Understanding non-traditional machining process

Non-traditional machining, also known as “non-conventional machining” or “modern machining method,” is a machining method that involves using electricity, heat, light, electrochemical energy, chemical energy, sound energy, and special mechanical energy to remove, deform, change properties, or plate materials.

Drilling, boring, cutting, milling, and other conventional machining processes are performed with traditional tools with a cutting edge. These traditional machining methods have become obsolete as technology and time have progressed, even though they are the foundation of the machining process.


In this article, you’ll get to know the definition, applications, diagrams, characteristics, types, working, advantages, and disadvantages of the non-traditional machining process.

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What is non-traditional machining?

The Non-Traditional Machining Method is a cutting-edge technique for overcoming the drawbacks of traditional machining. Ultrasonic Machining, Laser Beam Machining, Water Jet Machining, Abrasive Water Jet Machining, Electron Beam Machining, and others are examples of this machining process.

When an item is produced with the help of modern technology, it is known as an unconventional, non-traditional, or modern machining process. The techniques can be used to machine complicated, micro-surface, and low-stiffness objects made of metal or non-metal materials of any hardness, strength, toughness, or brittleness. Some technologies for superfinishing, mirror finishing, and nanoscale (atomic) machining can all be employed at the same time.


The applications of non-traditional machining are so vast since there are various types suitable for a specific application. Below are some areas where these machining methods are used.

Some of the machining processes are used for machining molds and parts with complex-shaped holes and cavities. Are used to machine material with different material properties either hard or brittle such as hard alloy and hardened steel. Unconventional machining is used to make deep fine holes, shaped holes, deep grooves, narrow slits, and cutting thin slices.

Read more: Understanding conventional machining process

  • In the same way that non-traditional machining procedures are used to mill hard surfaces, non-traditional machining methods are utilized to design dies. Unconventional machining methods can be used to process several hard metals that cannot be machined using typical procedures.
  • For drilling very small diameter holes in a nozzle of a fuel injection system, non-traditional methods are also used in the automobile industry. Non-traditional machining methods can also be used to machine gears.
  • For machining intricate designs on thin metal sheets, many non-traditional machining processes, such as Laser Beam Machining, are used.
  • For cutting fragile materials like glass, ceramics, and quartz, unconventional machining procedures such as Abrasive Jet Machining can be used.
  • A non-conventional machining process can be used to machine a cutting tool.
  • Modern machining is critical in the aerospace industry since it is utilized to create complex aircraft parts.


Below are some characteristics of the non-traditional machining process:

  1. Tool materials can have a much lower hardness than workpiece materials
  2. Energy such as electric energy, electrochemical energy, sound energy, or light energy can be used to process the material directly.
  3. During machining, mechanical forces are not visible, and the workpiece rarely exhibits mechanical and thermal deformation, both of which are beneficial to improving machining accuracy and workpiece surface quality.
  4. Various methods can be chosen combined to create new process methods, boosting production efficiency and machining precision significantly.
  5. Almost every new source of energy opens up the possibility of a new method of non-traditional machining.

Read more: Understanding Machining process and machine tool

Types of non-traditional machining processes

Below is the various method of non-traditional machining processes:

Electrical discharge machining (EDM):

EDM, also known as discharge machining or electro-erosion machining, is a non-traditional machining technology for etching conductive materials using electric erosion caused by a pulse discharge between two poles immersed in a working liquid. The basic equipment used for this process is the electro-discharge machine tool. Below are some features of electrical discharge machining:

  • Machining without cutting force;
  • No flaws such as burrs, tool marks, grooves, etc.
  • Able to process materials that are difficult to cut by conventional machining methods and complex-shaped workpieces
  • Tool electrode materials do not need to be harder than the workpiece material;
  • Automation is simple when employing electricity machining;
  • In some applications, the metamorphic layer formed on the surface after treatment needs to be removed further.
  • It’s difficult to deal with smoke pollution generated during the purification and processing of working fluid

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Below are the applications of non-traditional machining processes:

  • Machining complex-shaped holes and cavities in molds and pieces;
  • Various hard and brittle materials, such as hard alloy and hardened steel, are machinable.
  • Processing fine deep holes, curved holes, deep grooves, narrow slits, and thin slices, among other things
  • Cutting and measuring instruments like cutting tools, sample plates, and thread ring gauges are all machinable.
Diagram of EDM:

Electric discharge machining

Electrolytic machining:

The workpiece is machined to a specific form and size based on the principle of anodic dissolution in the electrolytic process and with the help of the molded cathode. Electrolytic machining offers substantial benefits for difficult-to-machine materials, complicated shapes, and thin-walled products. Gun barrel rifling, blade, integral impeller, mold, profiled hole and parts, chamfering, and deburring are all examples of electrolytic machining. Electrolytic machining technique has taken on a significant, if not irreplaceable, role in the machining of numerous products.

Read more: Difference between traditional and non-traditional machining process


  • A broad range of machining services. Electrochemical machining can treat almost all conductive materials without compromising mechanical or physical qualities such as strength, hardness, or toughness, and the metallographic structure of the materials is mostly unaffected after machining. It’s frequently used to machine hard alloys, high-temperature alloys, hardened steel, stainless steel, and other difficult-to-machine materials.
  • A high manufacturing rates
  • Excellent machining quality, particularly on the surface.
  • It can be used to machine deformable parts and thin walls.
  • During the electrochemical machining process, there is no contact between the tool and the workpiece, no mechanical cutting force, no residual stress and deformation, no burr and flashing.


  • The machining precision and machining speed are low.
  • Expensive machining. The higher the additional cost per item, the smaller the batch.
Diagram of electrolytic machining:

Electrolytic machining

Laser machining

To achieve machining, lasers use light energy to reach high energy density at the focal point after being focused by the lens, melt or vaporize the material, and remove it in a very short period. Laser machining provides the advantages of decreased material waste, a visible cost effect in large-scale manufacturing, and high flexibility to the cutting object. Laser technology is mostly used in Europe to weld unique materials such as high-grade vehicle bodies and bases, aircraft wings, and spaceship fuselage.

Laser welding, laser cutting, surface modification, laser marking, laser drilling, micro-machining and photochemical deposition, stereolithography, laser etching, and other laser machining methods are the most often utilized applications.

Read more: Conventional and non-conventional types of machining processes

Diagram of laser machining:

laser machining

Electron beam machining

The machining of materials utilizing the thermal or ionization effects of a high-energy convergent electron beam is known as electron beam machining (EBM). High energy density, strong penetration, a wide range of one-time melting depths, big weld width ratio, quick welding speed, small thermal impact zone, and little operating deformation are all advantages.

The machining materials for electron beam machining are diverse, and the cutting area can be quite small. Machining accuracy can be measured in nanometers, allowing for molecular or atomic machining. Significant productivity; machining produces little pollution, but the cost of machining equipment is high. It can be used to make micro-holes, small slits, and other intricate shapes. It can also be used for fine lithography and welding. The principal use of electron beam machining in the car manufacturing business is vacuum electron beam welding bridge shell technology.

Read more: Understanding powder metallurgy

Ion beam machining

In a vacuum condition, the ion beam machining is accomplished by accelerating and concentrating the ion stream generated by the ion source to the workpiece’s surface. The machining effect can be perfectly regulated thanks to the precise regulation of ionic flow density and ionic energy, allowing for ultra-precision machining at the nanometer, molecular, and atomic levels. Ion beam machining creates less pollution, little stress, and distortion, and is flexible to the materials being processed, but it comes at a significant cost.

Ion beam machining can be used in two phases; etching and coating.

  • Etching machining: Ion etching is used to machine the air bearing of the gyroscope and the grooves on the dynamic pressure motor with high resolution, precision, and repeatability. The etching of high-precision graphics, such as integrated circuits, optoelectronic devices, and optical integrated devices, is another application of ion beam etching. Ion beam etching is also used to thin down materials to create specimens for penetrating electron microscopy.
  • Ion beam coating machining: There are two types of ion beam coating machining: sputtering deposition and ion plating. Metal or non-metal films can be plated on metal or non-metal surfaces, and various alloys, compounds, or certain synthetic materials, semiconductor materials, and high-melting-point materials can also be plated with the ionic coating. Coating lubricating film, heat-resistant film, wear-resistant film, decorative film, and electrical film with ion beam coating technique is possible.

Plasma arc machining

Plasma arc machining is a non-traditional machining technology that uses the heat energy of a plasma arc to cut, weld, and spray metal or non-metal. It can weld foil and thin sheets and has a keyhole effect, allowing for single-side welding and double-side free forming. The plasma arc has a high energy density, a high arc column temperature, and a high penetrating ability. For 10-12mm thick steel, no beveling is required, and complete weld penetration and double-sided shaping may be accomplished in one step, with fast welding speed, high productivity, and minimal stress deformation. Because the equipment is complicated and uses a lot of gas, it’s only good for indoor welding.

It is widely used in industrial production, particularly for welding copper and copper alloys, titanium and titanium alloys, alloy steel, stainless steel, and molybdenum in military applications and cutting-edge industrial technology such as aerospace, where titanium alloy missile shells and some aircraft thin-walled containers are used.

Read more: Understanding cutting fluid

Ultrasonic machining

By using ultrasonic frequency as a tool for small-amplitude vibration and punch on the treated surface by free-abrasive in the liquid between it and the workpiece, ultrasonic machining causes the workpiece’s surface to progressively crack. Piercing, cutting, welding, nesting, and polishing are all common applications for ultrasonic machining. Can machine any material, but is particularly well suited to cutting a variety of hard, brittle non-conductive materials with high precision and exceptional surface quality, but at a low rate.
Perforation (including round holes, shaped holes, and curved holes, among other things), cutting, slotting, nesting, carving of various hard and brittle materials, such as glass, quartz, ceramics, silicon, germanium, ferrite, gemstone, and jade, deburring small parts in batches, polishing of mold surface, and grinding wheel dressing are all examples of ultrasonic machining.

Chemical machining

To get the desired form, size, or surface of the workpiece, chemical machining uses an acid, alkali, or salt solution to corrode or dissolve the material of the parts. The machining method is ideal for thinning vast areas and cutting complicated holes in thin-walled objects. It is suitable for wide-area machining and can process numerous parts at once; it can process any metal materials that can be cut, free of hardness and strength. Without any tension, crack, or burr, the surface roughness reaches Ra1.252.5m, it’s simple to use, cannot be used to machine narrow slots or holes, and it is unsuitable for removing flaws like surface roughness and scratches.

Read more: Understanding the processing and fabrication of plastics

Rapid Prototyping

Modern CAD/CAM technology, laser technology, computer numerical control technology, precision servo drive technology, and novel material technology are all used to develop and combine RP technology. Due to differing forming materials, several types of rapid prototyping systems have varied forming principles and system features. The underlying technique, however, remains the same: “manufacturing by layers, overlaying layer by layer.” It’s similar to the integration procedure in mathematics. In terms of appearance, the fast-prototyping technology resembles a “3d printer.”

It can receive product design (CAD) data directly and produce new product samples, molds, or models quickly without the need for a mold, cutter, or fixture. As a result, widespread adoption and deployment of RP technology can significantly reduce the time it takes to develop new products, save development expenses, and increase development quality. This is the revolutionary significance of RP technology to the manufacturing business, from the traditional “elimination technique” to today’s “growth method,” from mold production to mold-free manufacturing. Rapid prototyping technology can be used in a variety of industries, including aviation, aerospace, automobiles, communications, medical treatment, electronics, home appliances, toys, military equipment, industrial modeling (sculpture), building models, and machinery manufacturing.

Watch the video below to learn more about non-traditional machining processes:

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Advantages and disadvantages of non-traditional methods of machining


Below are the benefits of non-traditional methods of machining in their various applications.

High accuracy: Accuracy is a major concern for today’s enterprises, whether they are small or huge. When compared to items made with non-traditional ways of machining, conventional methods of machining produce less accurate results. As a result of the high accuracy, unconventional machining is suitable for modern times and can be used to replace traditional machining techniques.

Less noise: Because non-traditional machining processes are a better replacement for traditional machining methods, they help to reduce noise pollution in the surrounding environment. Because the process is silent, certain non-traditional machining plants can be located in residential areas.

High production: When compared to traditional machining procedures, modern or unconventional methods of machining promote a high output rate. This is because non-traditional approaches function faster and more precisely than traditional ways.

Less waste product: Working on older equipment makes waste product control extremely difficult. The chips must be disposed of on time, which necessitates more effort. Non-traditional machining technologies, on the other hand, either produce no waste or produce micro trash that is easy to handle and dispose of.

No wear of the tool: In non-traditional machining procedures, there is no contact between the tool and the workpiece, resulting in no tool wear. This eliminates the possibility of tool failure and prevents tool wear and tear.


Despite the good advantages of non-conventional machining methods, some limitation still occurs. Below are the disadvantages of this machining process in their various applications.

High initial cost: Because it comprises many electrical pieces operating alongside mechanical ones, the initial cost of setting up a non-traditional machining plant is higher than that of a typical machining plant. Small-scale and cottage companies are unable to use it because of this.

High power requirement: A non-traditional machining plant requires significantly more power than a standard machining plant. This is due to the lack of contact between the tool and the workpiece, which necessitates the use of more energy to process the tool surface.

Complex mechanism: Non-traditional machining processes, in contrast to typical machining procedures, have a more sophisticated mechanism. Non-traditional machining methods require the operator to be skilled enough to handle the procedures involved. If the plant fails for any reason, a highly-skilled professional will be required to repair it.

Lower metal removal rate: When compared to standard machining procedures, non-traditional machining methods have a lower metal removal rate. Non-traditional procedures are therefore unsuitable for large-scale products.

Not appropriate for soft materials: A non-traditional machining method’s cutting action is usually caused by a localized increase in the workpiece’s temperature. As a result, the method is inappropriate for cutting soft materials like rubber or plastic since the workpiece would be burned.

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Non-traditional machining, also known as “non-conventional machining” or “modern machining method,” is a machining method that involves using electricity, heat, light, electrochemical energy, chemical energy, sound energy, and special mechanical energy to remove, deform, change properties, or plate materials. The machining method includes EDM, electrolytic, laser, EBM, ion beam machining, etc. That is all for this article, where the definition, applications, characteristics, types, working, advantages and disadvantages of non-traditional methods of machining.

I hope you get a lot from the reading, if so, kindly share with other students. Thanks for reading, see you around!


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