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What Is A Machine Shop?

June 01, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 213

A machine shop (also known as a "back shop") is a facility where machines are used to create or fabricate devices or parts from stock raw materials. These machines cut and shape metal into the desired forms. When machine shops were invented it led to an increased production of tools that could mass produce other tools, parts and products. Machine shops were an integral part of the industrial revolution, perhaps the main and driving force behind it.

Machine shops started in the late 1700s and early 1800s. At that time, John Stevens and his family pioneered technologies that would lead to many great achievements including steamboats, locomotives, naval construction, firearms and much more.

Eli Whitney was another pioneer of machining and was an early proponent of standardization and interchangeable parts. Eli Whitney was one of the first manufacturers to successfully standardize parts. He made parts that were interchangeable; the theory being that you could create parts that would fit in many different things or be used for many different applications.

In Whitney's case, it was for firearms. The story holds that he went to Washington D.C. with ten pieces of different types of firearms. Each parts' pieces were put in different piles. In a demonstration to the Secretary of War, he picked a piece for each pile and constructed a musket right there in front of him. Needless to say, the Secretary of War was amazed.

Interchangeable parts was one huge part of the industrial revolution, but the other was standardization. Standardization is the other, perhaps more important reason that machine tooling thrived. This allowed machine shops across the country and around the world to all make the same parts, to exacting standards. These parts could then be used in all sorts of different products.

These machines, or machine tools could be used by relatively unskilled labor. Not everyone had to know how to make a gun, just how to use a specific machine. You didn't have to be an engineer, you just had to be able to pull a lever or otherwise operate a machine. That's not to say that operating machinery is simplistic. Machine shop personnel are typically highly trained and some machining tasks require a very specific skill set.

As the creativity of the time came up with new inventions, machine shops could quickly adapt to make whatever parts were required. It turned out that the machine tools could do almost any operation as they were very versatile. Different sets of cutting edges could be added, or the machines could otherwise be adjusted to make the needed parts.

In the modern day, large equipment like automobiles, planes, manufacturing equipment and big engines are either typically made in a machine shop or return to one when in need of repairs. A lot of companies have a shop on site so that they can do custom fabrication of parts. Many universities and research facilities also have machine shops so that students can learn about repair and fabricating parts, or simply to create parts for their experimental custom applications.

Safety can be a big factor in these shops. Most of these facilities are well ventilated because tools like files and rasps, as well as other sanding devices, can create a lot of particulates that need to be filtered from the air. Workers need to follow safety standards and typically pass training sessions before they can use equipment. Safety goggles, face masks and other safety equipment needs to usually be worn by workers. Larger shops typically have a safety officer who overlooks these issues and is continually on the lookout for possible hazards.

John C. Monahan writes about many topics at many sites. For more information specific to machine shops, specifically Ohio machine shops, check out

Source: EzineArticles
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