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Advanced Precision Machining's machine shop blog deep dives into CNC milling and machining technology, industry news, trends, and so much more!
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May 17, 2023
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The Colorado-based provider of custom machining services shares everything you need to know about their CNC milling offerings on the enhanced web page.

LONGMONT, Colorado, May 11, 2023 – Advanced Precision Machining, a leading Colorado machine shop, has announced the launch of an updated page on their site. The revamped CNC milling services page provides an overview of CNC milling and explores its benefits, applications, and processes. It also includes detailed sections on safety precautions and best practices. 

As APM owner Gerry Dillon noted, “The milling machine is at the heart of every machine shop, and CNC is its lifeblood. If you’ve been wondering whether CNC milling services will meet your needs, start by visiting the new page.” He continued, “The hope is that it will serve as a valuable resource on all that our highly skilled machinists can do by utilizing the latest technology.”

Since 2005, APM has been providing a wide range of custom CNC milling services. From day one, the shop has used only the most advanced equipment, which includes state-of-the-art vertical milling machines. In their efforts to expand and improve upon their capabilities to produce high-quality precision parts, they’re considering adding a horizontal machining center (HMC) to their lineup, as well. You can learn about both pieces of equipment on the enhanced page.

The updated service page also delves into the CNC milling process. It lays out the five steps of every project, regardless of its scope, from designing the CAD model to conducting quality control checks and deburring or sandblasting. 

For those wondering whether CNC milling can produce the complex parts they need, there’s a section on applications, as well. Readers can learn all about the role that shops like APM play in the automotive, aerospace, medical, and energy industries. Other applications include art and sculpture, prototyping and model making, and jewelry and design.

“If you need custom CNC milling services, you’ve come to the right place,” Dillon said. “APM is a leading provider of CNC milling, and we promise precision, accuracy, speed, and repeatability with every project we take on.”

About Advanced Precision Machining

APM is a one-stop shop for all your manufacturing needs. From blueprinting and prototyping to milling and machining, their state-of-the-art shop is equipped to bring your vision to life. Staffed by certified CNC machinists and backed by decades of experience, they maintain the highest standards of quality and professionalism while they work. With a commitment to complete customer satisfaction, they’ll always finish your project on time and on budget. Contact Advanced Precision Machining today to learn more about their CNC milling services.


April 3, 2023
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In our tireless and dedicated effort to manufacture high-quality precision parts, and maintain a reputation for accuracy and on-time reliability, Advanced Precision Machining (APM) Colorado machine shop relies on an assortment of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines in our facility. In today’s modern machine shop, CNC equipment typically consists of multi-axis milling machines, lathes, routers and grinders, but also newer technology such as robotic welders, laser marking machines, and 3D printers. With origins dating back to the 1950s, what was known first simply as “numerical control” lessened the need for constant operator attention and took the machine tools out of the hand of machinists, allowing for a first of its kind automation. Today, the punch tapes associated with numerical control have given rise to advanced computing technology, programming languages and computer-aided design (CAD) capabilities, making CNC technology an integral part of most manufacturing processes.

At its core, CNC involves the use of computers to control the various machine tools listed in the first paragraph, and they function through the use of numerically controlled computer programs, most often written in a CNC machining programming language called G-Code. G-code sends the signals, or directions, to a piece of machining equipment on the shop floor directing such essential functions as cutting tool speeds, spindle position, feed rates, and all other coordinated movements. Most modern CNC systems have become highly automated and quite complex, augmented by the addition of CAD and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs. Due to the complexities involved with modern machining, CNC machinists have evolved to become skilled in all aspects of drawing and design, code writing, and equipment operation. When all’s said and done however, a precision machined part in the end is only going to be manufactured as well as the programming that was input to create it. Because of its importance, APM would like to provide a short primer on some common CNC programming methods.

As stated, CNC milling machines require a set of precise programming instructions to control nearly every aspect of the milling and machining process. After a CAD drawing is first drafted, the actual programming code (G-code) is created in a language that the CNC machine will understand. The program is then loaded into the microcomputer, or controller unit directly on the machine where it is stored in memory, then tested for accuracy. A CNC machinist next loads the required tools and material, then the computer directs the machine to perform the cutting operations according to the programmed instructions. Given the critical nature of CNC programming, let’s briefly examine three of the most commonly used methods: manual, conversational and CAM programming. 

  1.  Manual (non-conversational) CNC Programming

Perhaps thought of as the purest method, manual programming involves a CNC machinist preparing G-code commands without the assistance of a computer, thereby manually giving the CNC machine instructions on where to move, how fast, and on what path. Also known as non-conversational, it allows for complete control over a part program. This intimacy between programmer and machine brings out better machine performance when compared to more automated computerized methods. Because it’s done by hand, manual programming teaches strong discipline and is ideal for simple or high-volume work, although it’s time consuming and runs the risk of human error.

  1. Conversational (shop floor) CNC Programming

Conversational, or shop floor programming involves creating a set of programming instructions directly at the CNC machine using displays and menu-driven functions. The need to manually create G-code is either hidden or bypassed entirely, allowing a CNC machinist to step up to a machine and generate a CNC program quickly and easily. The program takes over and puts the machine in motion according to the commands given. It’s easy to learn and simple to use for small lots and short cycle times, but limited to more basic machine parts without complex tool paths.

  1.  Computer-aided Manufacturing (CAM system) CNC Programming

A computer-aided manufacturing system combines elements of both manual and conversational CNC programming by computer generating the G-code written in manual programming, then directly and automatically transferring it to the machine tool. The dimensions specific to a workpiece’s design are imported from a CAD system, the machinist directs the machining commands through a menu, the G-code program is generated, loaded into the machine, then it is left to run. Although it automates many processes and improves output, the total machine control associated with manual programming is limited. 

The description and methods shown for developing the CNC programs all have developed their own specific niche in the precision machining industry. They of course have a comprehensive list of additional pros and cons surrounding their use, and as any CNC machinist can tell you, their preferred use comes down not only to specific machining needs, but also personal preference. Be sure your machine shop chooses the optimal CNC programming method to deliver your parts accurately, on time and on-budget.

Need help with your next project requiring the precision and accuracy delivered by CNC, or want to learn more about the range of precision milling and machining options available to you, then contact our Colorado CNC machine shop. Advanced Precision Machining’s reputation for quality parts, on-time reliability and exceptional customer service cannot be matched! We’re happy to discuss any machining needs you have. Feel free to give us a call at 303.776.1910

For more APM machine shop information; Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @APMLongmont, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised in Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he began what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing.


April 3, 2023
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To an outsider unfamiliar with CNC machine shop operations, once the chips stop flying, the milling machine winds down and another precision machine part rolls out, they may well think the end product is accurate and up to specification. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. At Advanced Precision Machining, and any CNC shop for that matter, no finished part is delivered to a customer until it passes an inspection reporting process. A part’s dimensions must conform to the tolerances set in place for its design, and this includes thoroughly inspecting the finishes of all machined surfaces. As is often the case, a part may meet specific dimensional specifications, but must be scrapped because its overall appearance and surface finish is not up to standards. This not only results in an aesthetic issue, but more importantly, can negatively impact a part’s functionality.

The bottom line is that during the finishing stages of the milling and machining process, having to send parts to the scrap bin is less than a desirable outcome. CNC machinists by nature are detail-oriented, take great pride in their work and want to see a project through to completion. Scrapping parts as a result of surface finish issues can also be a real profit killer for machine shops. Poor quality leads to increased costs, more downtime, delayed deliveries, and in the worst case scenario, lost orders. The question becomes; how do machinists and shops address this issue? What can be done when the end results aren’t up to par? Let’s take a quick look at just a few simple tips and tricks on how to get the best surface finish possible using a CNC milling machine. Bear in mind that this is only the tip of the iceberg! 

  1. Increasing cutting tool speed

Faster velocities, measured in surface feet per minute (SFM) mean material is in contact with the cutting tool for less time. This works to reduce edge buildup resulting in poor surface finishes, and also extends the life of the cutting tool. Tool failure is a leading cause of damage to a precision machined part. Never estimate or guess at the required speeds for your job. 

  1. Always clear away/control chips

Clearing excess chips, or built up edge (BUE), and not allowing them to contact the workpiece during machining operations is a vital task and key to producing a high-quality surface finish. Chips and BUE have a tendency to build up, and if not cleared, can easily damage surface finishes as the cutting tool makes contact with them. Chip breakers, compressed air, and the best solution, flood coolant can be used to clear away chips and BUE for better control and less scratching/damage to parts.

  1. Different tools should be used for roughing vs. finishing applications

Don’t finish a part with the same tool used for roughing. Instead, slightly used roughing tools should be utilized for the bulk of material removal, while brand new, sharper tools should be saved and only used for finishing passes. Tooling insert radius, rake angle, feed rates and insert material itself, when combined with roughing vs. finishing tools can lead to a higher quality finish.

To the layperson, simply examining a precision machined part for its aesthetic appearance may seem all that’s necessary once milling and machining has ended and delivery is near. Thoroughly inspecting completed work, regardless of material, is instead a critical factor for a part’s functionality; especially for applications in industries such as aerospace and medical device manufacturing. Excess chips and/or BUE, slow operating speeds, and improper tool use are leading causes of poor surface finishes. Lack of machine maintenance, low levels of cooling fluids, poor setups, and CNC programming errors are also contributing factors. The tips we’ve provided are applicable across a variety of machine shop operations, including milling, turning and grinding, and if adhered to, should go a long way to improving the surface finishes on your problem jobs, resulting in satisfied customers and repeat business.

Do you have questions? Want to learn more about surface finishing applications? APM’s Colorado machine shop is available for all of your inquiries. We’re dedicated to manufacturing the highest quality precision parts while providing the best customer service experience in the machine shop business. For additional information or to request a quote, please visit https://advancedprecisionmachine.com or call 303-776-1910.

For more APM machine shop information; Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @APMLongmont, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised in Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he began what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing.


December 22, 2022
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With the holidays rapidly approaching, the ownership and entire team of professional CNC machinists at Advanced Precision Machining (APM) want to wish everyone seasons greetings and best wishes for a Happy New Year. We’d also like to thank our customers for their continued support and loyalty. The milling and machining business has remained productive for us, and the hard work of our employees has grown APM into one of the Front Range’s premier machine shop operations. Part of this work is dedicated to education and keeping our customers informed with regards to the many milling and machining techniques used in our sector of the precision manufacturing industry. So, as we reflect upon another successful year of operations and look forward to 2023, we want to take this opportunity to revisit what may appear on the surface to be a seemingly simple procedure we offer as part of our CNC turning services; the various methods utilized for generating screw threads. 

When looking at the simple threads on any screw, to the layperson, it might seem as if the machining techniques used in the manufacturing processes are among the least complicated on the machine shop floor. But in reality, due to generally higher cutting forces and tight tolerances, machining screws (aka thread turning), is significantly more challenging. When you factor in the additional demands required of micro-threading, utilized in products such as watches, eyeglasses, cell phones, and medical devices, you’ve upped the workload substantially. Herein lies the difficulties many shops face. From one-off specialty items, to mass-quantity production runs, more screw threads are produced in a given year than any other CNC machining element. 

While threading is used across many varying industries and takes on many roles, from the large scale down to almost micro levels for custom precision machining projects, every type of thread is ultimately machined to provide specific functions for specific applications. The processes involved in creating a screw thread are varied, encompassing a wide range of subtractive machining, deformative, transformative, and even additive methods. Today’s revolution in modern machine shop technology means precise and accurate screw threads can be produced more quickly, accurately, and efficiently regardless of size. What follows below is a brief look at the most common technique; the subtractive method of cutting screw threads.

Bearing in mind that thread turning involves both external and internal threads, with the latter being more demanding, choosing an appropriate application for machining screw threads is based upon the constraints of time, money, equipment, and the degree of precision needed. Subtractive CNC machining methods involve the removal of raw material from a blank, and are universally accepted as the most efficient, cost effective, and least complex methods to choose from. These include: Thread Cutting, Thread Grinding, and Thread Lapping techniques.

Thread Cutting (Tap and Die, Single Point, and Thread Milling Processes)

Tap and Die Method

  • Metal screw threading using taps and dies goes back to the eighteenth century. A tap is designed to thread the inside, or female surface of a hole, such as a nut. This can be done manually using various tap wrenches, or power assisted with a CNC lathe or high speed milling machine. Dies form mates for tapped components by threading the outside, or male surface, of a metal cylinder such as a bolt. Again, this can be done with hand devices, or with CNC machining tools.

Single Point Threading Method

  • Single-point threading is less common, and uses a single-point tool on a CNC lathe to impart a thread on the inside or outside of a rotating part. Single-point threading is favored over tap and die, or other methods, but only when certain manufacturing factors dictate it.

Thread Milling Method

  • Thread milling is a more accurate CNC milling operation in which a rotating multi-point tool threads the surface of a workpiece if a helical toolpath can be maintained. It’s a useful alternative to standard methods for producing threads with good form, finish, and dimensional accuracy. Faster work, less breakage, and left or right-handed threads can be machined using the same tool.

Thread Grinding

The precision manufacturing of screw threads can also be performed on a variety of grinding machines utilizing specialized wheels accurately profiled to the desired thread pattern that traverse along the revolving workpiece. Thread grinding is typically used to produce threads to very exacting tolerances, or in extremely hard materials. The most common machine, the universal type, specializes in threading gages, screws, plugs, rings, hobs, and even other threading tools such as taps and dies.

Thread Lapping

  • Lapping a screw thread involves a process of abrasion in which threads are finely finished on a workpiece by successively traversing, or lapping the workpiece as it revolves. Lapping helps achieve the highest precision and surface finish available, and is normally performed after thread grinding. Two surfaces are typically moved together via a machine with the abrasive material between them, producing the desired result.

Although the subtractive techniques involved in machining screw threads described above garner the most attention on the machine shop floor and are most commonly employed there, deformative or transformative methods, and even additive (3D printing techniques) warrant mentioning. Thread forming, for creating internal threads, and thread rolling, for creating external threads, both involve deforming or transforming the metal used to manufacture screw threads. In short, the threads are formed by pressing a shaped tool into a metal blank, commonly called a ‘thread rolling die’. Used in large production runs due to their efficiency, thread rolling/forming dies have the capability to produce one new piece per second and produce none of the waste, or swarf, that’s associated with subtractive methods. Additive manufacturing utilizing 3D printers is gaining increased potential for creating threaded parts, but the technology is not quite where it needs to be just yet. The good news is that further commercialization is on the horizon, and the industry is making some inroads into the dental implant and medical bone screw fields.

Need help with your next threading project, or want to learn more about the range of precision machining options available to you, then contact the CNC machine shop and thread generating experts at APM. Our reputation for quality parts, on-time reliability and exceptional customer service cannot be matched! We’re happy to discuss any machining needs you have. Call us at 303.776.1910 or send us an email.

For more APM machine shop information; Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @APMLongmont, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised in Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he began what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing.


December 22, 2022
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In the increasingly competitive industry of precision manufacturing, combined with current economic conditions, CNC machine shop owners and machinists today MUST have maximizing productivity and increasing efficiency as a central focus. This rings especially true for small and medium-sized operations, including Advanced Precision Machining’s (APM’s) Colorado machine shop. The good news is that we are in the midst of an industrial revolution of sorts (Industry 4.0) and thus far, despite teetering on the edge of recession, the manufacturing sector continues to thrive. Milling and machining work is rapidly transforming and evolving thanks to more advanced equipment, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, improved process automation, better analytics, preventative maintenance, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Now, machine shops find themselves in somewhat unfamiliar territory. Despite economic conditions,  competition is on the rise, and although the skills gap is shrinking, there still exists difficulty in filling CNC machinist positions. All of this, coupled with increased demand for high quality parts, means that milling and machining facilities must place even greater emphasis on efficiency and productivity. 

Thankfully, more modern technological advancements in today’s precision machining tools mean many machine shops have the ability to streamline their operations. The concepts behind lean manufacturing are now “en vogue”, and more businesses are focused on improving quality, eliminating waste, reducing time and effort, and reducing total costs. At APM, our staff provides CNC milling, turning, prototype development, and more machine shop services in our state of the art facility, and because of sound business practices, we continue to grow. We’ve managed to stay ahead of the manufacturing curve, and in fact, have tripled in size and sales capacity since opening in 2005. But times have changed and competition is up. To remain successful, we are always on the lookout for ways to keep costs down and increase our output, while maintaining the quality, reliability and exceptional customer service our clients have become accustomed to.

The old adage rings more true today than in the recent past…Time is money!  Do you want to make your operation more efficient and productive? No matter the size of the shop floor, there is renewed commonality in the desire for every company to incorporate some frequently described goals that ultimately lead to more efficiency and productivity. We want to use this forum to share with our readers a few of our favorite tips/techniques for improving operations, and most importantly, the bottom line in any CNC milling and machining facility. While by no means an exhaustive list, they should provide you with a clear starting point and set you on the right path to gaining a competitive advantage over your competition.

Improving Organization

It’s amazing the number of man-hours lost and dollars wasted due to a general lack of organization. You must maintain a well-organized place for everything, especially machine tools, and properly put things back into the appropriate place when done. Invest in better tool drawers, cabinets and/or shadow boards for example. Improve your labeling system. Think about the layout of your milling and machining equipment – does it maximize efficiency? Keep the shop floor and equipment clean. This all sounds elementary, but goes a long way to improving efficiency.

Upgrading/Investing in Machine Tools

In reality, machine tools are THE driving force machine shops rely on to make everything work together synchronously and efficiently. Without the right tools for the job, your shop will be treading water. Recent advances in precision manufacturing technology, most notably in the form of computerized numerical control (CNC), computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM), greater multi-axis capabilities, and additive manufacturing (3D printing), have led to revolutionary design and production improvements for precision machined parts. Are you on board with the latest and greatest? 

Eliminating Excessive Machine Downtime

Idle machines aren’t making money! A critical way to maximize efficiency is to minimize machine downtime. This goal can be accomplished in a number of ways including: improved run time production planning, organizing parts, investing in cutting-edge machine monitoring software, better preventative maintenance, setting more specific targets, and improving machinist training.

Prolonging Tool Life

The list here can be long. Think about converting to a high-pressure coolant (HPC) system, or increase your existing coolant concentrations. Routinely inspect your tool holders and inserts to avoid catastrophic failures, keep track of the amount of material being removed, and avoid excessive contact time with the workpiece. Think about investing in a harder insert grade if you can. Certain aftermarket coatings, such as aluminum oxide, can help you reduce cycle times while increasing your tool life, feed rates and cutting speeds. Cryogenic machining is also worth exploring and investing in.

Tool Management Systems

Want to keep your tool costs low and your setup times down? Invest in a tool management system (TMS). A good one allows you to seamlessly track and manage your inventory, and  helps eliminate costly over or under-stocking of your tool supply. Companies such as ToolBoss offer a number of systems to regulate and audit tool usage, performance and procurement. Software is even available to track all tools and issue purchasing notices, eliminating costly downtime and saving money.

Want to learn more about improving machine shop efficiency and productivity, or have a question about your next milling and machining project? Contact the expert CNC machinists at Advanced Precision Machining today. 

For more APM machine shop information; Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @APMLongmont, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised in Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he began what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing.


October 7, 2022
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The precision manufacturing techniques utilized by today’s machine shops are the result of an industry that’s dynamic and constantly evolving, allowing for the design and production of machined parts that are astonishingly more complex, accurate, and versatile now more than ever. Recent advances in milling and machining technology mean that shop floors similar to Advanced Precision Machining (APM) in Colorado are almost unrecognizable compared to what they once were in terms of specialized equipment and current capabilities. More traditional means of removing material to machine a part relied on a system of cams, mechanical linkages, and some sweat equity, but these historic methods eventually gave rise to what we see today…Highly sophisticated, computer-driven machining centers, lathes, and drill presses. Even newer technology introduced electricity, photochemicals, ultrasound, and 3D printing into the machining arsenal. Add in the progression of computerized numerical control (CNC), CAD/CAM software, and robotics to assist with automating certain tasks, and our industry has truly experienced a revolution!

Now, some nostalgic food for thought. Given all of this cutting edge technology presently in hands of CNC machinists everywhere, are we truly experiencing an improvement over some older ways of milling and machining a part? In almost every case, the short answer is a resounding yes! Surprisingly though, a machining concept introduced over a hundred years ago is having a renaissance of sorts today. Swiss-type lathes, pioneered in Switzerland for the watchmaking industry, are seeing their popularity flourish in recent years and are being increasingly utilized in machine shops running conventional CNC turning machines. Unlike their counterparts from yesterday, state-of-the-art Swiss-type lathes now rely on CNC and automation, and they’re a go-to machine for many high-precision, high-production applications that require accuracy. They’re more powerful than ever, generate faster cycle times, and have much greater flexibility and sophisticated controls that help streamline the machining process. Once seen merely as a specialty tool for one-off custom jobs, many machine shops are realizing the benefits and values Swiss-type lathes bring to the table and are installing this variety of turning technology for the first time. This is due in part to the increased demand for small, complex, low-volume machined parts from the defense, automotive, electronic, and medical parts manufacturing sectors. Machine shop owners the advantages they have over conventional lathes for turning small, intricate and fragile parts, especially those that are long, narrow diameter and cylindrical in nature. In short, CNC machinists are manufacturing parts today that would’ve been unthinkable 5 or 10 years ago on traditional lathes. 

What truly sets Swiss-type lathes apart, resulting in reduced setup times, secondary operations and work in process adjustments, is their specific design allowing for extreme accuracy and ultra-high tolerances. They differ from other lathes where the part is stationary and the cutting tool moves. Instead, Swiss turning lets a part move vertically while the tool remains stationary. The key to this operation is a “sliding headstock” style and a “guide bushing”. To explain, bar stock is held firmly in the machine with a “collet” and advanced, or slid vertically through the guide bushing closely past a stationary, single-point lathe turning tool. Only the portion being machined is exposed from the guide bushing to the cutting tool. This results in great rigidity during the CNC turning process minimizing deflection and vibration while maximizing accuracy and efficiency. In fact, the entire machining process can be completed in a single operation with one setup, reducing the number of times a part is touched during production. The use of live tooling and sub-spindles even allows for overlapping operations. Simply put, with a wide range of capabilities, Swiss-type machining is the most precise and efficient machining method for manufacturing the accurate and critical components customers demand. 

Of course, there are a few drawbacks. As expected, price is a common obstacle causing shops to stop short of adding a Swiss-type lathe to the mix with an average cost running significantly higher than traditional machines There are also some nuances to be learned for a CNC machinist new to the technology, and Swiss-type CNC turning certainly requires deft operation to ensure the demands of tight tolerances are adhered to. The learning curve is steep and requires different thinking regarding axis motion. Most of these machines use oil as the cutting fluid rather than water, so this is a concern when it comes to fire suppression. But, the advantages far outweigh the short list of disadvantages! What began with Swiss watchmakers, then on to screw manufacturers, has now become mainstream. The bottom line is that more and more machine shops have discovered the value of these machines as demand for ever-smaller CNC machine parts has grown. The future for Swiss-type machines will only expand, and machine shops that seek to adopt the technology can distinguish themselves with more high-end work and gain a competitive advantage; What every operation needs in these challenging times.

Would you like to learn more about Swiss-type machining? The discussion above only scratches the surface of this once traditional, but now revolutionary technology. For more thorough information on the benefits of turning with Swiss-type lathes, or if you have questions about your next precision machining project, contact the expert CNC machinists at APM’s Colorado machine shop today.

For more APM machine shop information; Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @APMLongmont, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised in Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he began what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing.


October 7, 2022
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No one has to tell machine shop owners and CNC machinists that it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate their operation in the midst of a precision manufacturing environment that’s experiencing a revolution thanks to evolving technology, new software, and increased connectivity. Add in changing consumer preferences and government policy, and it seems everyone in our industry is feeling the pressure almost daily! Most recently, the economic slowdown we are facing and potential recession mean the months ahead for our nation’s economy and business will remain quite volatile and dynamic. That means staying competitive in the local, national and global marketplace will require even more of a centralized focus on maximizing productivity and increasing efficiency!

This rings especially true for small and medium-sized operations, especially if you add in the lingering effects of the recent COVID-19 pandemic combined with inflation, labor shortages, and recent supply chain issues. To illustrate this point, small business surveys reveal that many business owners are uncertain about the future of their operations. No doubt, today’s economic challenges are unparalleled, but one has to remain optimistic about what the future may hold. At Advanced Precision Machining, we have faced down past operational slowdowns and reduced demand for precision manufactured parts, and we are now experiencing unprecedented growth. We continue to stake our reputation on meeting our clients’ needs for high-precision parts delivered accurately and on-time, all while providing the best customer service experience in the machine shop business!

With all of this in mind, APM’s CNC machine shop is still unable to match the production capabilities of larger rivals in low-mix, high-volume milling and machining work. In order to better maximize profits and achieve our desired growth goals moving forward in these uncertain times means we are consistently in search of ways to gain a competitive advantage. First and foremost, we can’t get ahead without the right technology in hand. Equipped with the latest in cutting-edge machine shop tools from suppliers such as Mitutoyo, Doall, Hurco, ProtoTRAK, Southwestern Industries, and Yama-Seki, we ensure our clients are completely satisfied with our work. But, this extends well beyond the right equipment and resources. There are always better ways of getting the job done! 

This brings us back to what every machine shops’ focus should always center around; maximizing productivity and increasing efficiency. Enter the concept of lean manufacturing; The systematic practice for eliminating waste in the manufacturing process. As facilities around our country strive to resume normal business operations, “lean” will become ever more so important. But for smaller and mid-sized CNC machine shops, the methods central to lean production models don’t always lend themselves well to low-volume, high-mix, and oftentimes one-off precision machining environments. While true, many job shops have successfully adopted this methodology by focusing on the goals and strategies that are feasible to their particular operation. No matter what size, there is commonality in the desire and ability to incorporate some frequently described goals of lean manufacturing. These elements include: improving quality, eliminating waste, reducing time and effort, and reducing total costs. The core objective is to maximize value to the client while reducing waste in its various forms. 

In a manufacturing environment, the 5S workplace organization method is central to the lean manufacturing philosophy. It is a system first utilized by the Japanese to reduce waste and optimize productivity by maintaining an orderly workplace, and it definitely has its place in smaller machine shops. In fact, a typical 5S implementation can reduce the square footage of space needed for existing operations. The 5S pillars of: Sort (organization), Set in Order (orderliness), Shine (cleanliness), Standardize (standardized cleanup), and Sustain (discipline) are indeed scalable to any size facility and provide a template for organizing, cleaning, developing, and sustaining a productive work environment. In short, transition to lean production should not focus solely on equipment, but instead, with the procedures associated with how existing equipment is used.

This begins with a focus on streamlining various processes, and there are many to choose from on the typical precision CNC machining floor. The key is being flexible and adaptable both to the working environment and to the demands of customers. Here is just a small sampling of some possible improvements:

  • Reduce excessive inventories, scrap and other waste.
  • Incorporate continuous improvement initiatives and investment in quality systems such as shop management software.
  • Use quick changeover carts and visual aides such as shadow boards and foam cut outs for organizing tools.
  • Eliminate wasted motion and time spent waiting.
  • Consider the ergonomics of employees.
  • Reduce downtime through better predictive and preventative maintenance.
  • Eliminate mistakes, reworks and overproduction of parts.
  • Reduce setup times and batch sizes.

Just a sampling to be sure, and what we’ve highlighted is not an end itself, but a means to more streamlined operations by maximizing productivity and increasing efficiency. These are key concepts now, and will become more and more important as economic conditions hopefully improve. Lean is more than simply some best practices, it’s about doing more with less and removing impediments to productivity. By not implementing at least a few lean practices, a machine shop loses its competitive advantage, and future growth, if so desired, will be stymied.

Want to learn more about lean manufacturing, have questions about any of our milling and machining services, or need help with an upcoming project? We’re happy to discuss any need you have, so please contact our Colorado machine shop.

For more APM machine shop information; Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @APMLongmont, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised in Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he began what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing.


August 9, 2022
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Despite the recent economic uncertainty gripping our nation, lingering supply chain issues, and labor shortages, Advanced Precision Machining’s (APM) Colorado machine shop is well into the third quarter of what’s been a very successful year for us! Rebounding positively from the COVID-19 pandemic, our milling and machining facility in Longmont, and the industry as a whole, continues to experience growth in all aspects of the business. As the precision manufacturing and metalworking economy has emerged from a somewhat stagnant footing in previous years, we’ve continued with planned expansion and find that our machine tools are now working harder than ever. In fact, demand for our machine shop services has been increasing at a rate that occasionally outpaces our supply and capacity. 

With all of this being said, our mission remains unchanged; We’re dedicated to manufacturing the highest quality precision parts while providing the best customer service experience in the CNC machine shop business! As everyone works to get through this period of economic uncertainty, our CNC machinists are making every effort to meet our customers’ needs for high-quality precision machined parts and deliver them accurately and on-time. Recent advances in milling and machining technology, including a vast array of digital tooling utilities, are now used to augment and boost machine tooling operations, and these are certain to play a big role in meeting the demands placed on us. Today’s modern metalworking facilities now have at their fingertips critical, cutting-edge software necessary to make their business successful, and APM will be relying on it more so now than ever. We are hopeful that our positive growth  continues, and to that end, we want to help educate and familiarize by introducing readers to a sampling of the machine shop software components we rely on for our success.

If one were to take a peek inside any CNC machining facility, you will find a host of technologically advanced software programs being run to improve the productivity of the business itself, and most importantly, the CNC milling, turning, grinding, and measuring machines that are at the very heart of the precision machine work. In addition to the purchase order, scheduling, accounting, inventory, and payroll programs to name just a few, APM’s CNC machinists rely heavily on a natural progression of software suites dedicated to one-off or batch production of precision machine components. From initial blueprint and design, to prototyping, to final part production, the following utilities are standard protocol and used by almost every milling and machining operation. Here we present a brief overview:

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software

The CNC machining workflow process cannot begin without the implementation of CAD software; The heavily relied upon technology that allows for the rendering of a 2D or 3D model of a part to be precision manufactured. CAD allows CNC machinists and machine shop customers to digitally create, modify, analyze, and optimize the design of any component before milling and machining work takes place. The precision machining process itself can be facilitated as CAD allows for a part’s materials, tolerances, and dimensions to be analyzed. Diagrams and drawings, or even solid models and prototypes using 3D printing technology, can be viewed and modified prior to production.

Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) Software

Once a part is mocked-up with a CAD rendering, it now enters the toolpath and CNC machine programming phase. CAM software is utilized to organize the CNC machining process. In simple terms, CAM takes the geometric models produced by CAD software and generates a series of codes (G-Codes) that are fed into the control software on CNC mills and lathes, for example. CNC Machinists rely on CAM utilities to form machining strategies that enable workflow efficiency. Selection of stock, dimensions, tool designation, speed and feed settings, and streamlined tool paths can all be programmed into CNC machining centers. CAM works in conjunction with CAD to make the entire part machining process more reliable and more efficient.

Simulation and Verification Software

When G Code is converted in the CAD to CAM process, errors may present themselves in precision machining operations. This is not a good thing! Modern milling machines are complex, and programming errors can result in damage to expensive equipment, wasted bar stock, and loss of time, money and productivity. Simulation and verification software is used to better write, analyze, and improve functions before milling and machining begins. Code simulators and verification programs provide a good graphic replication of how a CNC machine will perform, and what will be produced.

CNC Machine Control, Monitoring, and Other Utility Software

Modern CNC machines consist in part of the machine tool assembly itself, and its computer numerical control system, with control software acting as the heart of the system. Most CNC machining centers, including APM’s Hurco’s VMX 50, rely on OEM software built into the machine that converts CAM programming into the motions of precision machining. Machine monitoring software, such as MTConnect, allows for the exchange of data between precision manufacturing tools and software packages tasked with monitoring the performance of the machine shop equipment. PC-based software also exists that allows for a desktop computer to act as a control unit, although this is more common among hobbyists. Utility packages work in conjunction with control software to monitor performance, output, and capabilities such as part feed and speed.

Shop Management Software

Machine shop management software, such as JoBOSS, is a quoting, tracking and price review software specifically tailored to a precision machining operation. Shop owners are constantly up against short lead times, scheduling conflicts, resource constraints, and many more obstacles to running a lean operation. The right shop management software solution goes a long way towards better handling one-off jobs, blanket orders, multi-level assemblies and split jobs, and helps to automate many outdated, manual processes. The end result is more predictability, shorter lead times, and better allocation of resources, milling machines, and personnel. 

Would you like to learn more? Listed above is only a small, but most heavily utilized, sampling of some common machine shop software solutions. For more thorough information on the software you see described, if you have questions about what you don’t see listed, or you want to put our software power to use for your next precision machining project, contact the expert CNC machinists at APM’s Colorado machine shop today.
For more APM machine shop information; Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @APMLongmont, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised in Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he began what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing. 


August 9, 2022
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Thankfully, the recent COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing shutdowns are finally in our rearview mirror despite putting an enormous strain on the precision manufacturing industry. We’ll see what the future has in store however! Earlier this year, we transitioned back to a renewed sense of normalcy amidst a gradual and cautious reopening of the economy. Today, Advanced Precision Machining’s (APM) Colorado machine shop production is scaled fully back up to pre-pandemic levels although we’re still up against a faltering economy, supply chain issues, labor shortages, and shifting demand. Our facility faced down the barrel of COVID-19 and the ensuing operational slowdowns, we never lost pace, and we established new best practices as a result. As we continue to build upon our positive momentum, there is a lot at stake as we face new challenges, but we will continue to feed on our outstanding reputation for meeting our clients’ needs for high-precision parts delivered accurately and on-time. So, with summer in full swing now, the heat is upon us, both literally and figuratively!

Speaking of heat, this summer has been no stranger to high temperatures! With that being said, the staff of CNC machinists at APM thought this would be an ideal time to discuss heat in a machine shop environment, and how it’s an all too familiar foe in milling and machining operations. We’d like to provide readers with a primer on how we combat heat through the use of coolants, also known as cutting fluids, and introduce some common methods of coolant delivery. To put heat into proper perspective, one must look at the heart of most machine shops…Its investment in very expensive machine tools. On the shop floor, heat is a major concern, but not in the sense of air temperature and keeping staff comfortable. Instead, high speed machine tools such as CNC mills and lathes generate a tremendous amount of friction during the process of removing material from machined parts, resulting in heat, which can damage both workpieces and the cutting tools being used. In short, there is perhaps no greater obstacle to producing a quality and accurate end product than heat!

If milling and machining equipment is at the heart of a machine shop, second only to its CNC machinists of course, then coolant can be thought of as its lifeblood. Consisting primarily of lubrication fluids, types of coolant and their delivery methods vary widely. They have been developed and incorporated into nearly all CNC machining operations, and they work exclusively to lubricate and remove the heat produced at the point of origin between the tool and workpiece. This results in less damage to finished parts and/or equipment, lower operating costs, and increased efficiency on the floor. For purposes of our brief introduction, we want to focus on the most commonly used coolant types: Liquids first and foremost, then paste/gels (solids) and aerosols (gasses). 

In a precision manufacturing environment, the most heavily relied upon coolant application is via a liquid medium. An emulsification combining water, oil and often a chemical component is the preferred method. Water by itself has poor lubricating properties and causes rust, while oil alone is a poor coolant and is flammable. An optimal coolant is created by combining proper amounts of oil, water, and an emulsifier blended together into a semi-synthetic concentration. Certain chemicals can be added to the mix to enhance rust and corrosion resistance, improve lubrication, and control bacterial growth for example. Some machine shop services do require the use of a solid or gel-based coolant, while others benefit from an aerosol or misting application, although these are far less commonly used and don’t warrant much discussion for our purposes.

Today’s technologically advanced CNC machine tools all come outfitted with a standard coolant delivery system, resulting in less damage to finished parts and/or equipment, lower costs and improved efficiency. Properly delivering coolant to a CNC machine and the workpiece in and of itself is a complex task and comes with different techniques and applications. These vary in both properties and pressure. The most common forms include air, mist, flood coolant, and high pressure (aka through-tool). Cooling with air clears chips, but has no lubrication purpose. Misting with coolant is a low pressure method utilized where removing chips and heat are not a real concern. So, for the sake of simplicity, we will limit our discussion again to the most widely utilized techniques; Traditional flood cooling and more advanced high-pressure delivery systems. Advanced Precision Machining relies on both methods, and we’d like to provide a comparison between the two highlighting some key advantages and disadvantages.

Flood cooling, an umbrella term, dates back some 150 years. Relying mostly on lower pressures, it describes the flooding, spraying, or dripping of coolant directly into the tool/workpiece interface. For use with smaller CNC machining centers, slower speed operations, or short production runs, it’s effective to simply splash fluid around the work area to obtain the desired result. Flood coolant does draw heat out of the machining process, but not very effectively on today’s faster, more complex and advanced CNC mills, lathes and routers. Vapor buildup becomes common with flood cooling as the coolant reaches its boiling point rendering it less effective. Simply put, flooding the interface does not direct the coolant to where it’s needed most; directly under where the tool is shearing through metal. Flood coolant is effective however at improving tool life and surface finishes, reducing friction, corrosion prevention, and moving larger chips out of the way.

The higher speeds, faster feed rates, and extreme temperatures produced by today’s more advanced CNC milling and machining centers have led to more innovative cooling methods. Newer machines require higher pressure, more volume, and better directed coolant to keep pace and the flooding paradigm is no longer the clear winner. Delivering coolant into the cutting edge or point of the tool directly through the tool or spindle has proven much more effective. Known as through-tool or through-spindle coolant systems, they are plumbed to create a rotating union between the spindle or tool and the coolant supply, resulting in a host of benefits. Higher pressures and velocities eliminate the vapor barrier problem and heat is removed more effectively. More efficient cooling allows for the utilization of carbide cutting tools over steel, resulting in faster cycle times, better cut quality and greater throughput. Even chip management is improved as shorter shear zones create thinner chips. 

So, as we struggle through the dog days of summer this August, ensure that your machine shop remains cool as the temperatures rise, and look into alternative cooling methods. It’s important to keep the lifeblood of your milling and machining operation pumping! We’ll do the same at APM as we continue to turn out the quality machined parts our customers rely on. Moving forward, we wish everyone continued good health, prosperity, and safe operations as we hopefully put the COVID-19 pandemic far behind in our rearview mirror! 

Want to learn more about machine shop coolants and delivery methods, or have a question about your next milling and machining project? Contact the expert CNC machinists at Advanced Precision Machining today. 

For more APM shop information; Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @APMLongmont, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About the Advanced Precision Machining

APM provides comprehensive manufacturing services; from blueprint and prototyping, to machining and inspection. In our state-of-the-art machine shop, our fully certified CNC machinists offer a wide range of precision manufacturing services featuring the latest CNC mills and lathes to cut steels, composites, aluminum, plastics, and exotic metals. For additional information or to request a quote, please visit our website or call 303-776-1910.


May 5, 2022
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For any precision manufacturing operation competing in today’s business environment, maximizing productivity and increasing efficiency takes on a critical role in order to turn a profit. This rings especially true for small and medium-sized facilities, including Advanced Precision Machining’s Colorado machine shop. By staking our reputation on meeting our client’s needs for high-precision parts delivered accurately, on-time, and on-budget, we are constantly in search of ways to gain a competitive advantage. Success and profitability are dependent on whether resources are being used in an efficient manner, and this has proven even more difficult given current economic conditions, supply chain issues, the skills/job gap, and mounting challenges CNC machine shop owners face as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. All of this, coupled with an ever-increasing demand for high-quality parts, means that milling and machining businesses must place an even greater emphasis on efficiency and productivity. Thankfully, more modern technological advancements in today’s precision machining tools mean many machine shops have the ability to streamline their operations, and one such consideration involves transitioning from more traditional approaches to precision machining and implementing some form of automation on the floor. 

 Automating CNC machine shop operations is a big decision for any owner, but pulling the trigger and opting to automate certain functions has become easier as the use of more technologically advanced milling and machining centers has become increasingly widespread. More and more precision machine shops are now striving for “unattended” or “lights-out” capabilities that incorporate the best of what today’s machine tools and accessories have to offer. The idea is simple on the surface; Minimize labor costs for each part made, thus lowering overall production costs by allowing automation to replace manual labor. By improving workflow processes, automation can help solve many of the productivity challenges machine shops face by reducing machining cycle times, setups and teardowns, while at the same time increasing production/output, improving both efficiency and profit margins. Not to be confused with robotic automation, in a precision machining environment automating machining functions unattended commonly refers to the use of a CNC machining center accessorized with a tool magazine, an automatic tool changing mechanism, and most importantly, a multi-pallet changing system/device for parts to be machined. 

The use of pallet changers has revolutionized efficiency for shop owners, especially in an age where labor market deficiencies and the ever-present skills/jobs gap mean simply finding more qualified CNC machinists is not feasible. In simple terms, a pallet changing device is a part handling subsystem that enables a part to be loaded while another is being machined – somewhat like a tool changing system but instead of switching out tools, pallet changers allow the operator to change out an entire bed of parts. Pallets can be cycled outside the cutting area once completed as the machining center automatically brings in a new one. The integration of a “pallet pool” even allows for multiple part beds to be set up in advance and scheduled for future runs, letting a machine run unattended for quite some time. All of this allows for multiple setups to be built, or unloading operations to take place, while milling and machining goes on uninterrupted. CNC machinists don’t have to wait for the machining process to complete itself. The end result is a significant reduction in part cycle times and non-cut times (spindle-idle time). All of this adds up to increased productivity and a reduction in costs, including labor. 

When the decision is made to automate certain machine shop operations, there are options when it comes to choosing what type of pallet changing system is best suited to particular needs. Cost, space, a shop’s capabilities, and other factors such as production capacity all come into play. Manual pallet and shuttle systems are designed for small job, low-volume lots and are cost-feasible taking up very little space. Loading and unloading is done by the operator. Automated pallet changers (APCs) are designed to work with traveling-column or bridge-type CNC machining centers and typically feature electric servo drives for transferring and indexing pallets. Stationary, dual, rotary, towers, and shelving units – the list goes on. The two examples provided only scratch the surface of what’s available depending on machine shop needs and what various manufacturers provide.

The bottom line is that in today’s competitive precision manufacturing environment, one that is fraught with new challenges, no machine shop owner can let tools or CNC machinists sit idle. Pallet changing can save a lot of money in production costs by significantly reducing part loading and setup downtime.

Need help with an upcoming project? APM’s reputation for quality parts, on-time reliability and exceptional customer service cannot be matched! We’re happy to discuss any machining needs you have. Call us at 303.776.1910 or send us an email.

For more APM machine shop information; Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @APMLongmont , or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised in Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he began what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing.