Rolling mills are machines which are used to process metal. They vary in size from bench-mounted hand-cranked mills used by jewelers to massive rolling mills utilized in industrial metals production and processing. The primary function of a rolling mill is to shape the metal being passed through the mill in some way, and many come with attachments and accessories which can be used for different types of tasks. Both hot and cold rolling mills are available for different metalworking applications.
A basic rolling mill is designed to produce sheet metal. The metal is passed between two tough cylinders numerous times, with the distance between the cylinders being decreased with each pass so that the metal becomes thinner and thinner. Using a rolling mill, an ingot of aluminum can be transformed into aluminum foil. Rolling mills are used to make sheet metal in a variety of thicknesses, and they can also be used to create custom sizes in a workshop by a metalworker who does not want to keep an array of sizes on hand.
Rolling mills can also be used to produce wire. The wire may be square, octagonal, or otherwise shaped by its passage through the rolling mill. In this case, the metal is moved through a series of progressively smaller slots in the rolling mill as it is cranked through. Rolling mills may also cut metal with a cutting attachment which can be used to create uniform standardized cuts.
Patterning and stamping are other options possible with a rolling mill. People can use patterned cylinders to stamp metal, or create their own patterns. Stamped metal can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from decorative tin ceilings to stamped wire used in jewelry making. The ability to create custom patterns allows people to play with designs to make highly individualized work, should they so desire.
Hand cranked rolling mills are reasonably safe to use, as long as people are familiar with the basic operation of the machine and they observe commonsense safety such as keeping long hair under wraps and being careful about sharp edges. Mechanized rolling mills such as those used in steel mills require more care, because if someone becomes trapped in the rollers, it could cause severe injury or death. The same force which can pull through and flatten an ingot of metal can do the same thing to a human being. With large rolling mills, it is important to know where the emergency stop is, and to be aware of one's surroundings.