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The world of technology is so vast and diverse that there are many things that exist and are very important parts of manufacturing everyday objects that you know nothing about. You are likely here because you want to find out more about CNC machines, or computer numerical control machines.
They are electro-mechanical machines that manipulate tools using digital programming inputs. The CNC machine was first created in the 1950s and relied on data formulated and stored through telecommunication technology known as perforated paper tape, or punched tape. These two forms of technology have long been rendered obsolete, and the data medium became analog, then went fully digital in the 1960s.
For those who are not tech proficient and do not understand what CNC machines are, CNC machining is simply a manufacturing process in which computers dictate the control of machines and how they manufacture parts. CNC programs control every part of the process, from the movement of the machine parts to the spindle speed, the coolant, and many more. The input language for CNC machines is called ‘g-code’.
This page will hope to tell you everything that you should know about CNC machines, and how they can be used effectively to benefit businesses and companies.
The History of CNC
As was mentioned in the introduction, CNC machines, which were then known as NC machines, were built in the 1950s and operated on punched tape technology. The U.S. Army helped toward their development by buying one-hundred and twenty machines and loaning them out to manufacturers so that they could get to grips with the concept of numerical control. Toward the early 1960s, the NC machines were becoming very popular. When it was realized that NC machines could save people a lot of money, manufacturers began investing in their development.
There were difficulties, however. One such difficulty was the code input into the machines. While today these machines operate from the aforementioned g-code, then, every manufacturer had their own language and code for defining numerical control that they would use. Toward the mid-1960s, the Electronics Industry Alliance made g-code compulsory on all machines and standardized it. G-code originated in MIT when it was used in their laboratories in 1958.
With the advent of CAD, paper drawing and drafts were largely replaced, and by 1970 CAD was an indomitable force in the CNC industry. As computer usage became more widespread, CNC machines became cheaper and more powerful, as well as more precise. CNC machines replaced more antiquated technology as they became cheaper, removing the need for machines like hydraulic tracers and manual machinery.
Types of CNC Machine
There are many different types of CNC machines, in fact, far too many to mention. The CNC machines that are most often used can be found below:
01. CNC Mills
CNC Mills are very basic, comparatively to the other types of CNC machine that is, and have the ability to cut in three dimensions (older machines may be restricted to two or two and a half at the very best), which are the X, Y, and Z axes. The CNC controls each axis with a servo motor.
02. CNC Lathes
CNC Lathes are considered to be the only universal CNC machine, largely because a lathe can make the parts that are necessary to run another lathe. Lathes spin the workpiece around on a spindle while a cutting tool slices it. Owing to its geometry, lathes are great for symmetrical parts.
03. CNC Routers
CNC Routers were born from the CNC Mill. CNC Routers use a gantry configuration; they are called CNC Routers instead of gantry mills because they are frequently used to cut wood, although they are not restricted to this, and they can be quite difficult to use. CNC Routers are not as precise as CNC Mills; they sacrifice some of their precision to be used in gantry design.
04. Plasma, Laser, and Waterjet.
The more modern, high-tech CNC machines are plasma, laser, and waterjet. When using plasma or metal laser cutting, one would typically be cutting or shaping sheets of metal, usually flat. These machines often cost a lot of money and are used only by big industrial companies.
How Do CNC Machines Work?
CNC machines can seem very confusing when you know very little about them, but by reading this page, it should all become a little clearer. The first step when it comes to CNC machines is the design idealized part; this consists of using CAD, or computer-aided drafting, software to render and design a 2D or 3D composition of the part that you are intending on creating and want to design.
CAD software is like drawing and graphic editing software that allows you to draw the object to your own specific dimensions. The next stage is the programming stage. Using CAM software, you convert the earlier rendered CAD model into g-code (as referenced in the introduction).
Once you have designed your composition and programmed it, you can move onto the machine set-up. First, set-up the work-holding to hold your workpiece in place while you are machining it and load the g-code and tool data onto the machine to manufacture the part. You must assign a part zero which corresponds with the 0, 0, 0, in the initial CAD design. Once you have done that, you are ready to machine your part and can turn the machine on.
There are many benefits that are associated with CNC machines, which is why they are so widely used nowadays. They are cost-effective and time-effective and replace the need for manual machinery on items and parts that need to be cut very precisely. They create a much more flexible environment when it comes to the machine making process and are far safer than other methods.
They do not require any manual aid, other than the set-up process, which makes it far safer for employees and workers to manage the machines without posing a threat to their lives. They also boost overall production volume and reduce the need for setup changeover.