Micro-Endmills – not the same old grind

Endmilling is a mainstay of micromachining. And while micro and macro milling operations share certain similarities, there are several key differences—and surprises. One eye opener when shopping for micro-endmills is their cost—as the size goes down, the price goes up. Sometimes way up. Where a commodity 1/8” endmill might cost $6, a micro version 1/10th that[…]


Micro Scopes: Making Endoscopes Smaller

Once-revolutionary microdevices that allow doctors to examine internal parts of the human body are now commonplace. One of the most commonly used of these devices is the endoscope, and its use is growing. The U.S. endoscopy market was valued at more than $9.87 billion in 2011, according to Sara Whitmore, analyst manager at iData Research[…]

thread whirling

Thread Whirling Boosts Productivity

Ever since British machine inventor Henry Maudslay introduced the first modern screw-cutting lathe towards the end of the 18th century, machinists have been cussing him. True, the world as we know it couldn’t exist without screw threads, but that doesn’t make cutting them any easier. Compared to other turning operations, single-point threading is slow, requiring[…]


Building with Chopsticks: MEMS Hexapod Technology

  In the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage, doctors put a new spin on the term “house call.” Using microminiaturization technology, scientists shrink a team of surgeons to the size of the flu virus, then send the group on a mission to destroy a blood clot deep inside the brain of a Russian defector. (There’s no spoiler—you’ll[…]


Faster Times: Machine Shops Achieve Rapid Prototyping Turnaround

In the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, weapons engineers aboard the USS Enterprise didn’t need to search the galaxy for rapid prototyping (RP) shops to model their phaser designs. All they had to do was program the ship’s holodeck with whatever death-ray design an engineer dreamed up in the shower, test the device on[…]

complementary focus

Complementary Focus – Machining with femtosecond lasers

Anyone who’s spent time in a sheet metal shop knows that lasers are an important fabrication tool. Modern laser-cutting machines can plow through steel sheet as thick as your hand, hold tolerances to a couple “thou” and deliver paint-ready edge quality to boot. Fabricators aren’t the only ones who know the value of lasers. Need[…]


Microboring: when drilling just won’t cut it

If the editor doesn’t change the font size on me, the period at the end of this sentence measures about 0.02″ (0.5mm) across. It’s tough to drill something that small or smaller, but with a modern CNC Swiss-style machine and the right drill bit, it’s doable. But what if your customer wants a couple-tenths tolerance[…]


Down to the Wire – ‘Spiderman’ microwire used in medical devices

Spiders have been doing it for millions of years: Spinning out material that’s stronger than steel, and—metaphorically at least—lighter than air. Luckily for the spider, she doesn’t have to cut tight-tolerance features on her delicate tapestry, or twist it up into precision coils and helix shapes to catch her meals. The microwire industry is spinning[…]


CFRP gets tough love from microtools

Carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) is a corrosion-resistant and lightweight material used in everything from paintball guns to Formula One racecars. The composite material has an “ultimate tensile strength” approximately four times that of steel and unrivaled strength-to-weight ratio, meaning it’s not only stronger than alternative materials, like aluminum, but you also need far less of it[…]