CNC machining refers to a host of CNC machining services used to transform a workpiece into a solid part. The technique can produce various types of products used in multiple industries and the parts differ in shape, size, and design. CNC machines feature three primary components; the command, drive, and feedback systems. There are various types of CNC machines that this post will cover.
Common types of CNC machines
There are almost a dozen types of CNC machines. Below are some of the most common ones;
1. CNC milling machines
CNC mills are the most common type of CNC machines. They are computerized machines with built-in milling and drilling tool. They work by subtracting materials from a workpiece until a desired shape, size, and design is achieved. The difference between CNC milling machines and regular milling devices is that computers control CNC devices. All their movements are programmed via a computer through G-code. This means that the only human input required is placing the workpiece in the machine and initiating the program.
2. CNC plasma cutting machines
Like CNC milling machines, plasma cutting machines work by cutting materials from a workpiece. However, plasma cutting machines do not use drilling, milling, or regular cutting tools. As the name suggests, these machines use plasma (ionized gas) torches as cutting tools. A high-powered touch is used to get through some of the hardest metals on the market. Plasma cutting machines are primarily used for cutting through electrically conductive materials like brass, aluminum, and steel. CNC plasma cutting machines are used in chemical manufacturing, construction, ship construction, and automobile manufacturing.
3. CNC laser cutters
These machines cut materials from a workpiece using powerful and highly focused laser-like plasma cutters. These machines are more accurate because of their smaller contact point. They also offer better surface finishes. However, they are also more costly. CNC laser cutters are commonly used in the design industry for sign making and engraving.
4. CNC lathes or turning machines
In CNC lathes, the workpiece is placed on a spinning tool where it rotates at high speed as a blade cuts through the undesired parts. The edge does not move, making the process less precise. Unlike other CNC machines, lathes produce cylindrical, flat, or conical parts. The machines have two axes that determine the rotations. The turning operation applied also influences the final products. CNC lathes are the cheapest type of CNC machining device. They are also smaller and easier to use in limited spaces. Their size also makes them portable. Regardless, they fall in the CNC category because they can read G-code and other programming languages.
While all the machines above work differently, they have two primary similarities. The first one is that they are all subtractive manufacturing techniques. The second one is that they all depend on digital instructions created via CAM, CAD, or CAE software. The instructions are fed to the machines in G-Code, and they control and execute the different manufacturing processes. This is achieved via the movement of the workpiece of the cutting tool, depending on the process and machine.