Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines play a vital role in today’s manufacturing plants. They’re fast, accurate, and highly adaptable, but CNC machines require specialized knowledge and training for machinists to operate them safely.
How CNC Machining Works
CNC machining combines factory tools and machinery with specialized computer software, making it possible to operate everything from grinders to lathes with greater precision and accuracy. The training for operators and programmers is extensive and includes aspects of not just computer programming and mechanical design but also mathematics, technical drawing, and more. The creation of products using CNC machines begins when a programmer creates a computer-aided design (CAD) file that contains all of the information needed to generate a prototype part. From there, the CNC machines can be fed this information and used to manufacture first the prototype and then, after any necessary modifications have been made, subsequent runs of parts for final production.
Benefits of CNC Machining to Modern Manufacturing
Although technically, the history of CNC machining dates all the way back to the 1940s, today’s machines have little in common with their much less advanced ancestors. The first three-dimensional numerically controlled machine tools were developed by MIT and patented by their inventor, John I. Parsons, but the technology was slow to catch on.
Despite the fact that CNC machining was poised to significantly reduce dangers to factory workers and improve the efficiency of manufacturing, it took decades for the technology to become widely adopted. Now, though, modern manufacturing plants across the world take advantage of benefits such as:
Accuracy is integral to the manufacturing industry. Just one minor flaw or failure to follow established specifications can leave parts unusable and generate unacceptable amounts of material waste. With software-programmed CNC machines, errors in production are almost unheard of because every detail of the production process can be controlled.
CNC machining is an incredibly efficient process. Once a CNC operator has programmed it, the process of parts or product manufacturing can be completely automated. The machines can continue to run continuously without any human intervention beyond basic maintenance.
Although CNC machining still requires human intervention, factory workers now play much safer roles. Instead of operating machines directly and in close proximity to the potentially dangerous equipment, CNC operators can program the software from afar. The only direct interaction that people need to have with CNC machines is during routine maintenance, so the chances of worker injuries are far lower.
All of the tasks required to fabricate parts and products must be performed with maximum precision, from welding and flame-cutting to hole punching and shearing. Even the most highly-skilled welders and metalworkers can’t compete with CNC machines when it comes to ensuring the precision of these challenging, specialized processes. No matter how long CNC machines run, they will not deviate from the initial specifications.
While traditional manufacturing procedures generated a large amount of material waste, the efficiency and accuracy associated with CNC machining all but eliminate that problem. CNC programmers can create designs that utilize the maximum amount of material for each project and generate the minimum amount of waste, and there are no human errors on the part of machinists.
The Importance of Adequate Training
CNC programmers and operators must be trained to use these complex machines, which require far more in-depth knowledge than traditional manufacturing equipment. Current and aspiring machinists must be committed to keeping their knowledge up-to-date and seeking out opportunities for continued training.