Manufacturers of all types in virtually every industry—from agriculture to medical and everything in between—choose the benefits of CNC machining over traditional manufacturing methods. CNC machines deliver a production capacity ideal for creating large quantities of items which require accurate, consistent, complex cuts. The advantages of this method of manufacturing has led many companies to completely replace engineer-operated equipment with the efficient, tireless precision of automated machines. Today we will be looking at what exactly CNC machining is and the benefits it offers to product developers and organizations the world over.
What is CNC Machining?
CNC stands for computer-numerical control, and it is the automation of machine tools by means of computers executing pre-programmed sequences of machine control commands. The first CNC machines were developed during World War II when mass manufacturing of high-quality parts really took off. It all started in Dayton, Ohio at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where John Parsons and Frank Stulen developed a process to fabricate helicopter blades using numerical control. The Air Force, building on the learnings of Parsons and Stulen, commissioned a series of research projects at MIT, the culmination of which was the very first prototype of a numerically controlled machine.
We’ve come a long way in manufacturing techniques then, especially with regard to CNC machining. From the early days of punched-paper technology driving the machines, this method has since evolved to the digital software we know today. This allows for very intricate and consistent results comparatively.
When should you consider CNC machining?
You may be wondering what the difference is between CNC machining and conventional. When it comes right down to it, both are simply two different means to achieving the same end. There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to each that make them ideal in particular use cases. CNC machining can be quite costly when compared to conventional machining in the case of smaller production quantities. It becomes much more cost-effective, however, when producing mass quantities of a product. Another time when it would make sense to choose CNC machining over conventional would be if consistency and precision are critical for the product you are manufacturing. This is where CNC truly shines, because the slight variations in products from human error are greatly minimized when the use of computers comes into play. In fact, CNC machining makes it possible to achieve accuracy within 1/1000th. Let’s take a look now at five significant advantages CNC machining offers.
5 Advantages of CNC Machining
We have already talked about the increased accuracy and precision that CNC machining offers, but that is just the beginning when it comes to reasons manufacturers should consider CNC. Here are just a few examples of what you can achieve when you use CNC machining:
Eliminate the need to produce prototypes
Prototypes take time to design and develop, and producing them costs money. When you use CNC machines, you already have a digital copy of both product and machine—what we at Siemens call the digital twin. This eliminates the need to create costly, time-consuming prototypes which can save your business weeks of production time. I’m sure you would agree that your energy and attention could be better spent elsewhere, and certainly the cost-savings will benefit your organization’s bottom line.
Lower the cost of production
Speaking of your company’s bottom line, another reason to consider CNC machining is that it actually lowers the cost of production (with the aforementioned exception, of course, of small production quantities or custom components). For one thing, less labor is required to operate CNC machinery. It only requires one trained worker to monitor the output of several CNC machines, unlike conventional machining which requires a highly trained skilled worker to operate each machine. The high speed, precision and accuracy all help cut costs as well, by ensuring not only better quality products, but also more finished products in the same amount of time. Add in the fact that these machines operate 24/7 365 days a year without rest except for maintenance, and it’s clear the cost savings add up.
Improve the quality of parts
We’ve talked about how CNC machines increase consistency and accuracy in components. This is because a machine can perform the same task in the same exact way endlessly without tiring or experiencing injury. Even the most careful human produces minor inconsistencies and variations in product quality. When you use machine automation, you ultimately improve your products not just through these means, but also the time you save from more efficiency manufacturing can then be reinvested into your business by way of iterating and improving the product’s design and performance.
Produce complex shapes and textures easily
Another great thing about CNC machining is that it enables the production of complex shapes and textures are impossible to produce using conventional machines and methods. That is, when CNC machines are used in tandem with advanced design software, of course. Digital software allows you to accomplish what not even the most gifted engineer can.
Create a safer workplace
Expediency and consistency in production have another great benefit for your business, and it’s not just about money or the bottom line. CNC machining actually helps contribute to making a safer workplace. Unlike with conventional manual lathes, drills, punches and other tools where the operator comes into direct contact and in close proximity to sharp implements, the CNC machine operators are at a distance. This makes CNC machining ultimately safer, and that leads to happier, healthier employees.
Of course, the advantages of CNC machining expand far beyond just the few mentioned here. You can learn more about CNC machining in Solid Edge CAM Pro by heading over to our website and watching the videos there.