A CNC machine shop is usually a large room, building, or workshop where heavy machining, sometimes a type of subtractive manufacturing, takes place. In a typical machine shop, machinist use specialized machine tools to create identical or interchangeable parts, often of plastic or metal. Most commonly, these parts are used in the production of motor vehicles, aircraft, wheelchairs, sports equipment, computers, and electronics. However, machine shops can also be found in woodworking shops, textiles, metals, ceramics, electronics, dentistry, aerospace applications, and others. In addition to being used to manufacture machinery, a machine shop also produces parts and assemblies from previously-manufactured materials. Often, a machine shop serves as a service center as well, providing repair and maintenance services to clients.
Machine shops are generally categorized according to their main tasks. The most common types are repair shops, making and assembling shops, and material and supply shops. Within each of these three categories, there are sub-types, such as sanding and drilling machine shops, milling machine shops, fabricating and grinding shops, power tools used in machining, soldering and brazing machine shops, and CNC (Computer Numerated Control) machine shops. While machine shops perform all these tasks, other functions may be performed by specialized technicians within machine shops, such as quality inspectors and engineers. Machine shop staff include operators, machine operators who specialise in particular types of operations, and material and supply management staff.
Most machine shops are designed to produce high quality products, but some also produce on demand items, such as jewellery and watches. To perform on demand manufacturing, machines used in these shops are often referred to as “labor ready” machines, as they are generally capable of completing a particular job very quickly, sometimes in less time than required by the customer. For example, if a machine shop receives an order for a specific amount of jewellery, it can usually complete the order in one day or receive an additional order for additional jewellery the following day.
The role of machinists is similar to that of machine operators, in that both perform the same basic operations. However, machinists do not perform any mechanical tasks; rather, they are responsible for precise measurement, quality control, and precise material testing. Machinists must have a wide knowledge of many types of materials, including steel, aluminium, fibreglass, wood, plastic, and more. As well, machinists are often found working in conjunction with other personnel in machine shops, such as quality inspectors, maintenance workers, and electricians.
There are two types of machining: direct and indirect. Direct machining is faster and produces more precisely; it is often used in metal fabrication and other industries. Indirect (or mixed) machining produces a similar result but at a much slower pace. Both types of machining can be combined, but direct methods tend to be more common.
As you can see, a machine shop consists of many different roles and positions. This article only scratches the surface of what machine shops perform. If you are seeking employment within this industry, you may want to speak to a recruiter to learn more about the specific machine shop positions available. In particular, we’re looking for individuals skilled at CNC machining (or CNC programming, which is used to program CNC machines) and other types of machining.