What is Machining?

  • Machining is a subtractive manufacturing process where material is cut away from a larger piece of stock to make it a certain shape or size.  Machinists use machines to hold cutting tools, and then drive the machine using different strategies to make parts.  Machining is most commonly associated with metal cutting, but almost any material can be machined including plastics and wood. 

    Machining is most commonly accomplished in one of two ways, Manual and Computer Numerically Controlled, both of these have to do with how the machine is driven.  A manual machine requires physical input from the operator.  In order to move a manual machine the operator must turn handles, flip levers, push buttons, etc.  This style of machining is thought of as more “old fashioned” but is still used in modern day shops for prototyping, or short run production situations and is a skill that every machinist must learn.  A Computer Numerically Controlled or “CNC” machine is driven by a computer, and will make movements automatically.  CNC machining is more common in machine shops today and can be used in a variety of situations.  CNC machines are used for everything from rapid prototyping to long run production of parts.