CNC machining is a manufacturing process in which computer software provides instructions to factory tools and machinery. The software can be used to control machines like lathes, grinders, mills and routers. CNC machining allows 3D cutting tasks to be completed with just one set of prompts.
CNC is an acronym for ‘computer numerical control’. One of the key benefits of CNC machining is that it can be a valuable alternative to manual control. With CNC machining, there is no need for live operators to prompt or guide the tools. CNC programming can remain in the memory of a computer once the code has been written and edited by a programmer. Newer prompts can always be added to existing programs via revised code. The language that CNC machining is based on is called G-code. CNC machining can be used to create parts from all sorts of materials, including various plastics and metals.
G-code controls the speed and positioning of the cutting tool and how it works with the material in question. It also determines the feed rates of materials into tools alongside various other factors. The process normally begins with the creation of a 2D CAD drawing or a 3D CAD model. The G-Code is determined by the drawing or model, with trial runs being used to test programmes. This trial process is known as ‘cutting air’ and is needed to prevent costly or time-consuming errors taking place further down the line.
CNC machining is regularly used to create complex 3D shapes and is renowned for its incredible precision. It’s possible to use the same G-code over and over again to create multiple versions of the same part. You can create any almost part imaginable with CNC machining, especially when 6-axis machines are used.
CNC milling uses rotary cutting tools to remove material from blocks. Using 3-axis milling and 5 -axis milling processes we are able to manufacture parts from engineering grade plastics and metals with a swift turnaround time. These processes can cut a wide range of engineering-grade thermoplastics and metals into an array of intricate shapes and precision components. Milling is often used as a secondary or finishing process for pieces that have already been machined, adding extra definition or producing features for the part like holes and slots. It is also frequently used to create complete pieces from start to finish. Material is gradually removed to achieve the end result in both cases. Milling can be used to produce materials made from metal, glass, wood and plastic.
CNC turning is used to create different end products to CNC milling. During the CNC turning process, a single-point cutting tool is inserted parallel to the material being cut. The lathe machines the parts rapidly using a subtractive turning process together with live tooling. The process is often used to create tubular shapes and cavities and turned parts can either be left as machined, with visible tool marks or bead blasted. CNC consoles ensure human intervention is not required when material is removed from larger workpieces.