Precision manufacturing has applications across the defense industry, from developing prototypes to full-scale pieces.
  • Electronics: Precision manufacturing enables the miniaturization of complex electrical components used in many consumer electronics applications, such as computers and cell phones.

The Future of Precision Manufacturing

Precision manufacturing continues to aim to enhance the accuracy, quality, speed, and cost of creating intricate parts. Technology has already changed the face of manufacturing, and we can look forward to more exciting innovations in the future. The Industrial Internet of Things could result in real-time monitoring of operating conditions by embedding sensors. Adding multiple axes to CNC machines will make them more flexible, increase accuracy, and boost manufacturing speeds.

In addition, sustainability continues to be a primary concern across industries due to the consumer demand for renewable resources and carbon footprint reductions. Precision manufacturing processes must evolve to reduce carbon emissions and leverage renewable sources to align with this global need.

In short, the future is bright for precision manufacturing. It has always been a flexible and innovative process, and this trend is likely to continue.

Stay Ahead of the Curve With Setco

Precision manufacturing relies on quality tools to achieve accurate and reliable components. Setco has been in business since 1912, and we specialize in rebuilding, manufacturing, and repairing spindles, milling heads, and other components to provide reliable and efficient precision parts across industries. At Setco, we pride ourselves on helping you achieve the speed, quality, and flexibility you need to stay ahead of the curve in a competitive field.

Our expertise, experience, and global resources make us the world’s largest independent spindle rebuilder. We have the tools, knowledge, and state-of-the-art equipment to deliver precision parts fast, on budget and to your specifications. Learn more about our precision parts manufacturing and sourcing capabilities, or contact us today to learn more.

Previous ArticleShould You Repair or Replace a Machine Spindle? Next ArticleSpindle Noise: Common Causes and Troubleshooting Tips