What is CNC Machining?

CNC machining, or computer numerical control machining, is a computerized manufacturing process.

Computer software controls how tools and machines operate, instead of a human operator. CNC machines are used to turn material such as aluminum or steel into a part using tools that operate along multiple axes, sometimes simultaneously.

Because CNC machines use automated processes, they can quickly and precisely produce parts, making for fast, precise work. Part of a CNC machine’s speed comes because it can rotate between different tools, such as different sized drill bits, lathes, and rotational cutting tools. Material can be flipped over in a CNC machine, which also can be a time saver.

Rapid prototyping is an area that has benefited greatly from CNC machines. Because of the speed and precision with which CNC machines can work, prototypes can quickly be generated and iterated upon, which is helpful in the process of developing a new part. Once out of the prototyping phase, CNC machines are great for high-volume projects that require precision and speed.

One distinct way in which CNC machining is different from 3D printing is that a 3D printer creates an item, whereas the processes used in CNC machining take away material from an item to create an end product. When CNC machines were developed in the 1940s and 1950s, they relied on “punch cards” to dictate the final outcome of a part. This would today be looked at as a rudimentary process, but this was the beginning of a process that, with technological developments, has evolved greatly over time. Now a CNC machine can take a digital 3D model and create it out of a piece of material.

If you want to go through some rapid prototyping or quickly create a lot of pieces that are precisely the same, ask us about whether using a CNC machine process is the right approach for your project.

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