History of Machine Tools

Industries rely heavily on machine tools. Precision metal parts are vital components to so many machines and other products. If these parts were made by hand, manufacturing could not possibly keep up with the demand. Fortunately, CNC machines are on the job to produce quality parts with strict tolerances. Machine tools did not appear overnight. Like many modern inventions, they evolved.

Forerunners of Machine Tools

Today, CNC machines are everywhere, and finding places to purchase a machine and its parts is easy. For example, a mill in Birmingham could just search, “machine tool supplies Alabama” and find everything it needed nearby.

The devices that began the trail that led to modern machine tools date back to ancient Egypt. Bow drills and potter’s wheels were early examples of simple machines that turned to produce products.

Early Lathes

Lathes appeared throughout Europe as early as 1000 BC, but it was not until the Middle Ages that true machine tools began to evolve. These early examples were driven by human, animal or water power. They were commonly used by tradespeople, such as clockmakers, to make parts for their own products.

Steam Power

With the industrial revolution of the 19th Century, came reliable, high-pressure steam engines. These engineering marvels were used in many applications one of which was powering machine tools. Driven by a new power source, machining became faster, less expensive and more precise. 

Electricity and Computers

In the 20th Century, electricity was supplied to homes and businesses and machine tools had an even better power source. Electric lathes were even faster and more reliable than their steam counterparts. With the development of computers, the computerized numerical control (CNC) machine was born, allowing machinists to program instructions that would produce the most precise metal part ever made.

Industry would not have reached its current heights without machine tools. They have a long history from early ancient beginnings to today’s high-tech machines.