Machine tool

Machine tool

A machine tool is a powered mechanical device, typically used to fabricate metal components of machines by machining, which is the selective removal of metal. The term "machine tool" is usually reserved for tools that used a power source other than human movement, but they can be powered by people if appropriately set up. Many historians of technology consider that the true machine tools were born when direct human involvement was removed from the shaping or stamping process of the different kinds of tools. The earliest lathe with direct mechanical control of the cutting toolwas a screw-cutting lathe dating to about 1483. [Moore, Page 137, figure 213] This lathe "produced screw threads out of wood and employed a true compound slide rest".

The first machine tools offered for sale (i.e. commercially available) were constructed by one Matthew Murray in England around 1800. [Moore]


Machine tools can be powered from a variety of sources. Human and animal power are options, as is energy captured through the use of waterwheels. However, machine tools really began to develop after the development of the steam engine, leading to the Industrial Revolution. Today, most are powered by electricity.

Machine tools can be operated manually, or under automatic control. Early machines used flywheels to stabilize their motion and had complex systems of gears and levers to control the machine and the piece being worked on. Soon after World War II, the NC, or "numerical control", machine was developed. NC machines used a series of numbers punched on paper tape or punch cards to control their motion. In the 1960s, computers were added to give even more flexibility to the process. Such machines became known as CNC, or "computerized numerical control", machines. NC and CNC machines could precisely repeat sequences over and over, and could produce much more complex pieces than even the most skilled tool operators.

Before long, the machines could automatically change the specific cutting and shaping tools that were being used. For example, a drill machine might contain a magazine with a variety of drill bits for producing holes of various sizes. Previously, either machine operators would usually have to manually change the bit or move the work piece to another station to perform these different operations. The next logical step was to combine several different machine tools together, all under computer control. These are known as machining centers, and have dramatically changed the way parts are made.

From the simplest to the most complex, most machine tools are capable of at least partial self-replication since they are machines, and produce machine parts as their primary function.


Examples of machine tools are:

* Broaching machine
* Drill press
* Gear shaper
* Hobbing machine
* Hone
* Lathe
* Milling machine
* Shaper
* Planer
* Stewart platform mills
* Grinders

When fabricating or shaping parts, several techniques are used to remove unwanted metal. Among these are:

* EDM (electrical discharge machining)
* Grinding
* Multiple edge cutting tools
* Single edge cutting tools

Other techniques are used to "add" desired material. Devices that fabricate components by selective "addition" of material are called rapid prototyping machines.

Several regions of the United States became centers for machine tool development between 1800 and 1950, including Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Cincinnati, Ohio, Rockford, Illinois, Providence, Rhode Island, Springfield, Vermont, Windsor, Vermont, Hartford, Connecticut, and Bridgeport, Connecticut.

A collection of machinery showing photographs of the main types of metal working machinery is online at the [ Canadian Museum of Making] .

See also

* Tool bit
* Tool wear
* Clanking Replicator
* Multimachine - an open source machine tool
* James Fox (engineer)
* Machinist calculator



*Citation | last = Moore | first = Wayne R. | title = Foundations of Mechanical Accuracy | publisher = Moore Special Tool Co. | year = 1970 | edition = 1st

External links

* [ National Institute for Metalworking Skills Standards download page]
* [ U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook]
* [ American Precision Museum] —A museum that preserves historically important machine tools and helps to educate on the history of machine tools

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • machine tool — machine tooled, adj. a power operated machine, as a lathe, used for general cutting and shaping of metal and other substances. [1860 65] * * * Stationary, power driven machine used to cut, shape, or form materials such as metal and wood. Machine… …   Universalium

  • machine tool — ➔ tool1 * * * machine tool UK US noun [C] PRODUCTION ► a tool used in a factory that uses power to cut and shape metal or other strong materials, for example to make parts for cars: »The factory is equipped with a limited range of machine tools.… …   Financial and business terms

  • Machine tool — Machine Ma*chine (m[.a]*sh[=e]n ), n. [F., fr. L. machina machine, engine, device, trick, Gr. ?, from ? means, expedient. Cf. {Mechanic}.] 1. In general, any combination of bodies so connected that their relative motions are constrained, and by… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • machine tool — Tool Tool (t[=oo]l), n. [OE. tol,tool. AS. t[=o]l; akin to Icel. t[=o]l, Goth. taijan to do, to make, taui deed, work, and perhaps to E. taw to dress leather. [root]64.] 1. An instrument such as a hammer, saw, plane, file, and the like, used in… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • machine tool — n. an automatic or semiautomatic power driven tool, as an electric lathe, punch press, drill, or planer: machine tools are used in making machines or machine parts machine tool adj., vt …   English World dictionary

  • machine tool — n. A power driven machine for cutting or shaping or finishing metals or other materials. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • machine tool — machine tools N COUNT A machine tool is a machine driven by power that cuts, shapes, or finishes metal or other materials …   English dictionary

  • machine tool — machine′ tool n. mac a machine, as a lathe, used for shaping of metal and other substances • Etymology: 1860–65 machine′ tooled , adj …   From formal English to slang

  • machine tool — ► NOUN ▪ a fixed powered tool for cutting or shaping metal, wood, etc …   English terms dictionary

  • machine tool — noun a powered machine for cutting or shaping or finishing metals or other materials • Hypernyms: ↑machine • Hyponyms: ↑drill press, ↑grinder, ↑shaper, ↑shaping machine * * * noun, pl ⋯ tools [count] : a tool (such as a drill) that is powere …   Useful english dictionary

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