CNC machining is an important process in the manufacturing industry that involves using computers to control automated cutting and milling machines, which carve out parts from large blocks of raw materials like metal, wood, and plastic.
In this article, we’ll discuss CNC precision machining, how it works, and its advantages over other machining methods, such as hand or machine tools. We’ll also cover some advanced uses of CNC machines that aren’t always obvious to first-time users.
Let’s get started.
What is CNC Machining?
CNC, which stands for Computer Numerical Control, is a machining process in which computerized machines are used for precision cutting. These days, most machined parts are made using CNC machinery.
The simplest way is to say that CNC (or Computer Numerically Controlled) machining is a type of manufacturing that involves computers guiding machine tools – like lathes or mills – to produce parts according to specifications provided by CAD/CAM files.
To put it simply, you design your part on your computer – whether you’re working with SolidWorks, AutoCAD, or another program – and then send instructions through an interpreter so your CNC machine can understand them.
CNC Machine Programming
Mastering CNC machining is no easy feat, but it can be fun and rewarding. Although there are tons of valuable CAD and CAM software programs, you can find free versions.
It’s free and easy to use such programs for both hobbyists and professionals alike. One feature that stands out in such programs is their wide range of available tools – users will find everything they need to start creating high-quality machined parts immediately.
However, users must first learn how to code their designs to create a finished CNC part (especially the complex 3D components).
Here we have discussed the types of machining systems below.
- Open/Closed-Loop Machining Systems
There are two major types of machining systems. The first is called a closed-loop system, and it works by using hardware that can receive commands via a computer, which then tells those components how and where they should move to create specific parts or shapes.
The closed-loop system controller can receive feedback, making error correction possible. In other words, a closed-loop system will rectify irregularities in position and velocity.
The other type is an open-loop system, and it doesn’t require hardware to be installed for every part/shape you wish to create – this means more flexibility for someone interested in making custom shapes on command.
Open-loop systems work by sending signals from your computer directly through any necessary devices and tools (for example, CNC machines) that you may use.
- CNC Machining is Fully Automated
The computer-controlled milling and machining process requires very little human involvement. A CNC machine has instructions that tell it precisely how to work – down to millimeter accuracy. This level of precision ensures that you can produce parts identical to their tiniest details.
It also means you can trust that your CNC machine will complete each job quickly and accurately, regardless of size or complexity. In addition, all moving parts in a CNC machining process are lubricated automatically, so no manual work is required on your part – simply send your instructions for fabrication via software and let CNC do its thing.
Types of CNC Machines
Before you can learn how CNC machining works, you must know what types of CNC machines exist. So, let’s take a look at some common CNC machine varieties.
- CNC Mills
In a nutshell, a CNC mill is a computerized tool capable of performing various tasks, depending on your specific machine. The mill works by controlling a set of motors that make sure that your cuts are as precise as possible.
In addition, CNC Mills can run on programs consisting of letter and number-based prompts to guide across various distances. However, the program employed can be based on some unique language or G-code. And basic mills will have three-axis systems – the X, Y, and Z while recent models have additional axes.
Lathes are often used for carving complex shapes out of a block. Although you can use a lathe for precision machining, you generally can’t machine very small parts on a lathe.
These machines will cut in a circular direction using indexable tools. However, CNC technology makes such cuts with high velocity and precision. Most lathes have only two axes (X and Z), and G-code directs them. You can also use a unique proprietary code.
- Water Jet Cutters
With water jet cutting, a stream of high-pressure water is used to cut through metal and granite. It’s an extremely efficient way of working with metal and can be used on nearly any hard material.
Many industrial products are made using CNC waterjet cutting machines, as they have less impact than traditional cutting methods and produce an accurate result. However, they tend to be very expensive and aren’t cost-effective for small-scale projects or businesses.
- Electric Discharge Machines
An EDM is another type of CNC machining. It is also known as spark or die-sinking machining. The process will mold workpieces into specific shapes using electric sparks.
If the space between two electrodes becomes small, the electric field will be more intense, which is stronger than dielectric. The subtypes of electric discharge machines include Sinker EDM and Wire EDM.
- Plasma Cutters
To get your production process up and running as fast as possible, CNC machinists will use plasma cutters for various tasks. Plasma cutters are cutting tools that, when used with a CNC machine, can slice through almost any material, but they’re typically used on metals.
The workhorse of most production facilities is a plasma cutter – it’s versatile and highly efficient. Because it can be used on soft materials without much difficulty (and without worrying about burning through), it’s an excellent choice for large-scale manufacturers that churn out parts all day long.
CNC machining can be one of many tools used by engineers in their everyday work. For anyone looking to learn more about CNC machining and how it can benefit their business, we have provided relevant information in this article.