Machine Tool Power Sources Through the Ages

Author // NPR Car Talk
Posted in // Cnc milling services, Milling machine, Punch press repair

Machine tool repair service

Machine tools are used to shape and cut metal and other rigid materials. They are distinguished from simpler tools by their carefully controlled path of movement, which is guided by high precision machining technology. Machine tool services are an integral part of our economy, because these complex tools are used to make parts for even bigger tools that are needed in the manufacturing sector. The earliest records of machines describe the bow lathe and the bow drill, and these devices were just the beginning of the large selection we have today.

The first machine tools were powered by human and animal power and required lots of physical exertion to work. These manually powered machines have been almost completely superseded by electric power, and today machine tool services are more advanced and developed than ever before. Keep reading for a brief history of the different sources of energy used throughout time to power machine tooling.

  • Human and animal power

    The earliest machining services required a manual input of power to get the machines moving. As early as the third century AD, laborers in Rome turned cranks that connected to a sawmill. Later developments in the Middle Ages used treadles, or foot pedals, to power machines. This is most commonly associated with sewing machines. A treadwheel (similar to the treadmills used for exercise today) powers engines by utilizing energy generated from a human or animal walking inside of a large wheel. The movement causes the wheel to turn, and the machine tool is powered with this energy.

  • Water power

    Water wheels mark the transition from the need for manual power to the ability to harvest power from natural sources. Water wheels are large wheels that are partially submerged in a free flowing body of water, such as a river. The forced movement of the water causes the wheel to turn. The power generated depends on the size of the wheel and the velocity of the water flowing in the stream or river. This power source was connected to a machine and was instrumental in the development of externally powered machines we know today.

  • Steam power

    In the mid 19th century, steam engines rose to prominence as the most efficient way to generate power. Steam power is generated by burning coal, wood or other fuel to heat water to boiling, creating steam. When water turns into steam, the internal pressure of the boiler rises and some steam is released through pistons or turbines. The steam remaining in the boiler is condensed and then boils again to repeat the process. The moving parts of the machine can be referred to as mechanical work, and are used as a power source for other machine tools.

  • Electricity

    Modern industrial machines are almost all powered by electricity. Electric energy is transmitted through a circuit that is connected to a tool, and the tool can run without manual input. The movement from manual power to other sources of power was important for advancing machining technology, because workers were no longer tasked with completing hard physical labor to power the tools. The extra time and energy was spent theorizing about new machines and power sources. Today we have highly advanced machine tools that power the manufacturing industry.

What are your thoughts on the transition from manual power to the modern day electrically powered machine tools? Do you have any advice on where to find the most reliable machine tool services? Please share your ideas by leaving a comment below.

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