Guide to CNC Machines
Computer numerical control (CNC) machines are machining tools (lathes, mills, drills) that are automatically controlled by means of a computer. The numerically controlled machine operates on a piece of material (metals, plastics, wood) to convert it according to precise specifications.
It’s a versatile tool that conducts operations efficiently and smoothly. The computer controls not only gives higher accuracy and consistency, but also allows the machine to produce quite complicated geometries which would be difficult to execute manually.
· Since a CNC Machine is pre-programmed it does not require human supervision and it therefore completely unmanned.
· It is largely error-free because it runs entirely based on programmed specifications. This makes it superior to corresponding manual machines.
· Any given work would require multiple different pieces of apparatus such as drills and cutters, therefore modern CNC machines combine all these operations into one cell.
· The CNC machines enable the production of complex shapes and surfaces and geometries.
· Additionally, it boosts production volume, increases safety and flexibility.
- Though prices are coming down, CNC machines are far more expensive than manually operated ones. For this reason it would be advisable to buy a second-hand machine instead, which will allow an inexpensive purchase.
- CNC Machines require additional knowledge of programming and some other skills as well. Technical knowledge is a must.
- Due to the complex machinery, CNC machines require high maintenance costs at regular intervals.
Types of CNC Machines
The most common CNC processes and operations include:
· CNC Mills
CNC milling is a form of milling machining requiring G-codes programmed into the machine through a computer program. Each code entered into the program has a specific function that is performed by the machine. After the code is entered into a CNC milling machine, it drills and turns along its 3-6 axes to transform the material to match the specifications entered into the computer. CNC mills have wide applications and can make replacements as well.
CNC Lathes cut work-pieces while they are rotated. It has similar specifications as compared to CNC mills, often read G-code and have 2+ axes. CNC are used for many complex operations like metalworking, wood turning, acrylic spinning, metal spinning, thermal spraying etc
· Electric Discharge Machines
Electric Discharge Machining is a manufacturing process involving obtaining the desired shape using sparks (electrical discharge). A series of rapid rhythmic electric current discharges between two electrodes, causes the material to be removed from the work-piece.
· Plasma Cutters
Plasma cutters contain a plasma torch which uses plasma that is hot enough to melt the material to be cut. Compressed air is released at high speeds forming an electric arc that turns some of the gas to plasma. These machines are efficient in cutting steel.
Additional applications include, but are not limited to:
1. Wire-bending machines
2. Laser cutters
3. Cylindrical grinders
4. Embroidery machines
5. Wood routers
6. Ultrasonic welding
7. Plasma cutters
8. Water Jet cutters
9. Glass cutters
10. Stone router machines
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