An Introduction to CNC Turning

As the World (CNC) Turns – The Evolution of CNC Turning

Computer numerical control (CNC) turning is one of the most popular automatic machining methods used in metalworking and fabrication shops. Manufacturers use this process to create round or tubularly shaped objects from wood and metal workpieces that can later be used to form materials such as engine components, construction materials, and even art.

CNC turning operates by using a lathe machine and stationary cutting tools to precisely shape metals into specifically designed components. The practice of turning metal workpieces to create shapes can be traced back to the 1840s when Stephen Fitch introduced the turret lathe for use in fledgling American factories. Initially used to create screws, this machine operated by a worker manually cycling the workpiece through a series of automated functions in a process then known as screw machining. In the 1950s, researchers at MIT perfected the use of computerization to better automate the screw machining process; this technique became known as CNC turning.

How Does CNC Turning Work?

During CNC turning, various changeable cutting tools operate on a rapidly rotating metal workpiece, shaving the metal down to the desired size and thus reducing its diameter.

The CNC turning lathe machine consists of a stationary or sliding headstock and a guide bushing. Operators secure the metal workpiece in the headstock via a collet, which grips the metal and rotates it with a spindle. As the metal turns at high speeds, the computer sends digital instructions to the lathe machine, creating predefined sequences in which the different cutting tools on the turret operate on the workpiece. The lathe gradually trims the piece’s diameter to form the desired cross-sectional shape, which can then be used for later applications. This process is also known as subtraction machining since it involves the removal of excess material from the workpiece.

The cutting tools are generally mounted on a turret, which serves as an indexing tool holder. When a particular tool completes its operation, the turret automatically cycles to the next tool it needs, allowing it to perform many processes on the workpiece in quick succession. Turrets that hold more tools generally produce more complex parts.

CNC turning is renowned for its high level of precision and relatively fast job changeover rate. CNC turning lathe machines can rotate bar stocks at speeds of up to 10,000 rpm and can produce parts with tolerances within 0.0002–0.0005 in.

What Are the Differences Between CNC Turning and CNC Milling?

Many professionals use the terms CNC milling and CNC turning interchangeably, but they describe different processes that yield distinct outcomes. Although they are similar in theory, CNC milling and CNC turning consist of separate operations that produce a wide range of parts.

CNC milling machines hold a workpiece in place with a clamp while their rotating cutting or drilling tools gradually remove material from the piece. In contrast, CNC turning machines rotate the workpiece itself while the tools remain stationary. Since it involves less moving parts, CNC turning can produce larger volumes of material at a lower cost than CNC milling; however, CNC turning only works for materials that incorporate a cylindrical profile, meaning that CNC milling is necessary to produce a broader range of cross-sectional shapes.

Which Option Should You Choose?

Because of the differences between CNC turning and CNC milling, it is important to discuss with your vendor the specific parts your product requires along with the most efficient processes by which they can be created.

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How Laser Beam Welding Can Help Your Business

How Laser Beam Welding Can Help Your Business

Manufacturers are increasingly turning to laser beam welding as a more precise and environmentally friendly alternative to arc welding and electron beam welding.

Laser beam welding operates by using concentrated energy beams (or lasers) to heat the surface of two or more materials at the desired joining point. Since laser beam welders amplify light to create their source of heat energy, they can target hyperspecific areas using precise energy controls. This makes laser beam welding ideal for a large range of welding scenarios, including fine-detail and multipiece welding. Many types of laser welding equipment exist, and each type offers specific advantages and disadvantages.

Laser Beam Welding Processes

Laser beam welders can choose between three different welding techniques. Each technique requires different equipment, practices, and materials, making proper selection essential to an efficient laser beam welding process.

Gas Lasers

The most popular laser welding technique uses gas to discharge a current that increases emitted light’s optical power. Most gas laser welders use CO2 lasers, which offer the highest-powered continuous-wave capabilities. CO2 lasers operate via efficient processes, making them ideal for consistent use in the welding industry.

Some industries also use helium-neon lasers because of their enhanced optical capacities and long coherence lengths. Although they are more expensive than CO2 lasers, HeNe lasers commonly appear in schools and laboratories because of their enhanced precision.

Solid-State Lasers

Unlike gas lasers, solid-state lasers use a solid laser medium to increase the optical power of emitted light. Thousands of solid media can aid with solid-state laser use, with the most common ones including Nd:YAG and Nd:glass. Welders must pump these media (typically by using radiation via laser diodes) to achieve a state of population inversion.

Solid-state lasers require less room overall than gas lasers. They also consume about 70% less energy. Furthermore, solid-state lasers have higher processing speeds, reducing heat warping on products.

However, solid-state lasers are typically more expensive than gas lasers. Since all solid-state media require rare earth metals for effective functioning, solid-state lasers can run up higher up-front costs, but their energy efficiency may make them cheaper in the long run.

Fiber Lasers

The newest laser welding technique, fiber lasers use fiber optic cables dipped in rare earths (typically erbium). Similar to solid-state lasers, fiber lasers pump using laser diodes, though they often require smaller and less expensive ones.

Fiber lasers have several benefits over both gas and solid-state lasers. Fiber lasers convert 60–80% of received energy, meaning that they don’t overheat and that they evenly distribute energy heat sources. Fiber lasers are also more steady and require less maintenance than other welding lasers.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Laser Beam Welding

Laser welding offers a safer alternative to techniques like arc welding, but it comes with a few drawbacks
that may limit its use for some applications. Below, we’ve outlined some of the main advantages and
disadvantages of laser beam welding.


  • Precision: Laser beam welding works with spot sizes as low as 0.2 mm, making it ideal for small parts and detailed welding.
  • Cleanliness: Laser beam welding doesn’t produce splatter, creating a safer and more efficient welding process than other welding techniques.
  • Robotic: The laser beam welding apparatus can connect with robotics, allowing easy automation of the welding process at rapid and accurate levels.
  • Open air: Unlike electron beam welding, workers can perform laser beam welding in open-air environments instead of vacuum-sealed compartments.
  • Heating: Laser welding has a small heat zone, making it perfect for detailing and welding small or fragile materials as well as equipment susceptible to heat distortion.
  • Quality: Laser beams typically have a cleaner and more consistent weld finish.
  • Hypercontrollable: Operators possess a high degree of control over laser beam intensity and direction, especially with fiber lasers, making them perfect for automated or semi-automated welding practices.


  • Cost: Laser beam welding is more expensive than other welding techniques.
  • Penetration: Laser beam welding cannot penetrate materials as deeply as electron beam welding, and beam size can only go as high as 19 mm depending upon the materials.
  • Reflectivity: Certain materials (such as aluminum and copper) can reduce the effectiveness of laser beam welding because of their reflectivity.

Craft Metal With Our Lasers

Laser beam welding has already drastically reshaped the welding industry. Lasers create precise, controllable welds at a fraction of the environmental cost, and they operate with minimal heat transfer and no splatter.

The conjoined functions of robotics and laser beam welding will help with large-volume welds, and researchers are developing more cost-effective laser welding techniques for small manufacturing shops as well. While laser beam welding will not supplant electron beam welding and arc welding, it’s already proving itself a viable alternative for a number of different applications.

To learn more about how Metal Craft’s laser beam welding solutions can help your welding quality and efficiency, contact us and request a quote today!

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Top Five Orthopedic Implant Devices That Keep People Active

Orthopedic devices have consistently dominated the biomaterial sales industry and are only expected to grow. Joint replacements alone topped $12 billion in sales in 2000, and have expanded exponentially since then. Orthopedic devices are used for many different things, such as reconstructive surgery, broken bones, and replacing knees, hips, etc. In this post, we will discuss the top five orthopedic implant devices that keep people active, healthy, and happy.

Five Most Popular Orthopedic Implant Devices and Their Uses

The following are the five most common implants that are used today by millions of people around the world:

  1. Orthopedic Nails: Coming in many different shapes and sizes, these devices are used to aid in the healing process of fractured bones. They are long metal rods that hold the bone together to help them regrow into the correct form.
  2. Orthopedic Wires: Wires, unlike nails, are easy to bend and manipulate, making it easier to use on smaller bones that have been fractured. They can be shaped into the correct form and, much like orthopedic nails, make sure the bone heals correctly.
  3. Knee Replacements:  After medicine, physical therapy, and all sorts of other treatment options fail to help ease the pain, over 600,000 Americans get knee replacements per year. It is one of the most popular replacement surgeries and is expected to top 3 million by 2030.
  4. Spine Screws: These devices are used for many different styles for spine surgery and are used for holding rods in place along the spine, holding muscles and vertebrae together, and more. They aid in healing serious injuries and help people become active once again.
  5. Bone Staples: Though they may sound a bit frightening, bone staples are incredibly helpful devices. They are versatile and are inserted directly into the bone to aid in healing fractures or connecting soft tissue to bone. They are most commonly used in foot and ankle surgery.

Orthopedic Implant Devices

All the above-mentioned medical implants are available in various types, however, the selection depends on various factors such as severity of the fracture, prices, etc. If you are looking for a reliable CNC machine services for your medical implants, you can consider Metal Craft and Riverside Machine & Engineering. The company has earned a great reputation in the medical device and implant industry. Contact us today for more information.

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Advancements in Medical Device Technologies

For quite a few years now, there have been a lot of advancements in the medical device industry. Chronic conditions of patients can be addressed by these advancements that have helped improve quality of life for millions of people. By analyzing average life spans, the well being of a nation can be measured by scientists. Innovations in the medical technology have led to the creation of life-saving devices and equipment. This post discusses how medical device technologies have helped increase life longevity.

How has the Innovative Medical Technology Helped?

Innovations in the medical technology have touched many lives in many ways. These technologies enable people to lead independent and productive lives, despite illnesses and pains. Here are some of the innovations or advancements in the medical technology, which have helped countless patients:

  1. Glucose Monitoring Technologies: Diabetes is a chronic condition, which affects people of all ages. This disease is caused due to excess level of glucose and sugar in the blood. This disease, if not treated well, can cause complications such as blindness or even damage of the peripheral nerve. However, those suffering from this disease can now easily measure and monitor their blood glucose levels with the help of glucose monitoring technologies. They can control the glucose level in blood effectively, and reduce further complications of the disease.
  1. Coronary Stents & Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator: Coronary stents are another medical device that have benefitted from advanced medical technologies. The stents are artificial tubes, which are used to keep the arteries open while treating a coronary heart disease. The use of these stents in the treatment of cardiovascular disease have drastically reduced the number of heart attacks or heart failures. There is another device called the Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). This device is implanted in the patients who have a risk of sudden cardiac arrest. How has this helped? There has been a dramatic rise in the cardiac arrest survival rate. It has been observed that 98% of patients with ICD can survive cardiac arrest. Without the device the chances of survival are just 5%.
  1. Surgical Advancements: The constant advancements in medical technology have also helped those who are undergoing different surgeries. Here are a few examples of the surgeries that got benefitted due to the medical advancements:
  • Aneurysms Surgery: An aneurysm is a bulge formed in blood vessels in different locations in a body. Due to advanced treatments, the recovery time from an aneurysm has dropped to around four weeks; with older procedures it took around an entire year to recover. With the use of new technologies in medical treatments, hysterectomy (having recovery time of six to eight weeks) got replaced with endometrial ablation, having recovery time of two to four days.
  • Knee Replacements: Previously, those suffering from knee injuries required home supports prior to technological advancements. Later, as the medical treatments became more advanced, total knee replacement is possible. It has been observed that knee replacement surgery has a good ratio of cost-effectiveness.
  • Cataract Surgery: Cataracts is a disease that affects vision. The surgery used to require three to five days stay in hospital. Today, this surgery is done in a day.

Medical Devices

Every year, medical devices are becoming more and more advanced, and safer. Like the aforementioned examples, there are several other areas where medical innovations have shown their advantages. Indeed, advanced technologies used in medical devices have helped increase life longevity and keep people active longer in life. Metal Craft and Riverside Machine & Engineering are proud and excited to be part of this industry and will continue to assist in making a better and healthier tomorrow.

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Metal Craft Maintains High Industry Standards while Maintaining a Low Carbon Footprint

Over the years we’ve heard a lot about sustainability, carbon footprints, and being ‘green.’ You might not think that a manufacturing company would consider being environmentally friendly an asset. But, as members of the high-tech industry as well as a member of the Elk River, MN community, we are always considering our impact in the world.

A prime example of our commitment to the environment began with our expansion plans in 2007.  As we were planning our new shop, we focused on three core values: quality, efficiency, and environmental impact. We wanted to build a shop that maintained high industry standards and quality requirements but was as energy efficient as possible. The 83,000 sq. ft. shop opened in 2009 and features an energy efficient design and systems that reduce energy use and resources.

Since quality is what we have built our reputation on, we designed the new production floor with this in mind. By placing the quality department in the middle of the shop floor we have improved the flow and the time it takes to reach it from any part of the building. Shop floor layout was made to accommodate easier flow of products and people. Better flow creates less confusion and congestion and improves efficiency.

A major concern in any production environment is lighting. Our new building has a production floor surrounded by windows with white walls and floors to increase brightness and visibility. During the day this natural light allows the shop to rely less on its energy efficient T5 fluorescent lighting. Although the windows provided light and heat in the winter, the summer required an energy efficient HVAC system to maintain comfortable temperatures. The system pushes cool air up from the shop floor during the summer and pulls warm air down from the ceiling in the winter reducing heating and cooling costs all year. Switching to a white vinyl roof on the building also lowered the temperature within the building during the summer months.

In addition to energy efficient windows, HVAC, and roofing, we installed a reverse osmosis system for filtered water to cut down on disposable bottles, a carpet made from recycled, a dedicated recycling and scrap area outside the building, and a runoff pond to allow rainwater from the building to safely re-enter the water table.

This building serves as a new standard for production facilities and we are extremely proud of our accomplishments. Employees reported higher levels of motivation and happiness in the new space. We have reduced costs and become energy efficient all the while continuing to provide the highest levels of quality and service to every one of our customers. To learn more about Metal Craft’s commitment to quality and the environment, contact us today!

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Metal Craft and Riverside Debut New Website

Have you visited our new website  yet? The new design is better suited to serve our customers and offers new features as well as additional information on the outstanding services we offer.

Redesigning the site allowed us to update the look and add features not previous included with the old site. With enhanced navigation, the new site works on all mobile platforms to deliver instant access when you are on the go. To get a greater understanding of our capabilities, we have created links for each one with more in-depth information added. This will help you find what you are looking for quickly and with ease.

It also allows visitors the opportunity to view both Metal Craft and Riverside’s capabilities in one stop; bringing ideas and solutions together to serve you better.

Although the site is new, the service and products you get from Metal Craft and Riverside remain the same high quality you have come to expect. We’d love to hear from you to discuss your needs and assist you in any way.   

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Understanding ISO Certifications and What they Mean for Manufacturers and Customers

When contracting for work, how can you be sure that work will be performed up to standards? If you perform the work, how can you easily inform potential customers that you are able to meet certain requirements? Holding a certification from a valued and trusted source is the perfect way to address each question.

The leading standards developer, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is an independent, non-governmental international organization that has a membership of 162 national standards bodies. They publish international standards to ensure that products and services are reliable, safe, and of good quality.

For the manufacturing industry, ISO standard 9001 is the generic manufacturing standard for a Quality Management System (QMS). It applies to all organizations regardless of the products provided. Implementation and adherence to a QMS ensures best practices, effective processes, and highest quality standards.

While most manufacturers are ISO 9001 certified, not all hold ISO 13485:2003  certification. This standard is the preferred or required method of meeting QMS requirements for medical device manufacturers. ISO 13485 is based off of ISO 9001 but changes the focus from continual improvement and customer satisfaction to standardizing regulatory requirements for medical device manufacturers. Compliance with ISO 13485 is the first step in meeting European regulatory requirements.

Metal Craft and Riverside also hold FDA Registration allowing us to produce and distribute medical devices that are commercially distributed in the U.S.

Metal Craft and Riverside hold additional certifications for specific industries. Below is a list of our certifications at each facility:

  • Metal Craft: ISO 9001; Medical device manufacturing certification ISO 13485 and FDA registration
  • Riverside: ISO 9001; ISO 13485, Aerospace industry AS9100C standard certification, and FDA registration.

We work diligently toward, and are extremely proud of, the certifications we have attained.  Standards are developed to protect and inform both the customer and the manufacturer. The high-quality products and services Metal Craft and Riverside deliver on a daily basis consistently exceed the expectations of our customers.  Certifications are proof of our dedication to upholding our own, as well as industry, standards.

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Yoda and Metal Craft Reveal Manufacturing’s Hottest Trends

Do you remember how you felt after seeing Star Wars for the first time? If you are of a certain age to remember when the movie was first released you remember that sense of awe. It was an adventure movie that harkened back to old time westerns but with concepts of the future. Back then, those robots and technologies were just fantasy but almost 40 years later we have integrated many of those ideas into our everyday lives.

So, lets’ look at how some of the ideas from Star Wars are hot trends in today’s manufacturing industry.

Robotics: Just like R2-D2 and C-3PO, robots are our friends. Robotics are a huge part of today’s manufacturing operations and add benefits such as added productivity with minimal impact on costs. Increasing operating efficiency gives a company a competitive edge in the marketplace. Lights out manufacturing, a methodology of fully automated processes, allows companies to integrate robotic systems into the line to continue production without workers constantly manning the machines.

Just like in the movie, robots work with humans to improve the operation of the plant. At Metal Craft, we use robotics for lights out manufacturing allowing us to run production 24/7 through automated systems.

Automation: Today’s robots don’t have the capability to think for themselves, yet, so they rely on the systems created by humans to run effectively and efficiently. It takes experienced workers, programmers, and careful planning to set up a lights out manufacturing environment. This is now a high-tech industry that relies on humans and machines to work together. The ability to run 24/7 enables long-term success of day-to-day operations.

Internet of Things (IoT): The internet can be a place of mystery and dark forces and some might consider it to be like the Dark Side. But Vader isn’t representative of the internet. It is more like a Jedi Knight who works toward guarding peace and justice. The internet brings people together, connects businesses to solutions, and communicates ideas. Utilizing the IoT connects machines with humans so that the two can work more closely together in unity and harmony, just as Yoda had hoped for.

Metal Craft delivers simple solutions for complex projects. Our custom precision manufacturing capabilities serve the medical device and implant manufacturing industries. When you need help and Han Solo isn’t around, give us a call. The Force is strong with us!

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Giving Thanks and Giving Back During the Holidays

Our core values of quality, service, and innovation go beyond just what we offer our customers. These values are a part of everything we do here at Metal Craft & Riverside and extend through to our family of employees and out to our extended family in our local communities.

Although we bring our service attitude to the community all year long, it is most enjoyed during the holiday season. The holidays are a time where we all begin to reflect on how we can make a difference to those around us. Charitable contributions are an ideal way to support causes, both local and global, and we encourage everyone to find a noteworthy cause and support it.

As for us, we are proud supporters of local food shelves and women’s shelters which directly help members of our communities that are suffering hardships. This holiday season we’ve raised over $1,500.00 for our local food shelves and we always adopt families to provide gifts for those who have come across hard times. Our company makes giving back easy and fun and takes pride in our how much we are able to achieve.

Moments Before Metal Craft & Riverside Holiday Party & Charitable Drive

It is important to us to give back to the community we live and work in. We hope that our example will be an inspiration to others to spread good cheer and their good fortune with those who are less fortunate.

From the Metal Craft & Riverside families to yours, wishes for a very happy and healthy holiday season!

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Metal Craft Thanks NASS For Another Successful Meeting

The beginning of October was the annual North American Spine Society meeting, where spine care professionals around the globe attend to share and discover the latest information, technologies, and procedures within the medical spine industry.

Metal Craft attends every year to showcase and support our medical device manufacturing capabilities among our customers within this critical industry. We want to thank everyone who engaged with us over the course of the three-day meeting.

Chicago, IL - 2015 NASS – Attendees at registration during Tuesday's sessions at the 2015 North American Spine Society (NASS) Annual Meeting meeting here today, Tuesday October 13, 2015.  The 2015 NASS annual meeting hosts spine care professionals from around the globe that are sharing the latest information, innovative techniques and procedures, best practices, and new technologies. © Photo by © NASS/Todd Buchanan 2015 2015
We truly enjoy attending NASS because of the many connections and discussions we have with colleagues and like-minded professionals about industry trends and advancements. This year many were discussing PEEK material, titanium, and other materials being used for a structural interbody cage. The focus, of course, is choosing and using the best material for bioactivity improvement and bone growth. This discussion is one we at Metal Craft are enthusiastic about having because we want to be sure we are always using the best quality materials in our products.

Overall NASS 2015 was another great success, and we wish to stay connected with everyone we met. If we met at NASS, please connect with us on Twitter to keep this discussion going and to get the most up-to-date information about Metal Craft. Thank you again to NASS for hosting all of us, and we look forward to next year’s meeting in Boston!


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