CNC technology has become so integrated into manufacturing technology that it’s difficult to imagine where we’d be without it. More likely than not, the device you’re reading this article on was manufactured using CNC technology as was the furniture you’re sitting on.
CNC is yet another step forward in the automation process and its presence is nearly universal in our lives. But what is it exactly? And what is it used for? This article will provide a basic overview of CNC technology and its applications.
What is CNC?
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. This technology uses programmed inputs to control tools like drills, lathes, and milling tools that previously needed to be directed manually. A CNC machine takes those inputs and processes the material which can be metal, wood, plastics, ceramics, or essentially any raw material. In addition, CNC machines are used in food processing and pharmaceuticals or any other industry in which the required processing is too precise or delicate for manual work.
First developed in the 1940s, the original CNC machines were controlled by a punched tape. They continued with this method for the next several decades before digital technology was incorporated. However, the principles of CNC were the same.
Applications of CNC Machines
CNC is used in controlled material removal. Prior to the advent of this technology, manual operators directed the machines using levers and wheels, a process that was much slower and less accurate than computer-controlled inputs. There are many specific uses of CNC technology but the most common are lathes, boring, milling, embroidery, tube bending, glass cutting, grinding, plasma and water jet cutting, and more.
The applications of CNC are nearly endless as it can be combined with so many different manufacturing processes. Anything that requires precise and efficient inputs to remove material can incorporate CNC technology.
Use of CNC Cells
Modern manufacturing techniques often combine several different CNC machines in order to process the required raw materials. This is known as a CNC cell: multiple machines using inputs in subsequent steps.
However, these cells aren’t limited to CNC machines in order to process raw materials. The production line generally includes a range of machine types with different functions. They may carve out materials, move those materials across the production space, or assemble or disassemble those materials.
In recent years, the application of CNC machines has expanded beyond the manufacturing industry. CNC software and machines are now available to consumers for use in small scale and personal production. Companies such as Inventables offer CNC machines for home use and small businesses.
In these small scales and personal uses, the CNC machine has taken on artistic applications as well. Users all over the world are designing unique and interesting works of art as well as furniture, tools, and many other creative applications.
CNC machines are a fantastic technology that’s still relatively new. And we’ve certainly yet to reach the limits of its potential.