If you want to know about micromachining, you must first realize that the process does not have just one name. Some call it microfinishing, while others refer to it as superfinishing. And even though it differs from honing, some call it short-stroke honing. No matter what you choose to call it, micromachining is a metalworking process that is used to obtain consistent surface finishes by removing any defects that were caused by previous operations such as grinding or honing. Usually done with abrasives, microfinishing improves the geometry of any part by correcting roundness or flatness issues. It increases durability, reduces friction and noise, and improves efficiency. And it can be used on almost any material. Not to be confused with polishing, microfinishing provides a finer finish with limited material removal.
Surfaces that are micromachined show less wear, hold closer tolerances, and have higher load bearing capabilities. Durability is a Key Benefit of Micromachining. Whenever two metal parts come into contact, the resulting friction produces heat that causes wear. Soon, the components are no longer performing efficiently and must be replaced.Improving the surface finish on these parts reduces the amount of surface contact they will have with each other. The friction between the parts is decreased, and this allows for better performance and durability. The increased life translates into lower operating costs and better performance.
Because of the operational advantages that micromachining provides, certain industries rely heavily on having many of their parts micromachined to some degree. The automotive industry, for instance, has many components that must endure harsh frictional forces and high temperatures. Here are two industries where micromachining is used often to create higher quality parts and devices:
1. Micromachining Helps Automakers Produce Efficient Vehicles
Automotive manufacturers are continually being urged to come up with efficient cars. In reality, high fuel prices and emission standards are demanding it. Micromachining gives both the industry and car owners the durability and fuel economy that they need. And, since microfinished parts eliminate the need for a break-in period, the damages that formerly occurred from improper break-in procedures are also gone. This can be seen in rear axles, where detrimental conditions and lack of recommended break-in procedures resulted in severe damages and efficiency losses. Some of the other automotive components that require some superfinish include:- Gearboxes- Bearings- Steering rack components- Axle ring and pinions- Crankshafts- Camshafts- Transmission components- Fuel-injection parts- Gears.
Of course, this is just a partial list, but the components here are indicative of car parts that require precision machining and little friction as a prerequisite for long life, safety, greater performance, and efficient consumption of raw materials and energy. And carmakers are not the only industry that requires its parts to be micromachined. Smooth surfaces on parts throughout the medical industry offer critical advantages to their devices and equipment.
2. High Quality Components are a Must in the Field of Medicine
Just as with automotive components, lives may depend on the quality and reliability of medical parts. Smooth surfaces are required for reduced wear and corrosion resistance. Micromachined surfaces also ensure the parts’ sterility by eliminating the tiny crevices in which bacteria could gather. Medically implanted devices are a perfect example of parts that need to be resistant to wear and bacteria. Think about some of these:- Shoulder joints- Cardio-pulmonary implants- Knee joints- Hip stem and femoral head for hip replacements- Bone screws and plates- Spinal implants- Blood contact partsThere is little room for error in the implants that replace or enhance the body’s natural moving parts. The same holds true for stainless steel surgical and dental instruments and for all of the components that make up the many pieces of diagnostic and treatment equipment in the medical industry.
Prototyping and Micromachining
Many of today’s critical components of the automotive and medical industry began as an idea that was turned into a prototype. Prototyping is the first step in ensuring that these parts perform correctly, and to do that, every finishing operation—including micromachining--must be completed before the component goes into production.