Pushing Humanity Forward The Role That Machine Tools Play in Our Development as a Species


Our ability to work with intricate tools is one of the defining attributes of what makes us human. Over the centuries, our need for more precise and powerful machinery drove the innovations we refer to today as modern machine tools. A machine tool is a device used to cut or shape some form of material such as wood, stone, or metal and has been pivotal to our development as a species and as a civilization.

An Overview of Machine Tools

Archaeological excavations have revealed that the first machine tools date back to Ancient Egypt at around 1,300 BCE in the form of a lathe — these sorts of innovations are likely responsible for many of the advancements made by the Egyptian empire including shipbuilding, irrigation, and of course the construction of monuments such as the Great Pyramids. Over time, more advanced machine tools were developed, yet it was not until 1781 during the Industrial Revolution when Scottish inventor James Watt developed the steam engine that machine tools took an unparalleled leap in power. In fact, James Watt’s need for perfectly bored cylinders for his steam engine design actually inspired the English industrialist John Wilkinson to develop a precision boring machine to allow the steam engine to become realized.

The Machines of Today

Boring machines, lathes, drill presses, and gear shapers are just a few examples of the many kinds of machine tools regularly used in our industrial society. As time went on, more advanced forms of those primitive machine tools were developed, allowing for today’s precision, speed, and power. The Swiss-style lathe is just one example of modern innovation: this lathe is of a specific design that allows for extreme accuracy, sometimes holding tolerances as small as a few tenths of a thousands of an inch — this is equal to a few micrometers! Drill presses too have become more flexible thanks to a variety of end mill bits. End mill bits come in a variety of shapes and designs for different projects and materials; when browsing end mill bits, consider the material, shape, size, coating, and features of each bit to determine which drill bits are right for the job.

Maintaining Machine Tools

Since machine tools are more often than not hefty investments, it is best to ensure that your machine tools are properly cared for by employees to ensure that there is no damage and expensive repair cost. Machine tools ought to always be cleaned up after each use as debris could find its way into the internal components and compromise the integrity of the machine. Oil levels should always be maintained and never over-filled; too much oil can be almost as distressing as a lack of oil for a machine tool. Employees should be properly trained on the operation of machine tools — this means that employees ought to be alert to any strange smells, noise, or signs of distress while using machine tools as these could all be indications of failure and a need for inspection. Finally, always ensure that your machine tools are inspected regularly by professionals — a small investment in the life of your machine tools today can potentially save thousands in terms of repair or replacement costs in the future.