In today’s manufacturing world, there is a constant need for technology to meet increasing productivity demands. Computer numerically controlled (CNC) machining helps companies worldwide achieve their manufacturing goals through increased precision, accuracy, and speed. A CNC machine allows operators to program a computer with a part’s specifications, and the CNC machine will automatically make that part at almost any volume. This article explores CNC technology’s role in the manufacturing industry and weighs its benefits compared to manual machining.
A modern CNC machine sequentially removes raw material from the workpiece using numerical control, which is programmed to guide the machining process. Designers and operators use CNC software technology such as CAD (computer-aided design) to digitally design parts. CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software generates code that controls the CNC machines, sets tool paths, and simulates the run before operating the machine.
Manufacturers use software and machines, including mills, lathes, and grinders, to improve their performance. The modern computer-controlled machines with multi-axial machining capabilities leverage powerful software to create parts with geometrical complexities and tight tolerance requirements.
Compared to manual machining, CNC technology offers a wide range of benefits. Automated technology enables operation with minimal human interference and a high degree of repeatability and flexibility, allowing manufacturers to enhance parameters such as precision, quality, productivity, and cost-efficiency.
CNC machines produce high-quality precision parts because they are almost entirely automated. CAM software generates codes for the machines based on CAD models, and an operator can program numerous machines to operate simultaneously. The digital process offers dependable repeatability, improved tolerances, and seamless scalability when responding to market demands. Subtractive manufacturing is by definition going to produce waste, but a CNC machines’ high degree of precision minimizes waste considerably. Since this is a physical process, the waste material is easily recycled.
Additionally, CNC machines can run independently from manual interference for longer hours without the risk of human errors. The 3-axis and 5-axis machining capability enables the production of parts with complex geometries to achieve tight tolerance of +/- 0.01” for CNC milling and +/- 0.0005” for CNC turning in a relatively short time. A typical lead time for fabricating a complex part using 5-axis CNC machines may range from five to six weeks while manufacturing a simple part finishes in hours.
With enhanced speed, precision, and quality, CNC machines can increase the entire machining process’s efficiency.
A CNC machine can perform multiple operations and handle more than one tool simultaneously. By combining multiple steps for fabricating parts, a CNC machine can significantly reduce cycle time. This reduced cycle time comes into an advantage during rapid prototyping. A CNC machine can produce multiple iterations of production-ready prototypes in just hours. Once the prototype is ready for production, the machines can easily repeat precise and accurate tool measurements and scale instantly. If a prototype is successful, manufacturers can quickly and easily use the same CAM programming to scale up from a prototyping run to a full scale production run. The same CAM programming and workholding strategies work across multiple CNC machines. If a part requires changes, those can be implemented digitally. Ultimately, CNC machining allows one to respond quickly to market demands and deliver higher quality products faster.
CNC machines work independently once they are programmed. Some machining processes involve high temperatures or exposure to toxic fumes but modern mills have sophisticated ventilation systems. Many CNC machines will not operate cutting tools without guards in place, with most working entirely behind a guard or safety door. Built-in extractors mitigate toxic dust and fumes. Older manually operated machines often had three-phase electrical supplies that had to be set up by an electrician. Modern CNC machines use a single-phase supply that plugs into a residual circuit breaker (RCB), which will cut off power immediately if a fault occurs. Finally, a CNC machine nearly eliminates human fatigue, lack of concentration, and other basic user errors.
CNC technology has completely reshaped the manufacturing industry, with more industries opting to update business models for accelerating the production of parts and prototypes. The integration of robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and the internet of things (IoT) are the next step for CNC technology. Robotics and AI can remove the potential for human errors through complete automation of the manufacturing process. With IoT, companies can monitor the machining process from any place, capturing and storing the process data. Data analysts and software use the captured data for standardizing the machining process. This constant flow of information optimizes the process to achieve ever-higher productivity and cost-efficiency.
To learn more about the role of CNC technology in the manufacturing industry, contact experts at Plethora. We are ISO 9001-certified machine shop that provides specialization in the latest CNC technologies for your precision component manufacturing needs. Give us a call at 415-726-2256, or upload your design files to Quote My Part to start your project today.
The Plethora Team
The Plethora team is your go-to CNC manufacturer for hardware done right the first time. We have the tools and experience needed to create high quality custom parts quickly and with precision, whether you need a prototype or production run.