The Difference Between Machining and Tooling

Machining And Tooling

Folks can be forgiven for thinking that all tooling involves the use of automation today. It’s so prevalent and apparent in big assembly production, that many observers are shocked when they find out some work is still done manually with expert artisan skill involved.

Machining Explained and Applied

The process of machining is an old one that has been around for centuries. Today, it is handled with a number of different electronic or motor-driven power sources. Sometimes it is managed entirely by computer programming, and other times the work is directed by an expert specialist with either direct tool control or controlled systems. The process can range from drilling and creating cavities to milling and threading. The common factor is that machining involves removing material from a target resource to give it a shape while still retaining its original integrity. A machining process is typically applied to metals, but it can be applied to plastics, wood, stone, and other materials with the right equipment.

A good amount of CNC machines involves machining processes, working with a target block or component, and removing material from different angles until the desired shape is achieved. There is no guesswork involved; the scope, scale, location, and amount of resource that is removed is defined and mapped down to the millimeter level. No surprise, computers and CNC machining take this work to an even more exact practical science, producing parts at a speed and level of accuracy that can’t be matched by human work, even at an expert level.

Tooling Provides the Building Blocks for Specialized Machining

Tooling, on the other hand, is an approach in manufacturing intended on creating the tools to do the work or function with the materials to be machined. Tooling involves everything from crafting cutters to designing the assemblies that operate system fluids and power sources. There is an incredible range of work involving metrics and measurement, as exactness is still needed for the actual application of machining at the contact level, regardless of how well a software program is written.

Tooling can be and is often times a custom approach for a specific manufacturing system. This can usually involve specialized frames, jigs and holders that have to be created to hold resource material for the machining process. Additionally, tooling addresses the cutting and grinding equipment itself, specifically the high-quality edge these tools have to have to do their job correctly when applied. The tooling process can range from the design work for the specialized tool’s build to the mold or die fabrication to the creation and refinement of the tool itself.

There is no question that tooling matters for the manufacturing process and machining. Poor quality tooling is going to produce poor quality work. Worse, it can also be a safety hazard, seriously injuring those working with bad equipment or even causing fatalities. This is a trade off in quality tooling versus lower, discounted approaches. Higher-quality tooling will take longer to fabricate right, but it lasts longer with greater reliability and safety as well as value for performance. Hands down, industrial users will always favor the highest quality possible; experience again and again reinforces the fact that cutting corners on tooling costs simply ends up costing ten times as much or more with lost production, damage, resource waste, and even workplace injuries.

Customized tooling will vary depending on the nature of the project and what is necessary to reach completion. In some cases, a simple one-off temporary tooling is needed. In other cases, long-term permanent and durable equipment is necessary. For example, just about every satellite NASA builds is a custom job. That requires an incredible amount of custom tooling, work, framing, assistance tools and fabrication in the lab until the satellite is built correctly and ready to meet the latest challenges in space. Some of NASA’s work can take years to reach fruition and launch, so the tooling has to be durable and reliable for that period. Cost, of course, will then vary depending on the scope and scale of what’s needed.

One of the big drivers that is going to be a gamechanger for one tooling option versus another tends to be the tolerances required of the equipment made. Low tolerances obviously tend to be easy to produce. However, high tolerance designs take an incredible amount of work as well as very specific materials to produce. For instance, fast-cutting high-quality cutters and grinders have to be made from metals harder and with greater density than the materials they will be applied to. They need to be able to do the job as well as not fall apart or go blunt quickly on application. Only certain materials are capable of such demands, which in turn drives up the cost of the related tooling.

Bring in Evden for Experienced Professional Help in Tooling and Machining

There’s a lot of confusion back and forth between tooling and machining, with the two terms frequently being misapplied to the other. However, understanding the differences above helps provide clarity about how one needs to be in place first (tooling) for the other to occur effectively (machining). And remember, the equipment alone doesn’t make the product. It takes expertise in applying the tooling process and then running the machining correctly, whether by CNC approach or manually, to produce the expected end product in manufacturing.

Evden Enterprises has been and continues to be a key player for industrial clients in terms of both tooling design and fabrication as well as direct machining of end product materials for assembly, application, or unique build projects. Because our specialists are directly familiar with every major application of metal fabrication with tooling and machining, we’re able to help our clients work through unique and specific challenges for their factory and production needs. Whether it’s direct CNC machining services, or unique tooling needed, Evden is ready to help.