Increasingly, manufacturing industry relies on computer numerical control (CNC) machining. But what exactly is CNC and what advantages does it offer over more conventional techniques?
What Is CNC?
Essentially, a CNC machine is a machine tool – such as a lathe, router or mill – that is controlled by instructions from a computer. This means that once it’s set up it can run autonomously without the constant attentions of an operator.
Specialist software drives the CNC milling or other process, controlling the speed of the machine, feed rates, tool locations and so on. A CNC machine can also operate on multiple axes and at different angles much more easily than a human operator, who would constantly have to reposition the workpiece.
Given this versatility, it is perhaps no surprise that the CNC machinery market is growing and expected to exceed $100 billion by 2025.
The CNC Advantage
So what are the benefits of adopting CNC from suppliers like https://www.parallelprecision.co.uk/cnc-milling over using conventional machining techniques? Both achieve the same end, but the automated nature of CNC machining means components can be produced faster and more accurately.
This doesn’t mean that no skill is required, of course. You still need a skilled operator initially to program the machine and set it up. Once this is done, however, there is no need for an operator to watch over the machine as it works. This means that one man is able to oversee multiple machines, leading to more efficient and cost-effective production. CNC machines can also be kept working around the clock with minimal intervention.
Of course, CNC machines are more expensive to buy and install. This means they tend to be used for longer production runs, whereas conventional machining is still used for one-offs, prototypes and short production runs.
Another advantage of CNC operation is that it can be linked to computer-aided design (CAD) systems, so a design can go from concept to production with minimal effort. This also means that it is easier to make changes during the production run. Of course, once a design is created and saved it can be recalled at any time and made to the same level of accuracy with no need for any learning time or setting up on the part of the operator before it can be produced.