Believe it or not, CNC machines play a big role in our everyday lives. From the smartphones we use for everything to the cars we drive every day, these and many more things we use daily are possible because of CNC machinery. Many industries use CNC machinery and as a result, have played a large role in shaping society into what it is today. So what exactly are these machines?
What is CNC Machinery?
CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinery are machines controlled by computer programs. The computer software controls how the machines will make the parts. CNC machines are used to make machined parts that either requires high precision or are made out of tough materials. These parts are either impossible or would take significantly longer if a person were to make them.
The purpose of a CNC machine is to turn the material provided into a working product. This process is called subtractive manufacturing. CNC machines work by replicating the traditional tools and machines they are based on. For example, a CNC mill does the same thing a traditional milling machine would do. The only difference is that the CNC mill is controlled by a computer whereas the traditional mill is operated by a machinist.
There are several different types of CNC machines. The three most used are mills, lathes, and lasers. Other popular CNC machines include water jets, routers, electric discharge machines (EDM’s), and plasma cutting machines.
How CNC Machines Are Used in Manufacturing
While each CNC machine may use different tools, the machining process is all the same. The process is straightforward, but the amount of time it takes can vary.
The process starts by first creating a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) model on CAD software. This is done on a separate computer and not on the CNC machine itself. CAD programs allow manufacturers to design and modify a model with all of the correct technical specs before sending it to the machine. Think of it as a digital prototype.
File Conversion and Setup
After creating the model, it is then converted to a CNC compatible format and sent to the CNC machine where the CAD drawing is converted into the proper code. This code is called G-Code. G-Code, or geometric code, controls how the CNC machine moves during the manufacturing process.
Once the operator has this and other machine preparations set, they can finally operate the machine. The G-code acts as instructions that guide the machine every step of the way. The end result will be the designed part.
Benefits of Using CNC Machines
CNC machines have many advantages over traditional machines and as a result, a variety of industries use CNC machines to assist them in the manufacturing process.
CNC machines are quicker, more accurate, and have a higher production rate than any human operator. After the design and setup process is done a CNC machine can continue to make the same part over and over, leading to a large number of uniform parts done in a short period of time.
Another benefit of CNC machines is that they require less manual labor. With manual machines, you would need at least one skilled worker to operate each machine whereas with CNC machines you can have one operator supervise several machines at the same time. This saves on labor costs and the available manpower can be used elsewhere.
Easier to Maintain and Upkeep
CNC machines don’t need a whole lot of maintenance outside of switching tools and cleaning. The software even updates itself when necessary. The CAD designs uploaded to the machine can be saved and made again when needed. Outside of an unfortunate breakdown, none of the maintenance needed for these machines requires a professional to work on them.