CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining is a manufacturing process where a solid piece of material is transformed into the finished product. This process is often referred to as subtractive manufacturing because the raw material is cut away at until the desired results are achieved.
Prior to the invention of modern computers, CNC machines had to be programmed using punch cards or punch tapes, where punches corresponded to specific machine functions. The processes were semi-automated and required CNC machine operators to switch out different types of tools in between each tape or card.
Today, CNC machinery can be fully automated to the point where machines can be left to produce output with minimal human interactions. In some machine shops, you will even find the one machine operator managing multiple CNC machines simultaneously.
To create the finished products requires modeling them first using CAD (Computer Aided Design) or CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software. The software apps allow the product to be constructed in a virtual 3D environment to ensure it meets the required specifications.
Then, once the final revision is saved, the data file can be uploaded to the computer in the CNC machine. The CNC machine uses the encoded data in the file to produce the finished product. Different types of CNC machines are used, depending on the product being manufactured.
For instance, a CNC lathe machine transforms raw materials by spinning the material against a drill-like bit to remove the material. On the other hand, a CNC drill machine uses drill bits to drill directly into the raw material and remove material.
While both of these machines can perform specific processes, CNC milling machines offer greater flexibility. They utilize special rotary attachments to cut away the material. Some models can combine lathe and drilling processes as well, which can eliminate the need for multiple CNC machines.
Aside from these types of CNC machines, there are also specialty machines, such as CNC laser cutting machines or high-powered water jets, to function as the cutting mechanisms to remove the desired amount of material to produce the finished good.
A CNC Machine Is Only as Good as Its Programming
Since most CNC machines lack artificial intelligence (AI), they must rely solely upon their programming. If the data in the program is off just the slightest, it can result in faulty finished goods. This is why CNC operators must know how to use CAD and CAM software apps, as well as enter in programming instructions manually to the CNC machine when a data file is not available.
Skilled CNC operators also know they should always run a test prior to starting a batch process to ensure the machine is within acceptable operating parameters and there are no errors or issues that need to be resolved. Catching mistakes sooner, rather than later, always costs less.
For more information about CNC machines for your machine or metal fabrication shop, please feel free to contact Quantum Machinery Group at (909) 476-8007 today!