Machine Tool Industry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Machine Tool Industry


a leading branch of machine building. The machine tool industry produces items for all sectors of the national economy. Its products include metalworking and woodworking machine tools, automatic and semiautomatic transfer machines, and fully automated production facilities for the manufacture of machines, equipment, and parts made from metal and other industrial materials, as well as forge, press, casting, and woodworking equipment. The development of metal-cutting machine tools is linked with the development of large-scale capital production and the establishment of the first plant-type industrial enterprises. The increased use of machine equipment and, later, of steam-powered machines created a demand for greater precision in the machining of parts. This challenge could only be met by the invention of machines to produce other machines, above all, metal-cutting machine tools with mechanical carriages. The development of the mechanical carriage dates to the early 18th century. In 1738 the Russian engineer A. K. Nartov built the world’s first machine tool with a mechanical carriage and a set of replaceable, toothed wheels. In the 18th century, Nartov and other Russian master engineers, such as M. Sidorov-Krasil’nikov, S. Shelashnikov, and Ia. Batishchev, designed a series of metal-cutting machine tools, including machines for drilling the bores of cannons and various unit-head machine tools. However, the inventions of the Russian engineers did not become widely known and applied because feudal Russia’s need for only a small number of machines—primarily to manufacture weapons—was satisfied by small, individual enterprises.

In Great Britain in the late 18th century, there arose conditions favorable for the development of machine-based production of machines. In the 1790’s the British engineer H. Maudslay built a machine tool with a mechanical carriage. This carriage, adapted from the lathe to other types of metal-cutting machine tools, marked the beginning of machine tools with sophisticated working mechanisms.

Subsequently, the primary types of metal-cutting machine tools were designed in Germany, France, and other countries, with many inventors working on designs. For example, in the 1820’s and 1830’s the American E. Whitney developed several designs for milling machines for the Colt arms plants. In 1829 a patent for a milling machine was issued in the name of J. Naismith, the owner of large British machine-building plants. In 1861 a patent for a refined milling machine was issued in the name of the American firm of Brown and Sharpe. By the second half of the 19th century, the basic designs of the milling, turret, planing, slotting, and other types of machine tools had been essentially worked out, principally in order to meet the needs of two new fields of application—railroad construction and oceangoing steamship operations. Machine tools became known by the brand names of the largest machine-building firms that produced them, such as Whitworth, Naismith, Sellers, and Pratt. In the first half of the 19th century, Great Britain led the world machine tool industry; in the second half of the century, it was overtaken by the USA. During this same period, the industry began developing in Germany.

The first enterprise in Russia to produce metalworking machine tools was the Berd Plant in St. Petersburg (1790). In 1815 the Tula Firearms Factory began producing metal-cutting machine tools, and in 1824 the His Plant was built in St. Petersburg to manufacture steam-powered machines and machine tools. In the late 1800’s, many machine-building plants produced machine tools in addition to other items. The production of metal-cutting machine tools in Russia in 1913 totaled 1,800 units; in 1908, Russia had 75,000 installed machine tools. Domestically produced machine tools constituted only 16 to 24 percent of all machine tools purchased by industry; the remainder was imported.

During the years of Soviet power, the machine tool industry has been essentially built from scratch. Implementation of the decision of the Fourteenth Congress of the ACP(B) in December 1925, which defined the general line of industrialization of the national economy, required preferential development of heavy industry, domestic machine building, and the production of metal-cutting machine tools. Special steps taken by the state in 1929 and 1930 laid the organizational groundwork needed to plan the development of a specialized machine tool industry in the USSR. The formation of Stankotrest—a machine tool trust—on May 29, 1929, marked the official creation of an independent machine tool branch of industry. In 1930 the State All-Union Association of the Machine Tool and Tool Industries, called Soiuzstanko-instrument, was established by integrating the machine tool and toolmaking trusts. The Moscow Machine Tool Institute (Stankin) was founded to train specialists, and machine tool departments were set up at the N. E. Bauman Moscow Higher Technical School and the M. I. Kalinin Leningrad Polytechnic Institute. In 1931 the Scientific Research Institute of Machine Tools and Instruments was founded in Moscow to create research and experimental facilities for the developing machine tool industry. In 1933 it was renamed the Experimental Scientific Research Institute of Metal-cutting Machine Tools (ENIMS). In 1934, ENIMS was the first in the USSR and in Europe to develop unit-head machine tools with multiple spindles.

The reconstruction of existing enterprises and the construction of new ones made it possible to increase the production capacities for metal-cutting machine tools by 150 percent during the first five-year plan (1929–32). During the second five-year plan (1933–37), the number of machine tool plants increased 80 percent, and the production of machine tools more than doubled. The volume of nationwide machine tool production in 1937 was 33 times greater than the 1913 level. Moreover, not only did the quantity of machine tools being produced increase, but the range and selection were also expanded. Automatic and semiautomatic machine tools and heavy-duty grinders and gear-cutting machines went into production. In 1940 the total number of size categories of machine tools in production exceeded 320.

During the three prewar five-year plans, many new machine tool plants were built, including the Kramatorsk Heavy Machine Tool Plant, the Kiev Automatic Machine Tool Plant, the Kharkov Radial Drilling Machine Plant, and the Moscow Stankolit Plant. By 1941, the USSR had 37 specialized machine tool plants.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, the machine tool industry switched to supplying the needs of the defense industry. The organization of mass production of ammunition, combat vehicles, and artillery and other weapons demanded the creation of new, specialized unit-head and other types of machine tools with simplified operation. Many plants turned to production-line manufacturing. During the war years, the large-scale heavy-duty machine tool and hydraulic press plant A. I. Efremov Tiazhstanko-gidropress in Novosibirsk and the V. I. Lenin Sterlitamak Plant were built.

In 1950, by the end of the fourth five-year plan, 70,600 metal-cutting machine tools were produced. During the period 1946–50, approximately 250 new types of general-purpose metal-cutting machine tools and more than 1,000 size categories of special and unit-head machine tools were put into production. The production of automatic transfer machines consisting of unit-head machine tools was begun. In 1946 the first automatic transfer machine for machining cylinder heads on KhTZ tractors was built. In 1950 an automatic plant to manufacture pistons was put into operation.

By the 1970’s, major machine tool industrial centers with excellent plants and many design bureaus and scientific research organizations were established in the Union republics. In the Lithuanian SSR, for example, a complex of plants was built to produce precision machine tools, a branch of ENIMS with a pilot-plant production program was established, and a division of the planning institute Giprostanok was founded. The Armenian SSR has several tool and machine tool plants, a branch of ENIMS, and a planning and technology institute. The figures in Table 1 show the increase in production of metal-cutting machine tools.

Table 1. Production of metal-cutting machine tools in the USSR
YearNumber of unitsMillions of rubles1
1Enterprise wholesale prices on July 1, 1967 2Within the USSR borders of Sept. 17, 1939 3Within the current USSR borders
19132 ...............1,500
19133 ...............1,800
1928 ...............2,000
1932 ...............19,700
1940 ...............58,40067.8
1950 ...............70,60094.7
1955 ...............117,100230.0
1960 ...............155,900419.0
1965 ...............186,100638.0
1970 ...............202,200978.0
1971 ...............207,2001,053.0
1972 ...............211,4001,140.0
1973 ...............213,8001,263.0
1974 ...............225,6001,387.0

The percentage of imported metal-cutting machine tools in use has dropped. At the end of 1966, 3 percent of such machine tools were imported, compared to 10 percent in 1938. The technological progress in machine tool building is characterized above all by qualitative changes in the structure of production and improvements in the technological specifications of metal-cutting machine tools.

Production efficiency rose significantly during the eighth five-year plan (1966–70) as a result of steps taken to improve sector and enterprise management, reequip enterprises, and improve labor specialization and organization. The output-capital ratio for the machine tool and tool industries as a whole rose 9 percent, with increased labor productivity accounting for almost 80 percent of all growth in the volume of production. In 1975,179 automatic and semiautomatic transfer machines were produced for machine building and metalworking—2.5 times as many as in 1965 (see Table 2).

Table 2. Production of automatic and semiautomatic transfer machines for machine building and metalworking (in units)
1940 ...............1
1950 ...............10
1960 ...............174
1970 ...............579
1974 ...............743

While the total quantitative growth in the production of metal-cutting machine tools during the five-year plan was 9 percent, the production of precision machine tools increased 42.2 percent, which was more than four times the figure for 1960. The production of super-high-precision machine tools rose 74.8 percent. The total range of machine tools in 1945 included nine size categories of precision machine tools; by the end of 1970, there were more than 400. More than 30 models of coordinated boring machines alone were in production.

At the beginning of 1971, the range of heavy and custom-built machine tools in production comprised 450 size categories—approximately 28 percent of the total range available. A wide assortment of machine tools is produced. Most of the heavy machine tools being built are designed within the limits of predetermined standardized ranges. They have common design concepts and are interrelated by an extensive system of standardized assemblies and parts.

During the eighth five-year plan, a great deal of scientific research and development was focused on modern metal-cutting machine tools with numerical control. Advances made in the last ten to 15 years in electrical engineering, electronics, and the development of mechanism-control systems have made it possible to begin development of machine tools with programmed control. Such machines are becoming one of the primary types of machine tools in use. They make it possible to automate production processes at enterprises with individual, small-lot, and lot production programs. In 1970, 1,588 such machine tools were produced, as compared to 16 in 1960, and in 1974 production had risen to 4,410 units. In the first four years of the ninth five-year plan (1971–75), approximately 60 new models of machine tools with numerical control were designed and put into lot production, including over 40 models with automatic tool changing.

Extensive work is under way to build automated shops equipped with metal-cutting machine tools with numerical control and group programmed control for complex machining of parts of one given type. For example, ENIMS and its experimental plant have built a shop equipped with machine tools with numerical control to machine a wide assortment of parts whose shapes constitute bodies of revolution, such as shafts, bushings, sleeves, and disks. The shop is centrally controlled by a computer, and programs are written automatically. The industry is taking several steps to accelerate the production of metal-cutting machine tools with numerical control. Specifically, production-line manufacturing of machine tools with numerical control is being organized at certain plants, and the majority of the best machine tool plants have been enlisted to produce such machines.

Electrical and electrochemical methods of machining metal have become widespread, and machining to size by means of a photon beam is increasingly used. These methods sometimes supplement or, in certain cases, entirely replace the cutting and pressure working of parts. Among the latest devices that have been developed and put into production are electron discharge machine tools designed to precision machine small parts and cut out shaped pieces by means of a wire electrode, electron impulse machine tools for three-coordinate machining of shaped parts, anodic mechanical and electrical contact machine tools for machining ingots made of special steels and for other work, photon-beam machine tools for machining holes with diameters between 0.03 and 0.5 mm in all materials, ultrasonic machine tools for working hard and bulky materials, and electrochemical machine tools. The introduction of such machine tools in industry permits significant technological progress in certain areas. The use of photon beams and ultrasound for working diamond drawplates and dies has made it possible to solve the problem of the complex working of these articles; as a result, the time required for rough working has been shortened from dozens of hours to a few minutes, and the time required for finishing work has been reduced by a factor of 4–5.

During the 1970’s the machine tool industry worked on the design and production of new standardized series of machine tools. Between 1971 and 1975, 51 model ranges of machine tools were created, including 277 base models and 682 standardized models. All models in a given series having similar technological purposes are designed according to principles of design similarity. This permits extensive standardization and makes it possible to build specialized production facilities.

The development of designs for machine tools and automatic complexes in the near future will be marked by the following trends: a complete transition from nonautomatic to semiautomatic and automatic machine tools, more extensive use of programmed control and computer technology in all the basic types of metal-cutting machine tools and in automatic and semiautomatic transfer machines, the creation of shops equipped with machine tools with programmed control, the establishment of processing centers, the creation of multipurpose automatic transfer lines sections, shops, and plants controlled by computers for branches of the machine-building industry involved in large-lot and mass production, and the development and execution of designs for industrial robots built into automatic transfer machines, complexes of automated production machines, and other types of mass production equipment.

On the basis of the rate of development and scale of production achieved in the USSR machine tool industry, significant technological and production potential has been created in the form of an available supply of metal-cutting machine tools. The rate of development of this supply of machine tools, the decrease in the age of the machinery, and the change in the qualitative structure of the supply—all result from the work of the Soviet machine tool industry, which provides the material and technical basis for machine building and metalworking. This has enabled the Soviet machine tool industry to become one of the world leaders in production of a wide range of modern metal-cutting machine tools for the most varied needs of the national economy.

The machine tool industry is also developing successfully in other socialist countries (see Table 3).

Table 3. Production of metal-cutting machine tools in some COMECON member countries (units)
Bulgaria ...............8,06313,94515,466
Czechoslovakia ...............24,32735,18630,085
German Democratic Republic ...............24,76822,21919,107
Hungary ...............13,85214,47612,374
Poland ...............31,13429,72633,805
Rumania ...............7,16314,13824,834

In Bulgaria the production of machine tools increased by a factor of nearly 17 between 1950 and 1974. On Jan. 1, 1970, the country had more than 40,000 metal-cutting mchine tools, 58–60 percent of which was domestically produced.

The German Democratic Republic has a developed machine tool industry. In 1972 the country accounted for 4.3 percent of the world’s machine tool production (measured by value), and was second among the member countries of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). The production of automated, special-purpose, and specialized machine tools, automatic transfer machines, unit-head machine tools, and machine tools with numerical control is increasing. The country exports 60–75 percent of all machine tools produced.

In Poland lathes account for the largest percentage of overall production. In 1974 automatic and semiautomatic lathes constituted 3.8 percent of the total output. Each year the production of grinders increases; in 1974 such machines accounted for 15.6 percent of the total output. The production of heavy machine tools, particularly specialized machine tools for railroad transportation, and machine tools with numerical control is also increasing.

In Czechoslovakia the machine tool industry is the leading branch of machine building. The industry manufactures a broad range of products and a wide variety of machine tools, including light, heavy, general-purpose, and specialized machine tools. The Czech industry manufactures 250–290 basic types of machine tools. In 1972 grinders accounted for 42.5 percent of the total production. Lathes also occupy a significant share of total machine tool production (approximately 25 percent). Since the early 1960’s, considerable attention has been devoted to the design and production of different types of machine tools with numerical control.

Yugoslavia had no machine tool industry before World War II. In 1972 the country produced approximately 13,000 metal-cutting machine tools. The technological trend of the Yugoslav machine tool industry is toward further expansion of the production of automatic and semiautomatic machines and machine tools with numerical control. Yugoslav machine tool production still does not meet the country’s needs, and the number of machine tools imported significantly exceeds the number produced domestically.

Among the capitalist countries, the USA, the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, France, Great Britain, and Italy have built up the most highly developed machine tool industries (see Table 4).

The Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) is one of the world’s chief producers of metalworking equipment. The 433 companies engaged in such production manufactured 206,700 units in 1974. Of the total number of metal-cutting machine tools produced, the largest shares (measured by value) are accounted for by grinding, lapping, and polishing machines (20.1 percent), turret lathes and automatic lathes (16.2 percent), milling machines (13.8 percent), and standard lathes, cut-off machines, and thread-cutting machine tools (12.3 percent). The FRG lags significantly behind the USA and Japan in the production of machine tools with numerical control, with 816 units manufactured in 1971. Among the capitalist countries it is the largest exporter of metalworking equipment, accounting for 34.5 percent of the total world exports in 1972.

According to 1967 survey data, there were more than 1,200 machine tool enterprises in the USA, including 897 engaged in the production of metal-cutting machine tools and 348 manufacturing forge and press machinery; approximately 60 percent of these were small enterprises. Sixty percent of the industry’s total output was produced by large enterprises with more than 500 employees. In 1974 the US machine tool industry produced 273,000 metal-cutting machine tools worth $1.51 billion, including 857 automatic transfer machines and 884 machine tools for electrical and electrochemical machining. The proportion of metal-cutting machine tools and systems with numerical control is holding at approximately the same level—approximately 20 percent of production (by cost). Because of the high cost of labor in the USA and the resulting high cost of equipment, the USA must import much machine tool equipment. Its primary suppliers of metalworking equipment are the FRG (up to 80 percent of the equipment imported) and Japan (12,000 units imported in 1972). The leading purchasers of American machine tools are the European capitalist countries (more than 40 percent of the equipment exported).

In Japan approximately 270 companies produce metal-cutting machine tools. Between 1960 and 1970 the production of metalworking equipment rose by a factor of 7 (measured by value), and the total output of metal-cutting machine tools more than tripled (80,100 units produced in 1960 and 257,000 units in 1970). In 1973, Japan produced approximately 305 billion yen worth of metal-cutting machine tools. The production of special machine tools has increased at a particularly high rate; 98 units were produced in 1960 and 4,046 in 1973. The production of machine tools with numerical control was begun in 1965. Production output in 1967 was 129 units; in 1971 the figure had risen to 1,379 units and in 1974 to 3,046. Japan moved into second place among the capitalist countries in the production of machine tools with numerical control (measured in units manufactured). The value of such production in 1973 constituted 15.6 percent of the total value of metal-cutting machine tools produced. By 1973, Japan had changed from an importer of metal-cutting machine tools to an exporter.

The Italian machine tool industry accounts for 6 percent of the value of world production of metalworking equipment; 1974 production was 185,000 tons. There are 450 Italian firms engaged in the production of machine tools and forge and press machinery. Measured by value, production rose by a factor of 6.3 between 1965 and 1974. Drilling and thread-cutting machines accounted for 26 percent of the total output, lathes 14 percent, grinders 7.5 percent, milling machines 4.1 percent, and boring machines 1.2 percent. Production of machine tools with numerical control is high. Italy is one of the world’s largest exporters of machine tools, occupying fourth place among the capitalist countries. Forty percent of all machine tool output is exported. In 1973 Italy exported 4,185 machine tools with numerical control, worth $25.62 million.

Great Britain has approximately 200 firms engaged in the production of metalworking equipment; 20 of these account for 70 percent of the total production. In 1974 the largest shares of metal-cutting machine tool output were accounted for by lathes (38.2 percent), million machines (11.3 percent), and grinders (15.6 percent). Machine tools with numerical control constituted 9.5 percent (in value) of the total production in 1974.

The French machine tool industry had 187 firms in 1972, 26 of which accounted for 63.5 percent of the nation’s machine tool production. The most widely produced machines are combination lathe-milling machines, jig borers, and, to a lesser degree, grinders. Production of machine tools with numerical control reached 390 units in 1973. In 1972 such equipment accounted for 8.9 percent of the total machine tool production (in value).

Table 4. Production of metal-cutting machine tools in the major capitalist countries
Thousands of unitsMillions of dollarsThousands of unitsMillions of dollars
Federal Republic of Germany ...............164.41,017.5155.91.452.9
France ...............30.9218.226.4344.2
Great Britain ...............58.4378.656.1283.4
Italy ...............59.0346.9435.2
Japan ...............256.7867.6212.61.117.0
USA ...............


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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