Understanding the Process of CNC Machining

If you take a look around you, you will probably notice all kinds of products and devices such as phones, laptops, wrist watches, and vehicles. Most of these are now produced via CNC machining. In general, CNC machining is the term refering to the manufacturing process of creating custom-made parts using machine tools together with computerized controls.

The end products have high accuracy, precision, and a broad range of material compatibility, and that’s why CNC machining services are one of the most demanding today.

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about CNC machining, including how it works and what CNC machines are used for today.

Understanding the Process of CNC Machining

How do CNC machines work?

Modern CNC machines can be fully automated. They only need digital files containing the instructions for cutting trajectories and tooling.

Design or machining processes need many tools to create a certain part. Digital tool libraries can be built by machinists to interface with the machine. In addition, tooling can switch automatically using digital instructions.

In general, the first step in the CNC machining process starts with designing the parts in CAD software. Some of the programs may be available in CAD-CAM packages so that the flow of information can continue within the same program.

CAM (computer-aid manufacturing) software prepares your model for the entire fabrication process. First, it checks the model for any errors and then creates a CNC program for fabricating the part.

The third step involves choosing the correct parameters such as cutting speed, voltage, RPMs, and so on. The part's geometry and the availability of machinery and tools will determine the configuration.

The software also determines nesting, which refers to the placement and orientation of parts relative to or in relation to raw material. This is done to maximize material usage.

The machine can then interpret all this information into codes that the machinery can understand such as G-code or M-code. The first is the language used to tell a machine how to move, while the other gives all the information the G-code may overlook.

Types of CNC machines

CNC machining includes several automated processes, including milling, turning, grinding, routing, and drilling.

For example, milling refers to the operation where the cutting tool rotates. It is suitable for a variety of materials and it is also very quick.

Turning, on the other hand, is pretty much the opposite of milling because the workpiece is turning instead of the cutting tool. It is most commonly for producing shafts where the tool is brought against the rotating workpiece to cut off bits of metal.

CNC grinding machines can remove material using a rotating grinding wheel. The main aim is to give a high-precision finish to a metal part.

Routing works similarly to milling because the rotating piece is also the cutting head. The main difference lies in the materials suitable for cutting. Routers are often a perfect fit for cutting softer materials that don’t require very high accuracy. The reason for this is its lesser output power. They can also produce the parts in less time.

Drilling can produce holes with the tip of the tool, providing better accuracy than milling.

Other types of CNC machines

CNC machines can be used in more than one way by automating a variety of different fabrication methods. This includes laser, plasma, waterjet, and flame cutters; press brakes; electrical discharge machines; etc.

All these operations benefit a lot from the automation factor as it reduces the human element in the final quality. It also enhances the repeatability of processes and accuracy.

What can CNC machining make?

It seems that CNC machining has no limitations. It is compatible with various materials including different types of metal, foam, plastics, composites, and wood. Thus, it is usable in sectors where high accuracy is necessary. That’s why many industries take advantage of it, including:

  • Aerospace
  • Electrical
  • Defense
  • Mining
  • Industrial machinery
  • Food & beverage
  • Clothing
  • Automotive
  • Product design

Laser CNC

Final thoughts

All in all, CNC machining proves to be a reliable and efficient way to produce custom-made parts. Although its cost may be a bit higher than other fabrication methods, it produces end products with high precision and accuracy. Thereby, reducing manual labor and mistakes as much as possible.

If you want to know more about CNC machining, refer to our guide. Learn how it works and how it is changing the manufacturing processes.

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