What is Precision Grinding?

Mary McMahon

Precision grinding is a manufacturing process used in the fabrication and finishing of metal parts with very tight tolerances. These parts must be sized and finished exactly or the finished product will not function correctly. Factories can perform precision grinding on site or choose to contract it out to a company specializing in this service. Many urban areas, especially those in manufacturing regions, have a facility offering this service and many such companies also do fabrication, producing parts to order using specifications provided by clients.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

The precision grinding process can be used for tiny parts such as those in electronics, as well as very large ones. It involves the use of various tools to size, shape, and texture the surface as needed. Some techniques used by precision grinders include Mattison grinding and Blanchard grinding, also known as rotary surface grinding. A technician will determine which technique or techniques to use in the finishing of a part based on the specifications of the project and the needs of the client.

These techniques are used in the production of parts for electronics, scientific instruments, aerospace, and medical equipment. This equipment is usually very sensitive, and the level of variance allowed for parts is limited. Components with any unwanted protrusions, coarse surfaces, or dimensions only slightly too large or too small will be discarded. Many precision grinding facilities focus on a specific industry, applying years of experience and specialized engineering skills to their projects.

Clients can approach a facility with a part in need of machining and finishing, or they can request fabrication from start to finish. The facility needs precise specifications and any mockups, if they are available. It also usually needs to know how the part will be used, as this will impact the metal alloys used in production as well as the finishing techniques. The requirements for space shuttle parts, for example, are different from those for car parts.

Precision grinding careers usually start with apprenticeship in a facility, although some people attend a trade school to learn machining skills. Supervisors in such facilities usually have extensive experience and may also have training such as an engineering degree. Rates of pay vary, depending on the region and the kind of work performed, and some work places come with benefits like health care and pension plans. Many such workplaces are unionized, with the union advocating for employees to get benefits and fair wages.

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