The Art of Micromachining
Micromachining refers to either the material deposition or removal at the tiniest of scale, involving features smaller than around 0.001”. This is quite commonly achieved by using a cutter or tool with a diameter smaller than 0.015”. Now consider what that means for both tolerances and inspection…we’re talking accuracies in the 0.0001” range, or less.
But that isn’t all. There are myriad executions and applications for micromachining. And when it comes to metal − Stainless steel, titanium, aluminum, you name it − micromachining does not discriminate!
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There are various types of micromachining methods. Micromachining processes can be done with lasers, micro EDM and micromechanical processes. Think of these three methods as umbrella-like categories as there are more specific methods that fall under them. Because the complete list is so extensive, we will not dive deep into the specific methods of micromachining, rather just cover the fundamentals.
Laser micromachining is great for more advanced materials and involves completely changing the surface structure of the material.
Micro-electrical discharge machining is similar to typical EDM processes as it involves the thermal abrasion that occurs between the tool and workpiece, just on a much smaller scale.
Micromechanical processes involve the use of cutting tools to remove material and typically utilize micro-cutting and milling processes. For example, a Swiss-type machine.
Industries utilizing micromachining
It isn’t an exaggeration that micromachining is becoming increasingly relevant as a production process as it makes its way into more and more industries. The industries most predominately utilizing this manufacturing process are:
- Military and defense
- Semiconductor and electronics
Should you get into micromachining?
Getting into the specialized business of machining miniature parts is one that usually occurs as a transition and becomes the right choice as opportunities to produce extremely small parts presents themselves more frequently. Maybe you are considering moving in this direction, and if so, there are obviously going to be benefits and challenges. Micromachining doesn’t require completely new thinking, but it does require a new approach, new programming and new machines to accomplish the machining of extremely small parts.
A major plus is that this area of the industry is still extremely niche. That means, at this point, competition is relatively low. And if you do a bit of research about the growing industry, you will quickly see that it is rapidly expanding. According to marketsandmarkets.com, the micromachining market is expected to reach 3.3 billion USD by 2025 and it is currently at 2.4 billion USD.
Micromachining equals micro-measuring
Micromachining can produce parts so small you can hold hundreds of thousands of them in your hand at once. Because of their microscopic quality, traditional inspection and measuring tools simply won’t work. Therefore, different approaches to this postproduction process are needed. Shops that list micromachining in their capabilities typically opt for either an optical approach or a tactile approach.
The optical approach involves either using a microscope or projected image to judge tolerances by eye. The tactile approach uses a probe with a touch trigger to measure any surface variations.
Dig deeper into micromachining
Don’t forget that micromachining processes still very much integrate advanced machining processes, in many ways it is very similar to standard CNC processes. For example, finishing processes, inspection and measurement, even utilizing hybrid technology apply to the micro level. Below you will find a collection of books covering these topics and more.
As mentioned above, the micromachining industry is becoming more popular so demand for micromanufacturing is increasing. Here is a resource that covers the rapidly growing segment. This text highlights basic principles, tools, techniques and the latest advances of micromanufacturing processes.
Micromachining of Engineering Materials
This book explains the foundational principles of micromachining practices that are currently used and being developed in industrial countries. A pretty technical read, this text is probably most appropriate for a more seasoned micro-machinist who is interested in learning more specifically about advances in material removal that have led to micromachining, procedures for precise measurement, molecular-level theories and more.
Accuracy Enhancement Technologies for Micromachining Processes
This book focuses on the demand for micro-featured components and how to achieve successful micromachining. More specifically, this book discusses novel machining strategies implemented in various advanced micromachining processes to improve machining accuracy, energy consumption, component durability, and miniature-scale applicability. The book’s main goal illustrates the innovative machining strategies that can be used to augment the micromachining processes.
Modeling Grinding Process as Micromachining Operation
Just as the metrology strategy alters with miniature parts, so does the finishing process. The quest for precision components and parts in manufacturing industries has led to an increase in the need for effective and efficient finishing operations that can satisfy this increasing demand.
Hybrid Micromachining Processes
This book details some of the recent hybrid micromachining processes used to manufacture miniaturized products with micro-level precision. The authors present research about the development of new micromachining platforms while integrating different technologies to manufacture the micro components in a high throughput and cost-effective manner.
Non-traditional Micromachining Processes: Fundamentals and Applications
This book presents a complete coverage of micromachining processes from their basic material removal phenomena. The research included covers effective utilization of material resources, improved efficiency, reliability, durability, and cost-effectiveness of the process are presented. You will learn new and recent developments in the field of micromachining and microfabrication of engineering materials.
Micromachining: State of the Art
The miniaturization of products is a trend penetrating almost every production field. This book hopes to assist the reader in accomplishing any related requirements and a more-than-satisfactory micromanufacturing technique. The aim of this text is to summarize existing knowledge and highlight current challenges, restrictions and advantages in the field of micromachining.
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