What is CNC Machining and How Does it Work?



If you’ve have been to a manufacturing factory, then you will easily have an idea about how metalworking machines function. As computers and technology have improved over the years, a new computer-controlled, high-precision manufacturing technique has arrived, known as CNC machining.

What is CNC Machining?

CNC machines or machines that are computer controlled, are mainly electro-mechanical devices, that help in manipulating tools around a varying number of axis, mostly from 3 to 5, combined with a high-precision per instruction given by the computer program. CNC machining is defined as the way by which machinists, engineers and makers can use a computer design file to generate a physical part.

This is similar to 3D Printing – which is otherwise known as additive manufacturing. Still, the difference between CNC machining and 3D printing is very huge. In CNC machining, the process is subtractive, where materials are removed from the stock component. In 3D Printing, the process is totally reverse where materials are added to the component and thus called additive manufacturing.

The first CNC laser cutting machines were introduced in the 1940s and the 1950s, where punched data cards are used to control the functioning of the machine. As technology became more enhanced, the capability started to increase, and this brings us to the topic about how modern CNC machines work.

How do CNC Machines work?

As has been discussed earlier, CNC machining services provided by artmachining.com is a way to transform the stock product into a finished product, made of materials like steel, aluminium or titanium. These CNC machines depend on the G-Code. Earlier machinists had to manually write these G-Codes. Nowadays, with CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) and CAD (Computer Aided Design) software like Autodesk Fusion 360, machinists no longer have to write the G-Code, as it is generated by the software only.

CNC machines have high precision, and these machines can go up to thousands of an inch, in order to be precise, with tolerance levels as low as +/- 0.00005 inches. For comparison, the human hair is 0.0069-inch thick.

Basically, CNC Machines will move in one or two axes, mainly referred to as the X-axis and the Y-axis, followed by a third axis known as the Z-axis. CNC machines can operate in 2.5 axes, 3 axes and 5 axes as well. A three axes machine means, the machine will move in X, Y and the Z axis, while the 5 axes machines will move in these three axes along with two rotational axes as well. Therefore, these CNC machines cut the stock material in either 3 axes or 5 axes, depending on the type of machines. The 3 axes machines are basic machines used for cutting down the material, while the 5 axes machines are used for high precision work, including polishing the final end product as well.

CNC machines can work by either drilling, using lathes or just as a common milling machine as well. The machine variables will depend on the material, as CNC machines can work on even plastic. Machinists have to adjust the RPM, tool selection, feed rate, coolant flow, and other variable factors, depending upon the material.


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