Manufacturing products that requires precise measurements requires cutting edge precision and nimbleness from the worker. Most of the time manufacturing these kinds of products requires weeks or months to finish therefore slowing down productivity as well as consistency of the manufacturers.
In modern systems, end-to-end component design is highly automated using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs. The programs produce a computer file that is interpreted to extract the commands needed to operate a particular machine via a postprocessor, and then loaded into the computer numerical control (CNC) machines for production.
Computer numerical control has been around since the early 1970’s. It’s a method used in modern machining to perform a wide range of associated tasks. Prior to this, it was called NC, for numerical control. In the early 1970’s computers were introduced to these controls, hence the name changed. Virtually every piece of metalworking equipment is available in the CNC variation. Some are discuss below:
Metal fabrication, Computer Numerical controlled Lathe’s are used to fabricate metal sheet by shearing, flame or plasma cutting, punching, laser cutting, forming and welding. Most CNC Lathe’s are used for designing modern carbide tooling. The design could be created with the Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) process, and when done, the CNC could start creating the product automatically with little supervision from the machine operator.
Surface grinding is used to produce a smooth finish on flat surfaces.CNC surface grinding is a widely used abrasive machining process in which a spinning wheel covered in rough particles (grinding wheel) cuts chips of metallic or non metallic substance from a workpiece, making a face of it flat or smooth with a great accuracy since is computer numeric controlled.
Drilling is the most common machine process. Computer Numerical Controlled Drilling is used to create precise right circular cylinders over a certain material, the CNC could be programmed to create holes on different standards. Drilling is commonly used in wood working manufacturing process in which other process is also involved such as milling, turning and grinding.
water jet cutter, also known as a waterjet, is a tool capable of slicing into metal or other materials (e.g. granite) using a jet of water at high velocity and pressure, or a mixture of water and an abrasive substance. The process is essentially the same as water erosion found in nature but greatly accelerated and concentrated. It is often used during fabrication or manufacture of parts for machinery and other devices. It is the preferred method when the materials being cut are sensitive to the high temperatures generated by other methods. When water jet cutter is CNC based, a good result is inevitable.
Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is the process of removing metal with the use of electrical sparks to take away the metal. CNC Electrical Discharge Machine has two types, the vertical EDM and wire EDM. Vertical EDM uses an electrode that is the shape of the cavity to be machined into a work piece. Wire EDM is used to create punch and die combinations in the fabrication industry. Computer Numerical Control EDM’s are not usually known because it is mostly incorporated to other CNC process.
Plasma cutting is a process that is used to cut steel and other metals of different thicknesses (or sometimes other materials) using a plasma torch. In this process, an inert gas (in some units, compressed air) is blown at high speed out of a nozzle; at the same time an electrical arc is formed through that gas from the nozzle to the surface being cut, turning some of that gas to plasma. The plasma is sufficiently hot to melt the metal being cut and moves sufficiently fast to blow molten metal away from the cut. CNC plasma equipment is capable of multi-axis cutting of thick material, allowing opportunities for complex welding seams on CNC welding equipment that is not possible otherwise.
Hot-wire foam cutter is a tool used to cut polystyrene foam and similar materials. The CNC hot-wire foam cutter device consists of a thin, taut metal wire, often made of nichrome or stainless steel, or a thicker wire preformed into a desired shape, which is heated via electrical resistance to approximately 200°C. As the wire is passed through the material to be cut, the heat from the wire vaporises the material just in advance of contact. Because it is CNC based, the precision is always very high.
With the efficiency of CNC machining in addition to its speed of production and optimum raw material usage, it’s easy to see why CNC machining is the gold standard of metalworking and part fabrication.
Today, many people build and run small CNC machining shops in their own garages or basements. This is an area of tremendous interest for many hobbyists looking for a new challenge. From creating its own metal fabrications and wood crafts to computer-controlled punching applications, CNC machining has opened a whole new world for creative minds to find new ways of making their visions come to life.
There is quite a shortage of skilled people to utilize CNC machines. And the shortage is growing.