A computer numerical control (CNC) machine provides state-of-the-art functions for various manufacturers to cut materials and print on surfaces. This type of automation helps speed up the manufacturing process and generally creates greater efficiency by reducing waste. Here are important points to consider when it comes to CNC machining.
The electronic tools on a CNC machine usually include a keypad that controls processes such as cutting and drilling, based on computer-aided design (CAD) software. By programming cuts, drilling and other functions it’s possible to generate hundreds of products in a matter of minutes. Programs are assigned letters and numbers that can be accessed on the keypad. The programs contain instructions for the machine to perform tasks that a century ago required manual labor.
Essentially, CNC machining is an automated process that can be applied to a wide range of modern machinery, such as grinders and routers. It allows for three-dimensional cutting using X,Y and Z coordinates on a graph. While CNC machines do the actual production work, they still require live operators to prompt commands. The operator can use tools to control speed and feed rate of the machine.
Why Manufacturers Prefer CNC Machines
Other than speeding up the production process, CNC machines are favored by metal fabricators and other manufacturers due to precision cutting. One of the reasons CNC machines speed up production is they eliminate the refinement process as an extra step. In other words, accurate cuts are made the first time and don’t require additional work. This process works well for manufacturing highly detailed products such as machine parts.
Another reason why CNC are favored is that they can do multiple functions at once, which cuts labor costs. They can also cut complex shapes involving curves and angles that are difficult to cut with conventional tools. Due to high precision cutting, less material is wasted in the process.
Programming Is the Key
Tools must be programmed with precision in order for CNC machining to be as efficient as possible. Faulty programming code can cause damage to the machine, so it still takes technical talent to achieve high quality results. If the machine lacks spindle load sensing then it’s imperative that the software is coded properly to avoid machine damage. One of the main reasons a CNC machine needs an operator is to ensure the machine is functioning properly.
Programs are loaded on CNC machines through punch cards as programming functions are controlled with small keyboards. The programs are then stored in the computer’s memory. The program can ultimately be edited by the programmer, as additional code can be added to pre-existing applications.
Types of CNC Machines
Manufacturers have various types of CNC machines to choose from, as different models work better for specific applications. CNC mills are the most commonly used type of CNC machines for cutting and drilling materials such as metal, wood, plastic and glass. Modern lathes use CNC technology to make high velocity circular cuts, making them similar to CNC mills.
Other sophisticated CNC cutting machines include laser cutters and plasma cutters. Using compressed air and gas to generate heat, a plasma cutter comprises a plasma torch and is mainly used for manipulating metal. Laser cutters use laser beams to concentrate heat on material, causing it to easily melt.
Although laser cutters are expensive and used mainly among industrial companies, they have also been embraced by schools and businesses. Water jet cutters are capable of cutting material as hard as granite using pressurized water. These machines are helpful for making products not intended to withstand heat.
Even though CNC machining is largely an automated process, it still requires knowledge to run machines properly and ensure they follow correct programming. Ultimately, CNC machining has revolutionized the manufacturing process to be more agile, precise and efficient.