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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Because computer software controls CNC machining services, fewer technicians are needed for operation and oversight, cutting overall expenses.
The software can be reprogrammed quickly and efficiently to produce many parts, allowing operations to keep up with shifting customer needs and demands.
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.
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!