Do you have a design for a product that you would like to bring to life, or a part that you want to manufacture? Then you may be looking for a manufacturing technology to make your parts precisely and accurately.
All of these objectives are met and more by CNC machines. These machines can produce both simple and complex parts precisely and accurately. They are also quick and cost-effective. A CNC machine, however, can have a number of unique features, each with its own design and suitability for creating different parts.
Throughout this article, we will discuss ten of the more common types of CNC machines used in manufacturing. The different processes they can perform and how they operate will be explained to you.
What is CNC Technology?
CNC refers to software and code that is used to control machine tools through computer numerical control (CNC). CAD software is used to create 3D models of the desired part prior to CNC machining. Following this, the 3D model is loaded into a CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) package, which produces a set of computer instructions (G-code) that control the positioning of the cutting tools on the work piece.
We will now examine the various types of CNC machines and what makes them different.
The CNC milling machine
The most common CNC machines are milling machines (or CNC mills). These machines have multiple blades attached to a spindle, which spins at high speed against a stationary workpiece. This type of cutter is ideal for creating cavities, angled cuts, and off-center holes, as well as complex shapes.
Similar to CNC mills, CNC routers create parts using a multi-bladed cutting tool rotating against the workpiece. The CNC router is better suited to cutting soft materials like plastics, wood, and foam, whereas CNC mills are best suited for cutting hard metals and industrial-grade materials.
This makes them ideally suited for the creation of plastic prototypes, panels, and injection molds.
CNC Lathes Machine
Similar to CNC mills and routers, CNC lathes (or turning machines) feature a chuck and spindle and rely on the technology of CNC. Although these machines are identical in appearance, their working methods are entirely different.
Workpieces are held and rotated by the chuck and spindle in CNC lathes. Machines of this type usually feature three axes and can achieve tolerances as close as three millimeters. As a result, they can precisely machine cylindrical shapes.
CNC lathe machines are the best choice if you need to perform high-quality turning processes such as taper turning, knurling, drilling, parting, and grooving. In addition to reaming and counterboring, this machine can also be used for faceting and thread cutting. As the thickness of the workpiece increases, however, CNC lathes tend to become less accurate.
Laser Cutter CNC
The type of shapes or features CNC laser cutters can produce are similar to CNC mills. As opposed to milling machines, laser cutting machines use laser beams to perform cutting operations.
Lasers emit high-intensity beams of light. As the laser is focused on a workpiece, the workpiece melts to create a cut. A CNC-controlled laser cutting head (and laser beam) moves sequentially until the required custom part is made. CNC laser cutters can cut a variety of materials, including plastics, metals, and hardwoods, and they provide a high level of cutting accuracy. A CNC milled or turned part bearing your brand name and logo is made even more impressive by their high degree of precision.
CAD/CAM software is more accessible
It has become increasingly democratized in the past decade, particularly when it comes to computer-aided design, simulation, and modeling.
More and more people have access to CAD/CAM software. They are cost-effective, and developers of these tools place a higher emphasis on user-friendliness. In addition, a growing number of designers and programmers strive to make the technology as accessible as possible.
Additionally, with computers becoming more powerful and cloud computing resources becoming more readily available, designers no longer need powerful computers to design parts for CNC machines, despite the high power requirements of CAD/CAM software. These tools, in combination with other productivity-boosting strategies, can improve CNC machine performance and increase designers’ return on investment.
Small businesses and individual designers may no longer have to rely on larger manufacturers to achieve their design goals because of the increased accessibility of computer-aided design.
Computer-aided engineering has seen a number of changes over the years. Furthermore, simulation and finite element analysis (FEA) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software are becoming more accessible to small businesses and individual designers.
CNC plasma cutters
In addition to high accuracy and wide material compatibility, CNC plasma cutting machines also provide high cutting efficiency. Their only difference from laser cutters is that they use plasma to perform cutting operations.
Plasma torches generate high-pressure plasma (or charged gas) capable of reaching temperatures of 50,000°F or higher. As long as the material is electrically conductive, this enormous amount of energy easily cuts through it.
The CNC Electrical Discharge Machine (EDM)
Electrical discharge machines are able to cut workpieces by sprinkling sparks from a metal tool. They are also known as spark CNC machines. A workpiece must also be electrically conductive for electric discharge machines. As an electrode, a metal tool can only disintegrate electrically conductive materials and therefore meet these strict requirements.
Electrostatic discharge machines are ideal for creating micro slots, holes, and angled features in metals that are difficult to machine, such as high-carbon steel and hardened steel.
Cutting water jets with CNC machines
Using high-pressure jets of water (or a combination of water and an abrasive) to cut through materials, a CNC water jet cutter works as its name implies. The water jet is controlled by computer numerical control technology to create the desired finished part.
Water jet cutters, like CNC plasma cutters and laser cutters, reduce the need for machines by eliminating the need for tooling.
A CNC water jet cutter is, however, especially well suited for materials with low thermal resistance, such as aluminum and plastic. When we say that materials have low thermal resistance, we mean that they become brittle when exposed to high temperatures.
As with traditional drilling machines, CNC drilling machines make holes in stationary workpieces by rotating a cutting tool. CNC drilling machines, however, possess greater accuracy and versatility than traditional drills since they rely on CNC technology.
CNC drilling machines, for instance, can finish holes with a tolerance of 0.001mm. A variety of materials can also be used, such as wood, metals, and plastics. Additionally, CNC drilling machines are equipped with tool turrets that accept multiple drill bits and enable them to be quickly switched between during manufacturing.
Machined shafts, gear blanks, and hubs can all be fabricated with CNC drilling machines.
Providing high-quality CNC-machined parts: Gensun can help
You can see that CNC machines are capable of creating a wide variety of features, parts, and products now that you are aware of their capabilities. A successful manufacturing project depends, however, also on the machine shop and machinists who create your products.
Asia’s leading CNC machining company, Gensun Precision Machining, provides CNC machining services throughout Asia. In addition to our variety of CNC machines, we also have highly skilled engineers and machinists capable of getting your product done right.