The History of Screw Machining and Equipment

A screw machine is a type of lathe used for the precise shaping of hard materials (usually metal) into specially designed components. Typically, this equipment works by rotating a workpiece at high speeds and allowing it to be operated on by various changeable cutting tools. Screw Machine might be a misleading term for this machine since they are used to produce a range of different components in addition to screws. Threaded parts represent only a small portion of the items manufactured by these types of machines.

Prior to the 1840’s “screw machining” was used to refer to any process that involved the manufacturing of screws. When Stephen Finch introduced the turret lathe in 1845, it was called a “screw machine”. In 1860, Joseph R. Brown improved the original turret lathe, which at that time was manually operated, with an upgrade and the machine’s movements could now be mechanically automated with the use of drum cans. During this time these machines were now known as automatic screw machines, while the earlier versions were named manual screw machines.

In the 1950’s further advancements were made as the machining process became automated with computerized controls. These machines were now known as CNC screw machines and were now part of the same family of automatic screw machines. Today, the term automatic screw machine is referred to any screw machine that runs with little to no human labor.

Types of Screw Machining Technology

Turret Lathes

Turret Lathes were the first types screw machines. They were first used in the mid-1840’s to mass-produce screws for the percussion locks of 30,000 pistols under a government contract. Turret lathes consist of h

orizontally or vertically rotating turrets fitted with different cutting tools that advance toward the rotating workpiece. Once one tool completes its operation, the turret slides back and indexes the turret to apply a different tool to the workpiece. When all of the tools on the turret have shaped the workpiece, the final product is released and another workpiece is added to the spindle. Earlier, manual versions of turret lathes are no longer used and have been replaced by more automated machining methods.

Cam-Operated Screw Machines/Lathes

Cam-operated screw machines are mechanically automated by a series of disc cams. These became popular in the late 1860s and the rotating cams transform rotary movement into linear movement. As the cam rotates, linear motion is used to advance the cutting tools to the rotating workpiece. This was the first type of automated screw machine. Cam-operated machines are now largely replaced by CNC-operated machines but continue to be widely used in many fabrication workshops.

CNC Lathes/CNC Turning Centers

In a CNC screw machine, the cutting tools are controlled by computer programs. CNC lathes/CNC turning centers also fall under the family of automatic screw machines but instead of relying on cams for controlling the approach of cutting tools, the movement is controlled electronically via programmable user input. CNC lathes became popular in the 1950’s and are one of the most popular automatic machines with their superseded cam-operated lathes. CNC lathes are known for their enhanced precision and accuracy and their quick job hangover rate.

Swiss Screw Machines

Swiss screw machines are automatic screw machines consisting of a sliding headstock and a guide bushing. The workpiece is secured in the headstock with a collet, which clamps the workpiece and rotates it with the spindle. The cutting tools move in and out to trim the bar’s diameter and shape the overall cross-section, while the headstock does forward and backward to create the desired length. In the 1960’s the first Swiss Screw machines were automated by rotating cams, with CNC versions becoming more widely available in the 1970s. Today, Swiss screw machines are one of the most popular types of screw machining technology.

Multi-Spindle Screw Machines/Lathes

These types of screw machines feature multiple spindles that hold, rotate and form several workpieces at the same time. The spindles are mounted on a rotating drum, which advances the parts to different cutting tools at various locations. The operations needed to complete the part are divided among the cutting tools in a way that allows one rotation of the drum to produce the finished product. Multi-spindle screw machines can be either cam or CNC operated and are commonly used in modern fabrication facilities where mass production and repeatable accuracy are crucial.

Screw Machines Through the Ages

Since screw machines were introduced more than 150 years ago, there have been several changes and advancements. Manual methods have become obsolete and replaced with cam and CNC automation. Although CNC machines are more commonly used and have many advantages over mechanical cam automation, cam-operated machines are still being used in many types of machining applications. The best option of which machine to use will depend on specifics of the job that needs to be completed and the application at hand.

At Sheldon Precision we utilize a combination of CNC and cam driven Swiss Screw machines including Escomatic, Tornos, Star CNC, Milling & Secondary Equipment and Advance Inspection Systems. Since 1969, Sheldon Precision has had the ability and experience to manufacture components from a wide range of materials. Our expertise and stringent quality inspection standards ensure the highest quality components can be produced using steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass and copper and titanium. We serve numerous markets with our Swiss Screws in the medical, military, aerospace, electronic, automotive and control/valve fields.

Contact Sheldon Precision for a quote on your next precision component machining project.

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CNC Technology and Swiss Precision Machining

As a type of lathe, Swiss machines have been used for more than 100 years to manufacture with accuracy. The term “Swiss” in machining actually has more than one meaning. To some it is a type of machine, and to others it represents a product of uncommonly small size or high precision. To us at Sheldon Precision, the use of this term allows us to be absolutely certain of the meticulousness of your desired product.

Computer numerical control, also known as CNC is the self-operating control of commonly used machining tools such as drills and lathes by the use of a computer. This equipment can take any material and perform a wide range of manufacturing tasks such as cutting, or drilling that meets specifications programmed into it’s software which requires little-to-no man power.

Positioning CNC as a computer-controlled process, CNC Swiss machining has only gotten better as a unique tool and is being used in a growing number of industries and applications.

Sheldon Precision utilizes CNC technology, as well as precision machining, along with Computer Aided Manufacturing programs to produce both large and small quantities of precise parts. Our product ranges from sizes .015” to up to 1.125” in diameter. Considering the microscopic size of the product, it is crucial to use the CNC technology in order to ensure perfect accuracy of fit.

To learn more about our industry-leading CNC technology and Swiss precision machining, contact us at []

Supporting Our Troops With Swiss Screw Machinery

The defense industry relies heavily on Swiss Screw machined parts. Our machines provide a cost-effective way to produce various parts used in the creation of various military equipment. From small rifles to larger military equipment such as missiles and ships, Swiss Screw machined parts are vital for the protection of the armed forces and national security. 

Some of the many parts we are able to produce include:

  • Screws
  • Pins
  • Spacers
  • Missile Components 
  • Fighter Aircraft Components
  • Artillery Components
  • Dust Cover Pins & Firing Pins

Utilizing titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, and copper, we are able to manufacture parts that meet our militaries rigorous demands. We are extremely proud to play a small part in supporting and protecting our troops by providing them with the very best materials. 

Contact us at [] and make sure that those fighting for you have the quality equipment they deserve.

Precision Swiss Screw Machined Components are Critical in the Electronics Industry



Parts and components manufactured using Swiss screw machinery are found in a wide variety of industries. Today, the electronics industry relies heavily on precision Swiss screw machined components as technology continues to develop. As devices continue to become smaller and smaller, critical internal components must also become more compact and precise. Swiss screw machinery is the most reliable and accurate way to manufacture these parts.

Large companies like Apple and small local companies are able to create innovative products that fit in the palm of your hand and improve productivity because of the precise components inside. Connectors, screw and additional parts that become systems in circuit boards are just a few examples of precision Swiss screw machined components.

Many may find it easy to overlook the impact that Swiss screw machinery has in our lives, yet all we have to do is look at our smartphone or tablet or computer to see just how important this is to our everyday life. 

At Sheldon Precision we use our passion for innovation and Swiss screw machinery to manufacture a wide variety of components for electronic, telecommunications and wireless advancements. Our combination of engineering and manufacturing skills allow us to innovate and collaborate on projects from prototyping to full-scale production.

For a competitive quote on components for your next electronic manufacturing job, contact us at []. 

Uses for Swiss Screw Machined Components in the Medical Industry

In order to complete intricate surgeries and diagnose patients with complex health complications, the medical industry relies heavily on advanced technology. Each day, just as there are constant discoveries in the medical field, technological advancements in medical devices allow doctors and surgeons to continue to push boundaries in their specialties and provide a higher level of medical care.

When it comes to creating advanced medical technologies and devices, precision Swiss screw machined components play a critical role. The ability to manufacture components to the precise specifications and with superior quality control and in a variety of materials relies not only on advanced machinery, but also an experienced workforce. At Sheldon Precision, our team of knowledgeable engineers and machinist are able to produce precision parts from .015″ to 1.125″ in diameter, with the ability to hold tolerances of ± .0002″.

Some of the most common devices that utilize components manufactured in our Swiss screw machine plant include:

Orthopedic Devices
Diagnostic equipment
Minimally Invasive Surgical Equipment
Dental Implants & Equipment
Wound Care
Cardiology Devices

Swiss screw machined components touch many important applications within the medical industry. Whether you are looking for short-run prototypes for testing or full-scale production of your medical application, contact us [] for a competitive custom quote.

From Turret Lathe to Modern Day Swiss Screw Machine

While Sheldon Precision has been manufacturing precision machined components since 1969, Swiss Screw Machining dates way back to the mid-1800s. In America, Joseph R Brown patented a machine for cutting spills and coined the term “screw machine”. His screw machine was an improvement on the turret lathe, a machine used to make several tools at once. 

At the same time, the Swiss were developing a similar machine to be used for watchmaking. 

A few years later in 1880, the first fully automated screw machine was made by the engineers at Brown and Sharpe, led by Oscar S. Beale.  

Finally, from the 1940-50s, engineers developed the technology we know today as CNC, Computer Numerical Controlled technology. Once developed, they were able to make the first CNC Swiss screw machines in the 1970s. While it was first used in electronics and the semiconductor industry, by the 1990s they had also done extensive work within aerospace, healthcare, and industrial applications. 

As a company, we use CNC Swiss Screw machines heavily in our work with aerospace applications. Using state of the art machinery and skilled operators, we turn our precise components in a variety of materials, including steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, copper, and titanium. By using CNC Swiss Screw machines in combination with any of our high end materials, you are sure to get the best parts for your next aerospace project.

Whether you are looking for short-run prototypes or full-scale production of aerospace components, contact us [] for a custom quote.

Precision Machining at Sheldon Precision

Precision machining is a process used to remove material from a workpiece while holding close tolerance finishes. It is a type of machining that shapes large pieces and sometimes small pieces of material into smaller complex parts so they fit exactly where they need to be to perform a specific task.

At Sheldon Precision, we have the capability to produce both large and small objects that are used in several different industries. From the production of surgical tools to artillery components, different controls and valves to electronics, precision machining reaches every industry.

Sheldon Precision’s capabilities include many machine types such as milling, turning and electrical discharge machining. Producing complex objects requires different levels of machinist skills in order to precisely manufacture each piece. A professional, highly-trained and experienced machinist follows a specific blueprint of the object for quality precision.

These blueprints are made by CAD (computer aided design) or CAM (computer aided manufacturing) programs. CAD and CAM programs are software programs that produce three dimensional outlines necessary for manufacturing the object. Not only does precision machining design and cut different metals, it may also work with graphite, glass and plastics.

To produce quality and accurate objects, CNC (computer numerical control) programming is used to follow exact dimensions throughout the run of a product. The cutting tool is directed to make the necessary cuts with specific cutting speeds. Each cut is supervised by an expert machinist to produce high quality and accurate parts. Quality inspection and control is a critical step in the precision machining process. This ensures the parts are being manufactured to exact specifications consistently.

At Sheldon Precision, you’ll find a quality team of experienced engineers and machinists along with an arsenal of sophisticated manufacturing machinery and quality assurance systems.

CNC Machining in the Medical Industry

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining is a manufacturing process in which the computer software controls the movement of the cutter. It is especially important for manufacturing tools for the medical industry in order to successfully have a positive impact on people’s lives. CNC machines are able to fabricate small medical components with precision utilizing CNC machining to manufacture lifesaving medical devices. Sheldon Precision is dedicated to the importance of delivering accurate and quality machining. Each CNC process is monitored by a trained expert to monitor the manufacturing of the worlds smallest medical components.

  1. Some of the manufactured medical components include:

Bone screws

Surgical tools


Respirator components


Hose barbs

Brass inserts

Precision shafts


Sheldon Precision is able to manufacture complex materials with accuracy. Manufacturing these components require sophisticated machining to create tight-tolerance features on these parts. At Sheldon Precision, we are dependable at delivering quality components that meet your expectations.

Why You Should Swiss Machine Your Plastic Components?

Sheldon Precision understands that the integrity of a precise machined part begins with using high quality materials. When using Swiss machines more material options are available to manufacture than in injection molding. Not only can Swiss machines manufacturer aluminum, copper, and steel, they also can manufacture plastic components as well.

CNC Swiss machines work with the right tooling speeds to overcome temperature restrictions experienced when working with thermoplastics or thermosetting polymers. At Sheldon Precision, we specialize in machining any material suitable for CNC Swiss machines. The elasticity of our CNC Swiss machines allows you to choose any material for your next design. We are able to manufacture plastic components with accuracy and optical clarity.

CNC Swiss machines can reach ultra-high tolerance, down to 0.0002” which is implausible for injection molding processes. Set up and tooling costs are more cost-effective than mold development for short to medium runs. This is very helpful for companies who rely on just-in-time shipping, that need to oversee their supply chain at a very granular level. Swiss machines are able to control fluctuating production volumes when inventory is not wanted. Swiss machining is the most efficient choice when working with small complex components.

A major problem when working with injection molding is it can leave weld lines, parting lines, gate markers, and ejector pin marks. This problem requires additional maintenance to complete the part. However, CNC Swiss machining does not require any post fabrication finishing because it does not leave unwanted marks. This feature in CNC Swiss machining can dramatically decrease the cost-per-part. In addition, infusing molten plastic in the small gaps of a mold might be close to impossible because there is no correct balance of material temperature and injection pressure to eliminate the resistance to the plastic flow.

At Sheldon Precision, we manufacture plastic parts for a variety of industries such as medical, dental, electronics, and military. With our experience in fabrication and design, we can help you determine the best plastic material for your part.


Swiss Screw Machining in the Military Industry

At Sheldon Precision, we understand the defense industry requires strong and precise machined parts vital for the protection of the armed forces and national security. From prototype to precision, we provide parts specializing in high tolerance and high precision machining. Our advanced machinery successfully parts implemented in military goods such as missiles, fighter aircrafts, and military ships. With our expertise in working with materials such as titanium, aluminum, stainless, steel, and copper, we are capable of manufacturing goods completely in house. We are dedicated to meet the rigorous demands of the military industry and the safety of our military troops because we value quality and accuracy. We have a trusted staff working closely to monitor every process in the development and assembling of machined parts.