Trend toward more complex components
While there used to be separate machine tools for each machining process, today the technologies are increasingly merging. In particular, turn & mill machines or milling-turning machining centers allow highly productive complete machining of components. High-speed milling increases the surface quality of components, while ultrasonic technology efficiently machines materials that are difficult to machine, such as glass, ceramics and hard metals. Grinding can also be effortlessly integrated these days. The same applies to non-cutting technologies such as laser ablation. The abundance of machining processes and the versatility of machines have led to workpieces changing as much as manufacturing technology. The trend is to reduce the number of components for a product, which goes hand in hand with greater complexity.
Currently, the focus is increasingly on additive processes – initially in prototyping in the form of 3D-printed plastics, but long since also on an industrial scale. Metallic 3D printing will probably never replace machining, but machine tool manufacturers have recognized that the process is a serious addition to modern value chains. Additive manufacturing is thus opening doors into a new era of machining.