The machines of this class are all utilized for the finishing of metal surfaces. They are really at the root of the production of machinery of all other classes. Accuracy is their prime character-istic - accuracy of construction, accuracy of operation, accuracy of adjustment. Any inaccuracy that exists primarily in a machine tool is reproduced in every piece upon which it produces a finished surface; and since the mere act of finishing a surface upon anything implies that a rough and inaccurate surface will not answer, the tool then fails of its purpose if it cannot produce a true surface: it does not accomplish that for which it was designed.
The effect that this element of accuracy has upon the design of a machine tool is to require long bearings, convenient and exact methods of adjustment, stiffness, excess of material to absorb vibration, special shapes to facilitate application of jigs, fixtures, and exact manufacturing devices insuring interchangeability of parts, dust guards, and automatic lubrication.
Machine tools are essentially machines of maximum output, and depend for their success, not only upon their accuracy as noted, but also upon their ability to do the greatest amount of work per square foot of space occupied, with the least amount of manual labor and attention on the part of the operator. This is especially true of automatic machinery, which perhaps might be classed by itself in this respect, but which is nevertheless included under the broad term of a machine for producing finished surfaces, being merely the highest and most refined form of same. For machines of this class the designer has to study every detail with the most minute attention, packing away the operating parts into the smallest space and yet providing ready means for access, removal, and repair. Clearances that would be too little for other kinds of machinery are permitted and provided for; material of high grade, strength, and wearing quality, though expensive in first cost, and requiring the most expert skill to finish and to fit into place, must be used in order to keep the machine compact and yet of large capacity, to make it reasonably light in weight and yet amply strong.
Another point which has a great influence on the design of a machine tool is that we can never tell in advance just what it will have to stand in work, for the variation in the material that it finishes, the uncertain skill of the operator who runs it, the crowding to its limit of capacity and even beyond in times of press of business, and the many other stresses that may suddenly and without warning be thrown upon it, must all be thought of and provided for.
The points above mentioned are but a few of those which the designer of machine tools has to meet, and are presented merely as illustrations to show the special skill required in this class of machinery. It is readily seen that while the machine tool designer has great latitude in choice of material and in expenditure of money for refinement of structure - perhaps greater latitude than in any other class, yet he is held down as in no other to the final productive results, a small percentage of failure entirely throwing out the machine as a marketable product.
The style and external appearance of machine tools have a character of their own resulting from this extreme detailed care in design. Corners and fillets are carefully rounded; surfaces and intersections are definitely made; in short, the mechanical beauty of a machine tool is seen only from a near view and close inspection, and it is to this end that the design is constantly directed Appearance is a large factor in the sale of a fine tool, and the prestige of the American trade abroad in this respect is very noticeable.