CNC machining—shorthand for computer numerical control (CNC) machining—refers to subtractive manufacturing processes that rely on computerized controls to automate part production operations. These processes are used to create a wide range of parts and products from various materials, including metal, plastic, composites, glass, wood, and foam, for industrial and commercial applications.
The various pieces of equipment utilized in CNC machining operations are referred to as CNC machines. However, the term “CNC machine” can also be applied to any manufacturing machine that relies on computerized controls to guide their movement, regardless of whether they perform machining operations. The following article provides an overview of the various types of CNC machines available.
Types of CNC Machines
There are numerous CNC machines available, each of which is suitable for different part production applications. Some of the most common include:
CNC Milling Machines
CNC milling machines utilize rotating cutting tools to remove precise sections of material from the workpiece to form the desired component. They can process workpieces in three to six axes, depending on their configuration, making them suitable for producing a variety of parts and products. Face milling operations are used to produce flat and shallow design elements, while peripheral milling operations are used to create deeper design elements.
CNC Lathe Machines
CNC lathe machines employ stationary cutting tools to remove precise sections of material from a rotating workpiece. They are generally used to produce symmetrical parts with conical, spherical, cylindrical, or otherwise contoured shapes. Examples of typical design features on CNC turned components include internal or external grooves, tapers, and threads.
CNC Punching Machines
CNC punching machines offer greater precision, accuracy, and speed than conventional punch presses. They allow industry professionals to create simple to complex punched designs and patterns on sheet metal.
CNC Forming Machines
CNC forming machines manipulate metal through the use of brakes, rolls, tubes, turrets, or other machine presses. The use of computerized controls enables industry professionals to maintain better control over the shaping process, resulting in more precise and accurate shapes and less material waste.
Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMMs)
During CNC machining operations, coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) are employed to measure the geometric characteristics of a solid part. This information is then used to determine or verify whether the part conforms to the pre-established specifications. It can also be utilized to create a digital model of a prototype or sample part, which can then be used to generate the foundational code needed to program the production equipment.
Advanced CNC Machines
Over the years, new manufacturing technology has been developed and adopted to accommodate increasingly demanding customer specifications. Some of the most recent CNC manufacturing technologies include:
- CNC electrical discharge machines. CNC electrical discharge machines (EDMs) utilize high-frequency electrical sparks to gradually wear away material from the workpiece. EDM processes can be used to machine a variety of conductive materials, such as aluminum to carbide.
- CNC laser cutting machines. CNC laser cutting machines rely on high-powered laser beams to generate the necessary cuts on the workpiece. They are used to cut out a variety of complex and intricate components from larger pieces of material. Compared to conventional cutting technologies, they enable industry professionals to achieve better cutting precision and accuracy.
- CNC plasma cutting machines. CNC plasma cutting machines utilize superheated, ionized gas (i.e., plasma) to cut into electrically conductive material. Compared to standard cutting technologies, they offer faster cutting speeds and a lower risk of mechanical warping.
- CNC waterjet cutting machines. Waterjet cutting machines employ high-pressure waterjets to cut through materials. Water-only jets are used for soft materials (e.g., rubber), while water mixed with abrasives are used for harder materials (e.g., metal).
CNC Machining Services at Pro-Type Industries
In the manufacturing sector, CNC machines are used to produce a variety of components made from a broad selection of materials and for a wide range of industries. Compared to conventional manufacturing technologies, they offer a number of advantages, such as better precision and accuracy, faster processing speed, and lower risk of error.
At Pro-Type Industries, we are well-aware of the benefits of CNC machining technology. We use state-of-the-art CNC machines to produce high-quality metal components. Whether a customer needs a single prototype or full-production quantities, we’ve got them covered.