A machine shop might not seem like a very exciting place. At its most basic, a machine shop is a place where machinists use machining services to make parts out of metal, plastic, glass, or wood. The first machine shops appeared in the 1700s, and before this tools and parts were typically made in local villages.
This simple machine shop definition does not do justice to the dependence of nearly every American industry upon the machine services, machine tool repair, and precision tooling that the modern machine shop can offer. Here are just a few unique machine shops that exist in unusual places in America.
The Museum Shop
The American Precision Museum, located in Windsor, Vermont, highlights the long history of precision manufacturing and how it has touched all aspects of American national development. The museum traces manufacturing from the early Industrial era through the Civil War, and into modern times. The center of the museum is the working machine shop manned by retired machinists and interns. Students and interns are able to learn from the best engineers, and retired engineers are able to make fulfilling use of their skills on a volunteer basis.
The Hospital Shop
In Houston, Texas, the M.D. Anderson Proton Therapy Center, one of four such centers in the United States, treats thousands of cancer patients every year. In order to keep up their schedule and keep every system online as much as possible, the center has its own machine shop to produce precisely crafted components for the radiation beam delivery gantries. M.D. Anderson isn’t the first hospital to have a machine shop, but very few have a full-on production shop like this one does.
The First Shop
When George Washington was raising his army, he needed a way to equip them. He formed the United State’s first national armory in Springfield, Massachusetts, which was the first official machine shop of the United States of America. It was in operation until 1968, supplying weapons for every war until that time. It was the Springfield Armory that developed a number of machine tool innovations like interchangeable parts and the Blanchard lathe.
The Oldest Shop
The Knight Foundry and Machine Shop is the oldest machine shop still in operation. Founded in 1873, it is still powered by water which flows off a nearby ridge. It was first built to make machinery used for mining gold, and then moved into supplying parts for hydroelectric plants. Today it makes gray castings for industry and still uses the water wheel that the Samuel Knight installed in the mid 1870s.
America’s machine shops have been key to industry and manufacturing since the country was founded. Today, they still lead the world in industrial innovation.