Although CNC technology has been around since the 1950s, it is only in recent years that CNC machining has increased dramatically in the manufacturing industry. The number of CNC machine types and their abilities has also increased in recent times, so you can expect to see the technology being used more and more by manufacturers. If you are new to CNC machining, here is a helpful non-technical introduction so you can understand it better.
What is CNC machining?
The “CNC” in CNC machining stands for “Computer Numerical Control”. CNC machines use a computer to control the motion of one or more of a machine’s axes. Software programs provide the instructions to control things like the spindle speeds, tool changes, and axis motions. CNC machines can be mills, drill presses, lathes, and other types.
Rather than having to manually control a cutting instrument or mechanically cut material from a set template, CNC machines are fully automated. The computer is responsible for performing actions like moving a lathe’s cutting heads and an EDM’s wire. Although the set up can involve a manual input, once the computer is engaged, the machine acts according to the pre-set program. The program works from the input of a numerical code, known as G-code.
CNC Machining is Available to All
CNC machining is fast-becoming affordable for all, so many small businesses are utilizing that. Even with a low budget, you can use a CNC service company to gain reliable access to low-cost, high-quality, and custom CNC machining. And as 3D printing becomes more entwined with machining and CNC tools, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and hobbyists are increasingly using a 3D printing service. Both CNC machines and 3D printers use digital design programs. But whereas CNC tools create parts through processes like cutting, drilling, and milling, 3D printers use an additive manufacturing process to build from the ground up.
The Basics of CNC Programming
Modern CNC machine tools can be programmed in two different ways. Firstly, conversational programming is the simplest method. It is basically a macro programming language that instructs a machine how to perform pre-programmed cycles like drilling holes and facing. When programmers write a conversational program, they enter the appropriate parameters for each machining cycle.
The other type of CNC programming involves using a computer-aided manufacturing program, which is more commonly known by its abbreviation of CAM. This type of programming enables programmers to program and define the parameters associated with each feature of the part being produced. Those parameters include elements like the length and diameter of the tool, the tool path geometry, and the depth of the cut.
The Advantages of CNC Machining
CNC machining has many advantages over traditional manufacturing processes. The parts that are made via CNC machining can be much more accurate and uniform. And, in theory, a CNC machine can operate 24/7 without the need for human input. Furthermore, CNC programs can be saved and repeated, so programs only need to be created once, and adjustments are easy to make as required. Such benefits enable large manufacturers or small machine shops to increase their efficiency greatly. In turn, that can lead to higher productivity.