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Manufacturers producing complex, critical, and precision products rely on CNC machining capabilities to
deliver the parts needed at the highest quality, greatest speed, and best comparable price.
Working with experienced and certified CNC machine shops provides a wide range of manufacturers, in a
variety of industries, with the high-quality components required.
Computerized Numerical Control (CNC) machining replaced manual machine methods decades ago to provide a computer-controlled, high-precision way to produce parts. Controlled by a programming language, CNC machines can carry out a wide array of tasks, faster and with greater precision, to give manufacturers the parts they need faster and to a higher quality.
CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) machining is a means to remove material with high precision machines, using a wide variety of cutting tools to create the final design. Common CNC machines include vertical milling machines, horizontal milling machines, lathes, and routers.
To successfully make a part on a CNC machine, skilled machinists create programmed instructions using CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software in conjunction with the CAD (Computer Aided Design) model provided by the customer. The CAD model is loaded into the CAM software and tool paths are created based on the required geometry of the manufactured part. Once the tool paths are determined, the CAM software creates G-Code (machine code) that tells the machine how fast to move, how fast to turn the stock and/or tool, and where to move the tool or workpiece in a 5-axis X, Y, Z, A, and B coordinate system.
There are several types of CNC machine — namely the CNC lathe, CNC mill, CNC router, and Wire EDM
With a CNC lathe, the part stock turns on the spindle and the fixed cutting tool is brought into contact with the workpiece. Lathes are perfect for cylindrical parts and are easily set up for repeatability. Conversely, on a CNC mill the rotating cutting tool moves around the workpiece, which remains fixed to a bed. Mills are all-purpose CNC machines that can handle most any machining process.
CNC machines can be simple 2-axis machines where only the tool head moves in the X and Z-axes or much more complex 5-axis CNC mills, where the workpiece can also move. This allows for more complex geometries without requiring extra operator work and expertise. This makes it easier to produce complex parts and reduces the chance of operator error.
Wire Electrical Discharge Machines (EDMs) take an entirely different approach to CNC machining in that they rely on conductive materials and electricity to erode the workpiece. This process can cut any conductive material, including all metals.
CNC routers, on the other hand, are ideal for cutting soft sheet materials such as wood and aluminum and are more cost-effective than using a CNC mill for a similar job. For harder sheet materials such as steel, a waterjet, laser, or plasma cutter is required.
The benefits of CNC machining are numerous. Once a tool path is created and a machine is programmed, it can run a part 1 time, or 100,000 times. CNC machines are built for precise manufacturing and repeatability which makes them cost-efficient and highly scalable. CNC machines can also work with a variety of materials from basic aluminum and plastics to more exotic materials like titanium — making them the ideal machine for almost any job. That’s why CNC machining is one of the most popular methods of making plastic and metal components.