Over the past few years, CNC machining services have become a vital part of the modern manufacturing world. They offer a wide range of benefits, including efficiency, scalability and enhanced personal safety.
But what is CNC machining, exactly? What are the various types? And more so, what benefits does it offer? This post will cover everything you need about CNC machining, starting with the basics.
What is CNC Machining?
CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) machining refers to the automation of the manufacturing process through the use of pre-programmed software and code to control the movement of production equipment. It is commonly applied in the mass production of metal and plastic parts. But how do CNC machines works?
CNC machining services use machines that are fully automated – all they need to perform their function is digital files (programs and codes) with instructions on completing a given task.
The manufacturing process requires a wide range of tools to finish the production of a particular part. Switching between these tools in manual machining can be relatively tiresome and monotonous.
Luckily, with a CNC machine, machinists can create digital tool libraries that work hand in hand with physical equipment.
With these pre-programmed instructions, production machinery can automatically switch tools, increasing the efficiency of the manufacturing process.
The CNC machining process starts with the creation of a computer-aided design (CAD) of the required part. The next step is translating the design to G-code and performing test runs to ensure proper positioning and performance.
Types of CNC Machines
There are various types of CNC machines, categorised based on the work they do.
Here are the top 3 most common types of CNC machines:
CNC Milling Machines
CNC milling machines are designed to hold raw materials in place while rotating cutting tools to make shapes and cuts. Machinists use these precision machines to develop a wide range of features, including;
- Face-milled features (such as flat surfaces and cavities)
- Peripheral milled features (such as threads and slots)
CNC Laser Machines
These precision machines use a highly focused laser beam to cut, engrave or slice raw materials. As the laser hits the raw material, it causes heating which leads to melting and vaporisation, leaving cuts on the surface.
The material is often in a sheet shape, which allows the laser beam to move back and forth on the surface, making the designed cuts and shapes.
CNC laser machines are often used to produce intricate parts, such as a company logo or name, that you can’t manufacture using lathing and milling machines.
CNC Lathe and Turning Machines
As the name suggests, CNC lathe and turning machines are designed to turn (rotate) materials during production. Unlike milling machines (which rotate tools and hold raw materials in place), CNC lathe and turning machines rotate the material while the cutting tools are introduced on the surface of the rotating stock.
CNC lathe machines are used to create a wide range of internal and external features on the material, including slots, tapping threads and bores. Examples of components manufactured on CNC lathes and turning machines include bolts and screws.
Other types of CNC machines include:
- CNC electrical discharge machines (EDM)
- CNC plasma cutting machines
- CNC grinding machines
Benefits of CNC Machining
- Boosts productivity – CNC machines can increase the rate of output by automating the production process.
- Reduced errors – CNC machines eliminate the need for human intervention, minimising the risk of errors.
- Enhanced safety – Using CNC machines eliminates the need for manual operation of machines, enhancing the safety of operators.
- Cost-effectiveness – Although investing in CNC machines can be a costly affair, they make up for their high costs with higher production rates.
In a Nutshell
CNC machines are designed to offer more precision and intricacy than is possible with manual machining. Using these machines offers additional benefits, including accuracy, speed and flexibility.
As it stands, CNC machines have revolutionised manufacturing in various ways. With consistent improvements, we could see the introduction of AI in CNC automation soon. Such machines will make manufacturing more profitable and cost-effective.