Despite advances in technology, the basic stages in manufacturing have not changed over the centuries: material has to be moved, machined, and processed. When considering current advanced manufacturing facilities it should be remembered that they are but the latest step in a continuing process that started during the Industrial Revolution in the second half of the eighteenth century. The machine tool industry developed during the Industrial Revolution in response to the demands of the manufacturers of steam engines for industrial, marine, and railway applications. During this period, the basic principles of accurate manufacturing and quality were developed by, amongst others, James Nasmyth and Joseph Whitworth. These engineers developed machine tools to make good the deficiencies of the rural workers and others drawn into the manufacturing towns of Victorian England, and to solve production problems which could not be solved by the existing techniques. Increased accuracy led to advantages from the interchangeability of parts in complex assemblies. This led, in turn, to mass production, which was first realised in North America with products (such as sewing machines and typewriters) whose commercial viability could not be realised except by high-volume manufacturing (Rolt, 1986). The demands of the market place for cost reductions and the requirement for increased product quality has led to dramatic changes in all aspects of manufacturing industry, on an international scale, since 1970. These changes, together with the introduction of new management techniques in manufacturing, have necessitated a considerable improvement in performance and costs at all stages of the manufacturing process. The response has been a considerable investment in automated systems by manufacturing and process industries.
Machining is the manufacturing process in which the geometry of a component is modified by the removal of material. Machining is considered to be the most versatile of production processes since it can produce a wide variety of shapes and surface finishes. To fully understand the requirements in controlling a machine tool, the machining process must be considered in some detail. Machining can be classified as either conventional machining, where material is removed by direct physical contact between the tool and the workpiece, or non-conventional machining, where there is no physical contact between the tool and the workpiece.