Basic machining processes are introduced on a Web site that is devoted to engineering fundamentals (1). Descriptions and illustrations of drilling, turning, grinding, and other common processes are provided for people with little to no prior machining knowledge. A waterjet is a non-traditional machining technology that uses high pressure streams of water with abrasive additives rather than solid cutting instruments to slice through metal and other materials. An in-depth discussion of waterjet operation and applications is available from Southern Methodist University (2). Waterjets are often cited as being much more precise than traditional machining techniques. The Waterjet Video Vault (3) contains clips of waterjet machines in action. The video of the foam cutting procedure is especially interesting, as it shows how quick and accurate the machining process can be. An online guide to cross process machining, which incorporates elements from various conventional and unconventional techniques, is provided by the Mechanical Engineering Department at Columbia University (4). Some remarkable and innovative techniques that have surfaced over the past few years are outlined, including underwater laser machining and plasma-assisted machining. Entirely different and exotic machining techniques are required for creating microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and other extremely small devices. The Caltech Micromachining Laboratory (5) maintains an archive of research highlights and papers on its homepage, including a paper on a MEMS-driven flapping wing for a palm-sized aerial vehicle. An online article from Modern Machine Shop (6) outlines some new technologies and research in the area of high speed machining. A particularly interesting section of the article describes a system developed at the University of Florida that aims to enable micromachining to achieve rotational speeds of standard machining processes, specifically up to a half million rotations per minute. Cutting edge waterjet innovations are the subject of a February 2003 feature from a publication of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (7). Extremely high pressure nozzles are being developed to improve cutting speed, and enhanced software for controlling machine movements is also a focus of study. This news article (8) from June 20, 2003 describes an electrochemical machining process that is being used to fabricate complex nanostructures. The work, produced by German and U.S. researchers, has the potential to compete with current lithographic processes.


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