With Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines it is possible to craft industrial components without the help of a human. These machines are automated milling devices. CNC machines use coded sets of instructions that are sent via an internal computer. This allows the machines to manufacture parts quickly and more effectively. Most of these machines are used large scale in industries and manufacturing, however, some are available for hobby uses in private homes. A wide variety of these devices exist from plasma cutters to more simple drills, which allows them to manufacture a wide range of parts.
CNC Machine Types
Milling machines, lathes, and grinders are the most common types of CNC machines. For cutting materials such as metal, milling machines can move their spindles to a different position and depth, according to the directions given by the computer. Lathes shape material by using automated tools. They are relied upon to make more detailed cuts in pieces like cones and cylinders, or other symmetrical work. Grinders are the preferred machine type for grinding down materials, such as plastic or metal, when a specific shape is desired. They use a spinning wheel for grinding. These are easily programmable and are desired for projects that do not require as much precision in their work, as opposed to mills or lathes. CNC routers are used when cuts are required in various materials, as well as 3D printers that are computer programmable. This same technology can be used in conjunction with different types of cutters, such as those that are used with plasma, lasers, and water.
Operation and Programming
G-code is the common code used in the programming of CNC units. This code gives information about where machine parts should be positioned and it reveals to the machine exactly where to place the tools. Additional details it gives the machine include the speed a part needs to run at, how deep the cuts should be, as well as burns or punches, and the automated tool’s angle. With today’s technology, most industrial CNC machines are connected to a network of other computers and get their operating and tooling instructions through a software file.
Pros and Cons
Whole cells of tooling machines can be connected together in the industrial setting and still work independently of one another. Digital designs drive them, eliminating the need for a physical drawing of a design blueprint. In fact, many can work for several days without the intervention of a human being. Some even go so far as to being able to place a call or send a text message to an operator’s phone if a malfunction has occurred. The automated features provided by a CNC motion controller allow the operator to not have to supervise the machine, which frees them up to complete other tasks on the job.
In a factory setting, errors are common when things are cut by hand using different tools. However, with a CNC machine, precision and reliability are expected due to the computer controls. They can also work non-stop without becoming tired. Waste is eliminated and accuracy is almost guaranteed.
CNC machines are, however, expensive, especially compared to their older counterparts. For smaller businesses they can be completely unaffordable, as well as being expensive to maintain and repair. In addition, a skilled workforce with specialty training is required to run these machines. As accurate as the machines are, there is still room for an error to occur, especially if the operator is in error or the equipment is not repaired and kept up to date.