Know this, first of all: micro-machining was initially developed to tackle the rapidly changing marketplace. Products were shrinking but their components were becoming more complex. When traditional machining methods no longer cut it, these techniques stepped up to guarantee precision. No longer were CNC shops limited to trial and error, and innovators could begin turning their most imaginative concepts into reality.
As product volumes increased, so too did the number of orders that were placed. Machinists then started developing micro-techniques of their own. Over time, an entirely new way of machining was born, and countless industries have never been the same.
The world is changing fast, so the demand for intricate components has become increasingly heavy. Therefore, established businesses need well-equipped CNC shops that can handle micromachining projects. But what is it and why is it important to manufacturing? Are there any benefits, and how do you take advantage of them? Keep reading to find out.
What is micro-machining?
Micromachining is a mechanical process that uses varied types of manufacturing technology to create extremely accurate geometries on minuscule parts. It involves micro-tools with precision cutting edges. Those tools are then utilized in subtractive processes wherein parts have at least a few dimensions in the 1-999 micrometer range. A meter is comprised of one million micrometers, for some perspective.
Thus, micromachining is a technique that’s generally reserved for legitimate CNC machine shops, not DIYers or start-ups. That’s because it deals with exceedingly tight tolerances, fine geometries, and tiny tools. So, parts that are too small to be machined otherwise must go through this fabrication method to adhere to manufacturing standards and meet or exceed industry regulations.
Common types of micromachining
There are at least three different types of micro-machining methods that get used by highly-trained experts. Each one has pros and cons and they’re not all appropriate for every material or design. Either way, here is a brief explanation of all four:
Photolithography, or UV lithography, is the most popular micromachining method for fabricating printed circuit boards (PCBs) and microprocessors. It harnesses the power of light to create conductive paths within minuscule electrical components. The process further ensures optimal quality by hardening the photo-resistive PCB layers and/or silicon wafers.
Pulse laser technology allows Pioneer Cuts to micromachine components for delicate parts such as those on electronic and medical devices – all while causing little to no damage to the material. It uses infrared and UV lasers to generate high heat, which is then focused on the material to melt or evaporate various components. Instead of being cut with a tool, the ultra-violet light breaks elemental bonds directly.
EDM stands for electrical discharge machining. It’s a contact-free fabrication method that removes tiny pieces of material without compromising the component’s integrity. The process causes localized melting and/or evaporating with high-temperature plasma electrodes. Thus, it’s commonly used for producing micro holes as small as 10 microns in diameter.
The micro-methods used to produce parts depend on several factors including material and design. Moreover, each microprocessor requires years of knowledge and experience to complete. So, talk to an expert at Pioneer Cuts for more details.
The benefits of micro-machining
Micromachining has created several benefits for the CNC fabrication arena. The newfound ability to manufacture tiny, precise parts means more opportunities for economic growth and concept expansion. Micro-processed machined parts are reliably consistent, with repetitive scales for more efficient production (even for components with tight tolerances).
Enhanced micromachining techniques make single process machining much easier as well. Small parts can be milled and/or turned on the same machine to produce accurate geometries in record time.
In turn, that benefit creates another. It actually helps reduce lead times, increase productivity, and shorten the post-processing steps. The improved ability to cut cleanly also makes this method ideal for countless industries.
According to economists, micro-fabrication methods comprise a large portion of the manufacturing market yet still remain some of the most cost-effective options for savvy producers. That goes whether the project consists of making a single prototype or a bulk order for widescale distribution. Here are some of the other micromachining benefits that often get overlooked:
- It’s an extremely flexible technique that can be fully customized.
- The methods are contactless, meaning zero wear and tear on tools, parts, and machines.
- Machinists can fabricate a wide variety of different materials.
This technology allows CNC experts to fabricate metals, alloys, glass, polymers, ceramics, and even silicon. However, each method should be coordinated with the project’s materials to ensure optimal speed, quality, and safety. Therefore, speak to a certified machinist at Pioneer Cuts for advice.
Micromachining is all about ensuring precision without compromising the quality or integrity of a component. However, that means it also requires a high level of synchronization to establish the design and maintain proper tolerances from start to finish. So, regardless of the details of your project, it’s crucial to consider every element before choosing your technique.