A machinist is a highly skilled and in-demand job in the manufacturing world today. Whether you are working with a used CNC machine or using the latest technology, results are only going to be as good as the machinist’s efforts, training, and ability. To efficiently deliver quality results you must understand machine maintenance, own the right tools, and possess the know-how to use them.
It’s one thing to have the machining basics down, but knowing the right tools that you need to have in your toolbox makes all the difference in getting the job done quickly and accurately. To achieve the best results in the production of products and maintain optimal operating conditions for your equipment, here are expert tool tips for machinists everywhere.
Keep Up-To-Date Tools on Hand
A machinist’s tool list varies depending on the job but having the right tools on hand will allow them to get any job done quickly. Though they are an upfront expense, having the most common tools that are up to date will allow you to complete the most diverse jobs.
Here are the top 10 tools a general machinist should have at their disposal.
6” Scale – This is arguably the most widely used tool and a must-have for manual processes.
Combination Square – When properly used, a quality combination square is extremely useful in many processes.
Deburring Tool – Can be used to remove chattering marks from machining and very useful for rounding out rough edges
Telescoping Gauge – Used to measure the internal diameter of a hole, groove, or bore
Hand Tools – Every machine shop job uses hand tools somewhere in the process.
Caliper – These are necessary for accurate and precise measurement of both external and internal distances.
Dial Indicator – Typically used to measure deck clearances, lifter travel, component travel, crankshaft thrust and more. This tool can be used to measure small amounts of component travel and the distance between two surfaces.
Edge Finder – Also called wigglers, these are used to precisely locate the edge, center, and layout markings of a workpiece during machine setup operations. They can also be used to locate a previously machined feature.
Micrometers – This precision measuring instruction is often used to measure diameters, thickness, and length of parts of the material
Center Punch – Common and simple tool that is useful for every job shop to have
Pro Tip – Carbide tools cut faster and last longer than conventional cutting tools.
Patience Results in Quality
A successful setup is essential to machine parts that are accurate and precise. A lot of patience is required during tool inspection and programming of the machine. Rushing the setup phase can lead to poor results very quickly. Be prepared for breakage to occur since using little tools can be a challenge. As you work through the setup phase with patience, finding the sweet spot on a machine will make the lengthier process worthwhile. Take extra care to understand your machine inside and out, especially if you purchased it from a used CNC dealer. It’s very important to know if there are any issues, like backlash, and be able to identify the source of the issue. Backlash can lead to inaccuracy and inefficiency, which is especially important since a difference of just one-tenth can be the end of a job. Having patience during setup can prevent tiny errors from causing big losses for any machine shop.
Keep Tolerances and Errors a Part of Design
You can get a rough estimate of the final part by previewing the cuts that have been programmed. Many CNC software programs have the ability to preview a model after you’ve uploaded the design with planned cuts. By doing this, you can identify weak spots in the design and account for them during programming. This can reduce inaccuracies and time wasted on modifying parts.
Always Keep Spare Parts
This tip is especially important if you produce custom-manufactured parts. A very common mistake that machinists make is not keeping critical spare parts on hand. You never know what can happen during daily machining that might require a spare part. You might need robotic parts, conveyor system parts, or others. Having comprehensive spare parts available is extremely important to keep your machines at maximum uptime.
Create a Maintenance Routine
How should you structure your machine maintenance schedule? There is no clear-cut answer to this, but to be most efficient, you should schedule your maintenance around your business and equipment. Machines need regularly cleaned to avoid significant wear and tear from daily work. You should always perform routine and preventative maintenance on your machines for optimal performance and safety. A shop can waste a lot of time looking for misplaced tools or repairing machines that shouldn’t require repair. For this reason, a routine maintenance schedule is vital to ensure all required maintenance is performed on machines without missing a step.
Brush up on Your Computer Skills
One of the most important skills that take a machinist to the next level is fully understanding the G codes and M codes that direct the computer to create parts from metal. The most effective way to do this is to refer to the Operating manual for your machine to learn what the codes do. If you already have these down, advance your skills by learning the Macro B language of your machine controls. You can advance the decision-making of your machine by adjusting variables like compensation values, parameter settings, cutter radius, tool lengths, and work offsets.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to use the internet. There is a wide array of resources out there with all the information you could need about machining. In the technological age we live in, it is inevitable to use the internet for assistance with our processes.
Share Knowledge and Seek to Learn
To better develop yourself as a machinist and grow your shop, share and seek knowledge when you can. This includes machine-specific or job-specific information, such as the best speeds for different parts or feed rates. Read relevant magazines, network with fellow machinists, and absorb as much information as possible about software and programming trends to stay in the loop. This will only help you and your machine shop grow and achieve a more diverse skillset. At Caprice Machineworks, our people make us who we are. We thrive on opportunities to make connections with others in the manufacturing industry or like industries. Stay connected with us or contact us today!