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What Is CNC Machining?

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What really is CNC Machining?

Let's explore the process of CNC Machining in this article.

CNC machining: the overview

CNC machining is a modern and automated industrial process that that uses machines to create shapes out of a given material. CNC itself means computer numerical control. CNC machining put basically, is a manufacturing process that uses computer-controlled machines to make things out of materials. This process is useful for a whole host of materials like metals, plastics, wood, glass, composites, and so on. In this process, a computer program is used to direct the actions like the direction and speed of a cutting tool. This allows the CNC machine operator to focus on monitoring the process, rather than physically operating the controls of the machine. CNC machining is often used to make complex parts and products, such as the engine for an automobile or the complex internal mechanisms of a watch to perfect accuracy. More specifically, where 3D printing is the process of adding material to build up a shape, CNC machining is the opposite. It involves removing material from a basic block to get to the shape you want. It is most often used to make complex parts in aerospace, medical, automotive, and consumer goods sectors. Among the many services we provide at Antrim, CNC machining is yet another we specialize in.


The first step in the process

Even though the machining process is a complex one, the overall process itself is relatively easy to follow. The whole thing starts with a design. The design includes developing a vectors design for the product in a computer-aided design (CAD) program like Fusion 360. These programs allow you to design a software-based rendering of their product. This means that the program can create a 3D representation of the product along with all the required specifications like dimensions and required sizes. The design will always need to consider the capabilities and the limitations of the machine that is being used and the material that’s being used. For instance, materials like metals might require a different process, machine speed, machine force, and different specifications than materials like plastics. This design can use an in-house software, or it can use a software from a third-party vendor. Eventually, this CAD design needs to be converted to a file that can be interpreted by the CNC machine.

Once the design is complete

The program acts as instructions to the machine which the machine will follow to finalize the product. The processes of CNC machining can be made more complex by rotating the machine or the material along any axis which will allow one to create more complicated shapes. The machine operator is essentially the person that oversees the machine and is responsible for making sure that it is operating properly and makes the right adjustments. This involves monitoring the process, adjusting as needed, and ensuring the machine is being operated within the desired parameters. The operator is also in charge of making sure that the material being used is compatible with the process. This involves making sure that the correct material is being fed into the machine, making sure that the material is of the correct grade, and ensuring that the material is within the limits for the machine’s capabilities.

How do the machines themselves work?

CNC machines come in all shapes, sizes, and purposes. The primary three are CNC mills, lathes, and cutters. Let’s quickly overview these machines and how they function.

  • Milling is the operation in which the cutting tool rotates quickly and removes material. As this bit rotates, it chips and cuts away at the base material to make an end shape out of it. This machine is very versatile because it can make many different shapes along with a great deal of accuracy.
  • Turning is a close relative of milling, but instead of having the cutting but turn, it turns the object itself and the cutting component is held stationary.
  • Grinding uses a turning grinder that will essentially sand the material to a finished product. This can be used as a finishing touch material or to grind away material to whatever required thickness or shape that is needed.
  • Drilling can make cylindrical hole in the material just as a standard drill would.
  • Cutting is the act of cutting the material to get to a desired shape. It can be most often used in the automotive industry to cut the necessary shapes for a car’s body parts. The cutting process can be accomplished through several methods. For example, it can be done using lasers, pressing, plasma, or high-pressure water jets. Which method is used is dependent on the material being cut and the desired shape.

The Final Step

The products that are made using automated CNC machines are endless. Because of the accuracy and flexibility, the costs associated with the CNC machine process is the excellent choice for making products for any application.

Get in touch with us to find out more and see how we can help you find the right process for your goals.

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