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custom shaft manufacturing

Custom Shaft Manufacturing: Types, Processes and Expert Tips

Custom shaft manufacturing requires a combination of expertise, precision, and high accuracy to machine shafts with tighter tolerances and complex features. Custom-machined shafts are core to the mechanics of several industries including paper milling, aerospace, mining, manufacturing, and automotive.

These shafts have an extensive range of applications, each tailored to match the specific needs and requirements of the intended application. However, it is important to understand the differences between the types of custom shafts and compatible machining processes to determine the best fit for your project.

This guide explores the meaning of machined shaft, its types, common shaft machining processes, and compatible surface finish options. Read on to the end to learn about the helpful considerations for successful custom shaft manufacturing!

What Is Custom Shaft Manufacturing?

custom shaft 1
Custom Shaft

A custom-made shaft is a rod-shaped or cylindrical component that generates linear motion in different applications. Shafts are basic components of various machines where linear motion is crucial and precision is key. There are different types of precision shafts, each with unique features and capabilities. Each of these rod-shaped devices must be manufactured with ultra-fine tolerances and can withstand unique loads, survive harsh environments, and operate at preferred speeds. Consequently, it ensures that your machines or equipment moves smoothly and accurately.

Various industries rely on custom-made shafts since most machines used in these industries possess these components (shafts). Hence manufacturing these customized shafts with the highest degree of accuracy, concentricity, hardness, and surface finish is critical to their fit and function, ensuring the optimal linear motion performance and overall operating conditions. It is crucial to machine a custom shaft accurately because machined shafts that are not within the required tolerance will experience complications like runouts, which will adversely affect the quality of the machinery.

How to Machining customized Shaft?

Custom shaft machining involves a series of steps that help to fabricate precise shafts with the desired dimensions, tolerances, and surface finishes. However, identifying the intended application, operating conditions, and project requirements to produce precise and functional machined shafts is advisable. We’ll discuss basic steps on how to process custom machined shafts in this section:

Design, Specifications, and Programming

The first step of the custom shaft manufacturing process is to make a detailed design program considering the alignment, torque, and environmental conditions. It is essential to define the shaft material, length, and diameter specifications. Then, create a CAD (computer-aided design) file for your precision shaft with CAD software.

Using computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, you can then create tool paths for the CNC machine based on the machined shaft parts requirements. Create a CNC program (G-code) with CAM software and load it into the CNC machine controller to govern the machining process.

Material Selection

you must choose the best material for the precision shafts machining based on the requirements of the application. Steel, aluminum, titanium, and brass are common materials engineers use to manufacture shafts depending on variables such as cost, tensile strength, and corrosion resistance.

Setting Up the Machine

CNC machine setup comes next in the custom shaft manufacturing process. You have to choose the right machine type including a lathe or milling machine when setting up a CNC machine to fabricate custom shafts. Then, prepare the workpiece raw material and pick the appropriate CNC tool. Also, ensure the workpiece is fastened firmly with the appropriate fixtures and ensure the edges of the cutting tools are sharp.

Surface Finishing

There are various surface finish treatments compatible with custom machined shafts. These finishing treatments help enhance the physical aesthetics and functionality of these machined shafts, ensuring they fulfill the requirements of the intended applications. Typical surface finish treatments suitable for enhancing custom shafts include polishing, bead blasting, electroplating, and anodizing.

Inspection and Quality Control

Measure the custom shafts’ dimensions with precision measuring tools like micrometers, gauges, or calipers to confirm the shaft meets the required tolerance range.

The Most Common Types of Shafts

types of shafts
Types of Shafts

Different custom shafts are available for various industrial machinery and large equipment. Each shaft has varying load capacity, rotational speed, and application. Here are some of the commonly used machined shafts:

Solid Shaft: A single, continuous cylindrical piece of material, such as steel or aluminum, the solid shaft is the simplest and most basic type of shaft. It is commonly used in low-power and low-speed applications like hand tools, home appliances, and small machinery, where its straightforward design and durability make it a reliable choice.

Hollow Shaft: Also known as a tubular shaft, this type features a hollow, cylindrical design with a central bore running through its length. The hollow construction makes hollow shafts lighter in weight compared to solid shafts, making them suitable for applications where weight reduction is crucial, such as in the automotive and aerospace industries.

stepped shaft
Stepped Shaft

Stepped Shaft: This shaft design incorporates two or more diameters along its length, allowing it to accommodate various components like bearings, gears, or pulleys that need to be mounted on the shaft. The stepped configuration provides a way to transition between different component sizes, making it a common feature in mechanical power transmission systems.

tapered shaft with knurling
Tapered Shaft with Knurling

Tapered Shaft: The tapered shaft has a gradually decreasing or increasing diameter along its length, enabling a secure fit for components like pulleys or gears that need to be mounted on the shaft. The taper allows these components to be easily slid onto the shaft and then locked in place, often using a keyway or a tapered fit.

Splined Shaft: Splined shafts feature a series of parallel grooves or ridges, called splines, running along its length. These splines allow the shaft to transmit torque and power to connected components, such as gears or couplings, making splined shafts a popular choice in automotive, industrial, and aerospace applications.

keyed shaft
Keyed Shaft

Keyed Shaft: Keyed shafts often have a flat surface or groove, known as a keyway, running along its length. This keyway provides a secure mounting point for components like pulleys, sprockets, or gears, preventing them from slipping on the shaft. The component is typically held in place by a separate key that fits into both the keyway on the shaft and a corresponding slot in the component.

Typical Custom Shafts Manufacturing Techniques

cnc turning machining process
CNC-Turning Machining Process

Precision shaft manufacturers use different innovative techniques to fabricate shafts to preferred tolerances and surface finish. Below are some of the commonly used shaft manufacturing techniques:

CNC Milling

CNC milling is a versatile subtractive process that uses a rotary multi-point tool to machine features like splines and keyways on a shaft. The technique involves delivering consistent and precise cuts on the stationary shaft material to shape it into desired shapes.

CNC Turning

CNC turning is another common technique machinists use to manufacture shafts. This technique is best suited for machining cylindrical turned parts like custom shafts. Specialized tools cut material from the surface of the shaft as the chucks rotate it. CNC turning creates machined shafts with the required surface finish and diameter precisely to specifications. Most especially, the CNC turning technique is perfect for mass production jobs when you need to machine thousands of shafts as quickly as possible.

CNC Drilling

CNC drilling is suitable for machining holes and channels across custom shafts, allowing attachment of gears to the shaft. Machinists use this technique to machine grooves of different depths and diameters in these cylindrical components. Drilling is cost-effective and simpler than most machining processes.

CNC Grinding

The CNC grinding process involves the use of an abrasive spinning wheel to even out the rough surface of a machined shaft, giving it a fine and smoother surface finish. This process allows machinists to manufacture custom shafts that meet the specified tolerances and dimensions. Although this technique doesn’t use a cutting tool, it utilizes a grinding wheel that engages the shaft’s surface to smoothen it.

Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM)

EDM is a versatile non-traditional machining technique that involves cutting unwanted material from a workpiece by vaporizing. The electric discharge machining technique can make tiny and intricate features on solid machined shafts.

Wide Range of Materials for Machining Customized Shafts

aluminum alloy custom shafts
Aluminum Alloy Custom Shafts

Custom shafts for different applications are made from a wide range of materials, provided they exhibit remarkable strength and can withstand the load of the intended application. Here are some of the common materials used to machine shafts:


Aluminum is one of the widely used lightweight and corrosion-resistant metals. Its higher machinability makes it a suitable choice for different applications where low weight is critical without compromising strength. Aluminum is the perfect material choice for applications that require machined shafts with low weight.

Alloy Steel

Alloy steel exhibits enhanced material properties including high strength and toughness needed to make precise and durable machined shafts. Typical alloy steel suitable for heavy-duty applications like large industrial motors or machinery are alloy steels 4140 or 4340. Most notably, alloy steels can withstand high-temperature applications.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is an extremely durable metal used in manufacturing custom shafts. Manufacturers prefer it due to its exceptional machinability and tensile strength. Carbon steel alloys are compatible with various heat treatment procedures that enhance their mechanical properties.

Carbon steel is mostly durable even though it is not the best option for aesthetic applications. The 1045 grade is the perfect carbon steel alloy with the ideal strength for applications like pump shafts or motor shafts.


Titanium is a common material product engineers use to machine high-precision shafts. It exhibits a high strength-to-weight ratio and resistance to corrosion. Most notably, titanium is suitable for high-performance applications like custom shaft manufacturing for the aerospace sector due to its extreme strength.

Nickel Alloys

Nickel alloys offer high-temperature strength and excellent resistance to corrosion. Due to their unique combination of properties, these alloys are well-suited for manufacturing shafts for the most exacting applications. Inconel 600 and 800 are common nickel alloy examples suitable for manufacturing custom shafts used in high-temperature applications like turbines.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a highly adaptable material suitable for manufacturing custom shafts. Its corrosion resistance property makes it the perfect material for different applications.  For example, 304 and 316 stainless steel provide high resistance to corrosion. As such, they find use in applications with high exposure to corrosive elements like seawater and chemical processing plants.

Surface Finishing Choice for Custom Shaft Manufacturing

17 4 ph cond. a cnc turned passivation
17-4 PH_COND. A_CNC Turned_Passivation

The surface finish compatible with a custom machined shaft depends on its intended application. Product engineers often use these surface finish options to enhance the performance of machined shafts and increase their corrosion and wear resistance. Here are common surface finish options suitable for custom shafts:

Bead Blasting

Bead blasting is a reliable surface finish option that involves the release of steel beads or fine glass at high pressure to smoothen the surface of machined shafts. The bead blast finish cleans the surface of the shafts giving it a dull or satin appearance.


This surface finish option is one of the most used options. It is mostly perfect for finishing aluminum machined shafts. It creates a hard, corrosion-resistant coating on the custom shaft’s surface, improving its aesthetic appeal and resistant to corrosive elements. Furthermore, anodized shafts allow the addition of vibrant colors.


Polishing as a surface treatment helps to prevent the surface of machined shafts from contamination and oxidation. The process involves using an abrasive material to remove nicks from the surface of the shafts, improving the reflective properties and its corrosion resistance.

Chrome Plating

Chrome plating creates a thin chromium coating on the machined shaft, enhancing its hardness and resistance to corrosion. This tough and shiny layer of chromium can withstand harsh environments and continuous use without deforming.


Product manufacturers use the passivation finishing treatment to improve the surface of custom stainless steel shafts. The process includes cleaning the shaft with an acid solution, removing free iron compounds and other contaminants from its surface. Hence, a passive oxide coating forms on the surface, protecting it from corrosive substances.


Electroplating is a versatile surface finishing option manufacturers use to improve the surface of machined shafts. It often involves the deposition of a thin layer of metals like gold, zinc, or nickel on the shaft’s surface. This finishing treatment enhances the shaft’s resistance to corrosion and wear.

Tips for Design and Manufacturing Custom Shafts

types of shafts
Types of Shafts

Dimensional Accuracy

To prevent inaccuracies or performance errors such as extreme vibrations and deflections, it would be best to machine the shaft’s length and diameter and other features precisely to the requirements of the intended applications. Maintaining tight tolerances on the machined shaft’s diameter, length, and other critical dimensions ensures the proper fit and function of attached components. More importantly, it would be best to use precise machining techniques, such as CNC turning or grinding, and consult industry standards to determine the appropriate tolerance ranges for the shafts’ dimensions.

Shaft Alignment

Ensure the shaft is properly aligned with the other components in the system to minimize vibrations, wear, and premature failure. Use precision alignment tools and techniques, such as laser alignment, and consider the effects of thermal expansion and other environmental factors that may influence shaft alignment over time.

Determine the Expected Load and Torque

When machining custom shafts for a particular application, it would be best to determine the expected load and torque these shafts will withstand to ensure they fit and perform properly. Determining the expected load and torque helps to ensure the shaft parts’ reliability and accuracy, preventing cases of failure during operation. Most importantly, it helps to predict the best material and right diameter required to make functional custom shafts.

Stress Analysis

stress analysis in shaft
Stress Analysis in Shaft

Perform a thorough stress analysis to identify areas of high-stress concentration and potential failure points. Consider factors like bending, torsional, and axial loads, as well as any stress raisers, and use finite element analysis (FEA) or other engineering software to model the shaft’s performance and optimize the design.

Manufacturing Process

Choose the appropriate manufacturing process based on the shaft’s complexity, material, and production volume. Common methods include turning, milling, grinding, and specialized processes like cold rolling or forging. Ensure the manufacturing process maintains the required dimensional accuracy, surface finish, and metallurgical properties.

Use a Suitable Surface Finish

Finishing your custom-machined shaft with compatible surface treatment helps to ensure its extended lifespan and improved look. You can choose from the various surface finishes compatible with the different shaft types. Custom shafts finished with the right processes offer better corrosion, friction and wear resistance.

Maintaining the Quality of Machined Shafts

It is important to implement effective quality control measures when manufacturing functional shafts. Consistent in-process inspections and testing help to ensure the shafts are machined precisely to the required material properties, dimensions, and surface finish. More importantly, it would be best to practice coordinate measuring, surface roughness, and hardness testing during quality control.

Furthermore, consistent quality checks allow effective internal error detection and rectification, ensuring the machined parts meet the desired specifications. Also, maintaining detailed records of the manufacturing process and test results helps to ensure traceability and strict compliance with strict industry standards.

Choosing the Right Manufacturer for Your Needs

at machining custom shaft machining services
AT-Machining Custom Shaft Machining Services

AT-Machining is the right CNC machining expert to contact whenever you need help with your custom shaft manufacturing project. AT Machining is your one-stop CNC machine shop for quality and reliable precision machined shafts. We have machined several custom shafts from various CNC materials ranging from titanium and plastic to steel, with various machining processes.

Our elite team of machinists and engineers leverage our state-of-the-art CNC facility and years of experience in machining your custom shafts precisely to specific diameters and tolerances. We are ISO 9001:2015 AS9100D Certified, trust us to deliver superior quality, built-to-spec shafts that meet stringent quality standards. Submit your CAD file for instant quotes; we can turn your customized shaft design into reality!


Custom shaft manufacturing is an efficient process that involves manufacturing long and cylindrical mechanical engine components exactly to design specifications. There are various machined shafts, each with unique designs and features that match the requirements of respective applications. This guide has provided an in-depth discussion about the different types of shafts and expert tips to elevate your custom shaft manufacturing projects.

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