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CNC Machining

An Introduction To CNC Machining Services

Fifty years ago, machinists were responsible for crafting every single manufactured piece to perfection, and these hand-crafting skills are still needed today. But when it comes to producing the same piece at high volume and with high precision, computerized machines are vastly superior. That’s where CNC machining services enter the picture.

At Elemet Manufacturing, Inc., our experienced machinists and drafting technicians carefully match our technology with your design needs from beginning to end. We promise our CNC machining services meet the highest-quality and most efficient standards.

Our CNC machining center can handle tapping, drilling, countersinking, and other operations – all in one shop. Contact us today!

What Is CNC Machining?

A (Very) Brief History

John T. Parsons is considered the pioneer of “numerical controls,” the precursor to today’s CNC machines. Parsons needed to manufacture complex helicopter blades and quickly realized that the future of manufacturing was connecting devices to computers. Parsons was dubbed “The Father of the Second Industrial Revolution” to work on these controls.

CNC Machining Today

Today, we find CNC-manufactured parts in practically every industry.

The term “CNC Machining” is commonly used in industrial and manufacturing applications, but precisely what is a CNC machine?

CNC machining systems use computers to run programs that control how they shape or finish the desired parts.

These CNC programs can control everything from the machine’s motions to spindle speed, turning coolant on or off, and much more. Manufacturers can use this technology to perform a range of complex processes, including grinding, routing, milling, punching, turning, and lathing. With CNC machining, machine shops can accomplish complex three-dimensional cutting tasks with a single set of prompts.

Most people choose machined parts when manufacturing requires high precision, high quality, or when the materials are particularly tough and hard to work. CNC machining services revolutionized the manufacturing industry in the 1960s and is the most used method today.

CNC machining is suitable for various industries, including aerospace, agriculture, and construction. It can produce multiple products, such as airplane engines, automobile frames, garden tools, hand tools, and surgical equipment.

The process encompasses several different computer-controlled machining operations — including mechanical, chemical, electrical, and thermal processes, removing the necessary material from the workpiece to produce a custom-designed part or product.

What Are The Different Types Of CNC Machines Used In A Machining Shop?

The earliest numerical control machines date back to the 1940s when motors controlled the manufacturing tools’ movement. As these technologies advanced, engineers enhanced these mechanisms. First with analog computers, and then ultimately with digital computers, leading to today’s CNC machining.

The vast majority of today’s CNC machining arsenals are entirely electronic. Some of the most common CNC-operated processes include ultrasonic welding, hole-punching, and laser cutting.

The most frequently used machines in today’s CNC machining systems include the following:

CNC Mills

Milling is a process that employs rotating multipoint cutting tools to remove material from a workpiece. The CNC milling machine typically feeds the workpiece against the cutting tool in the same direction as the cutting tool’s rotation.

Basic mills consist of a three-axis (X, Y, and Z) system. Most newer mills are more advanced and can accommodate three additional axes. Some of the more common CNC-operated capabilities include hole-punching, laser cutting, and ultrasonic welding.

CNC Lathes

In lathe machines, the workpieces are cut in a circular direction. With CNC technology, cuts are made with precision and high velocity.

CNC lathes produce intricate designs that wouldn’t be possible on manually run versions of the machine. The control functions of CNC mills and CNC lathes are similar. However, most CNC lathes consist of only two axes — X and Z.

Plasma Cutters

In a plasma cutter, the material is cut with a plasma torch. This process is generally applied on metal materials but can also be employed on other substrates. The plasma is created through compressed-air gas and electrical arcs to cut metal, producing the necessary speed and heat.

Waterjet Cutters

In CNC machining, waterjets are machining tools that cut hard materials, such as granite and metal. These cuts can happen with high-pressure water applications or, in some cases, the water is mixed with sand or some other potent abrasive substance. This process shapes many factory machine parts.

Waterjets are a cooler-temperature alternative for materials that cannot bear the heat-intensive processes of other CNC machines. Waterjets are used in various sectors, such as the aerospace and mining industries, where the process is powerful enough for carving and cutting.

Waterjets are also used for applications that require intricate cuts in material.

CNC Drills

Drilling is a machining process that employs multipoint drill bits to produce cylindrical holes in the workpiece. The CNC drilling machine feeds the rotating drill bit perpendicular to the workpiece’s surface.

CNC Turning Machines

Turning is a machining process that employs cutting tools to remove material from a rotating workpiece. The CNC machine – typically a lathe or turning machine – feeds the cutting tool linearly along the rotating workpiece’s surface.

It removes the material around the circumference until the desired diameter is achieved. Turning produces cylindrical parts with external and internal features, such as slots, tapers, and threads.

How Do CNC Machines Make Parts?

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CNC machine systems make it possible to program the machining tools’ speed and position and run them via software in repetitive, predictable cycles. This can all happen with little to no involvement from the machine’s human technicians.

Best of all, CNC machining services are by no means static since newer prompts can be added to pre-existing programs through revised code.

A very simplified peek into the process looks like this:

#1 – Design The Ideal Part

Designers use CAD software to design a 2-D or 3-D model of the part you need. CAD stands for “Computer Aided Drafting.” Therefore, CAD software is like drawing software that lets you precisely specify the dimensions for each part you need.

The optimal material for a CNC manufacturing application is mainly dependent on the particular application and its specifications. Most materials can be used, provided that they can withstand the machining process. This is demonstrated with sufficient hardness, tensile strength, shear strength, and chemical and temperature resistance.

The workpiece’s physical properties determine the cutting feed rate, depth of cut, and optimal cutting speed.

  • Cutting speed refers to how fast the machine’s tool cuts into or removes material from the workpiece, measured in “surface feet per minute.”
  • The feed rate calculates how quickly the workpiece feeds towards the machine tool in inches per minute.
  • Cut depth is how deep the tool cuts into the piece.

Typically, each workpiece will first undergo an initial manufacturing phase. It is measured to the approximate, custom-designed shape and dimensions. The workpiece undertakes a finishing step in which it experiences slower feed rates and shallower cut depths to achieve its more precise and accurate specifications.

#2 – CNC Programming

Engineers then use CAM software to convert the CAD model into a “g-code.” G-code is the language used to program the CAD model design into a CNC machining system.

#3 – Machine Setup

In this third step, the machine sets with work-holding, proper tooling, and the g-code program and tool data; loaded to prepare the machine to manufacture the part.

As part of this setup, the operator will also need to tell the machine where “Part Zero” is. Part Zero refers to the axis position that corresponds to 0, 0, 0 in the part’s CAD model.

After the program is inputted and the material is chosen, the operator gives it a “trial run” (or creates a prototype) to ensure no mistakes are present in the coding.

#4 – Machining The Parts

With the programming done and the machine set up, it’s time to manufacture the parts.

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Advantages Of CNC Machining Services

As with the birth of any new technology, we must anticipate shifts and adjust to meet new challenges. This has never been more true in the manufacturing industry, as manufacturing and automation advancement and 3-D printing continue to progress.

Increased Productivity & Efficiency With Continual Use

Unlike manual labor, CNC machinery (of course, barring any malfunction or maintenance issue) can work continuously over an extended period without a break. This dramatically increases productivity and efficiency.

Consistency, Precision, & Redundancy

Through computer software, the design of any given product only needs to be fully programmed once. The manufacturing machine can then perfectly replicate that design for any order quantity. Adjustments made with programming require little to no effort to perfect any part.

Fewer Personnel

Because computer software controls CNC machining services, fewer technicians are needed for operation and oversight, cutting overall expenses.

Flexibility

The software can be reprogrammed quickly and efficiently to produce many parts, allowing operations to keep up with shifting customer needs and demands.

Capability

CNC technology uses computer precision to go beyond the limitations of manual drafting and crafting capabilities. More complex and intricate operations are also possible with CNC machining.

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Why Work With A CNC Machining Shop?

Extreme precision demands CNC machining.

There’s no easy way to describe the benefits of high-quality, precision machining and its importance in today’s manufacturing economy.

While conventional machining methods are acceptable for some industries, other industries require tolerances of +/- .001″ or tighter. Often, thousands or tens of thousands of identical parts are needed for a single order. This need is close to impossible without CNC’s repeatability.

Any industry that relies on precisely-machined parts uses CNC machining services to create custom machined parts from raw materials, fabrications, or castings into individual components.

At Elemet Manufacturing, Inc., our experienced machinists and drafting technicians carefully match our technology with your design needs from beginning to end.

You can rely on our CNC machining processes to meet the highest-quality and most efficient standards. Our CNC machining center can handle tapping, drilling, countersinking, and other operations – all in one shop. Contact us today!

Categories
Metal Fabrication

An Introduction To Metal Fabrication

Projects produced by metal fabrication surround us in our everyday lives, from simple things like grills or hand railings to heavy equipment and large machinery. Cutlery, hand tools, nuts and bolts, springs, wires, screws, and many architectural products are prime examples.

Manufacturers use metal fabrication to shape iron, steel, copper, aluminum, stainless steel, brass, bronze, or any other workable metal. The only requirement is that the chosen metal needs to have the ability to change its configuration, shape, or thickness.

Elemet Manufacturing, Inc. (EMI) can handle production runs ranging from one prototype through large amounts. Our metal fabrication process consists of bending, cutting, and assembling building structures according to your specifications as an end-to-end fabrication provider. EMI works on your project from start to finish.

Defining Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication is a manufacturing process that forms the metal into finished parts or end-products.

We convert metals into many different structures through the use of metal fabrication techniques. The techniques in the metal fabrication process can vary but normally include:

  • cutting,
  • welding,
  • burning,
  • machining,
  • forming,
  • and assembling into the required end-product.

Many metal fabricators use sheet metal for this type of manufacturing. The sheet metal can be up to 0.25 inches thick.

Fabricators convert this sheet metal into tools or other products. They cut, fold, or shape metal to create finished pieces.

Manufacturers use metal fabrication to mass-produce. But it can also be used for different-sized runs of customized fabricated metal pieces. These projects typically include the customized design and fabrication of metal parts to fit a business’s needs.

For metal fabrication, both human labor and robotic automation are necessary. Shops specializing in this type of metalwork are called fabrication shops or “fab shops.”

Most metal fabrication is carried out in these shops by experts. These experts are well-versed in welding, ironwork, blacksmithy, and other complementary professions. You will also find people who are well-versed in cutting or punching, press machine operators, lathe operators, welders, assemblers, solderers, and brazers.

Metal fabricators have learned to constantly change production lines as customer needs ask for various products that suit their specific business requirements.

All The Things That Make Up Metal Fabrication

Fabricated metal pieces are commonplace. However, few lay people understand how the fabrication process works. We will explain.

Many people only think of welding when they hear the term “metal fabrication.” But welding is only one process that metal fabricators use. Welding involves joining two metal pieces together with molten metal. Welding techniques are constantly evolving.

Most industrial metal fabrication will involve cutting. Originally, metal fabricators used saws for this process. Modern fabrication shops, however, use waterjets, plasma, and laser cutting methods. The choice will depend both on the complexity of the cutting and the cost of the cutting.

Any parts that need to be bent will need the folding process. Most fabrication shops use brake presses that are either manually, hydraulically or motor-driven. Some forms and shapes are mass-produced with metal dies.

The machining process involves removing metal from raw metal to form specific shapes. Manufacturers use drills, lathes, and other cutting machines for this purpose.

Another process often used in metal fabrication before assembly or metal forming is punching. Dies are extensively used in punching.

Stamping is a process very similar to punching. However, it may not require the cutting of the metal, whereas punching does.

Shearing is a process that requires cutting the metal down to the required size. The process is often carried out on sheet metal.

Walking Through The Steps Of Metal Fabrication

Though most metal fabrication projects indeed focus on cutting and shaping metal, several sub-processes are typically involved in a successful manufacturing project.

The entire metal fabrication process starts with a design and ends with a finished and functional part.

Here’s a short breakdown of the three main steps in a typical fabrication project:

First, designing the project. 

The first (and likely most important) step is the design of the part/end-product. Some businesses come to us with a completed design. But some come to us with a prototype. In either case, we work with our customers to refine and test the design before starting a large run.

Many metal fabricators use computer-aided design programs (CAD) during the manufacturing process. Using CAD programs, we can develop a 3D prototype of an object before beginning work with the metal.

This phase helps to ensure that the end-product will function as required.

We’ll also work with our customers during this initial design process to clarify which types of metal to use and any required finishing process.

Second, building the part.

The second step encompasses the actual building process. During this building phase, a metal fabricator cuts and shapes each of the design phase components.

There’s a wide range of tools and expertise used in these projects. We often employ CNC (computer numerical controls) tools to ensure that each piece is cut exactly to the design specifications. These CNC tools extract a computer program of the exact commands and specifications used to create a piece.

Third, assembling & finishing the project.

The last step in metal fabrication is finishing and assembling the pieces into the final end-product. This finishing step strengthens the product and ensures that it’s ready for its intended use.

The Benefits Of Using A Metal Fabrication Shop

The main benefit of using a metal fabrication shop is the centralization of these metal fabrication processes, which often perform in parallel via multiple vendors.

A one-stop metal fabrication shop helps contractors limit their need to work with multiple vendors to complete complicated projects.

EMI can handle production runs ranging from one prototype through large amounts. Our metal fabrication process consists of bending, cutting, and assembling building structures according to your specifications as an end-to-end fabrication provider. EMI works on your project from start to finish.