The Art of CNC Precision Machining

When an artist produces a piece of artwork, like a painting, it is a unique product which is part of its appeal and adds to its value. The artist may duplicate the painting but when it is done manually there are distinct variations in the final product that once again mean that even the duplicate is unique. The process of duplicating paintings through art prints made the copy a much closer representation of the original. The artist may have duplicated the first painting but the brush strokes used were not identical and the variation in motion control lead to a variation in the final product. Variations in artwork can be beautiful and necessary but in the world of machining beauty comes from the ability to exactly and precisely reproduce the final product and this can be accomplished through Computer Numerical Control for machining also known as CNC.

The role of machinist has changed radically with the introduction of CNC precision machining. Early machinists would make use of manual cranks, hand wheels, lead screws and a series of slides to perform the required cutting tasks just as an artist would use visual and physical control mechanisms to produce an artwork. In machining the key desirable outcome was and remains accuracy and reproducibility. CNC allows motion control for machining that is precise and able to be repeated over and over again without manual intervention while also increasing the safety of the operator. Although there is currently no known mechanical system that can reproduce the sophistication of the artist's body at work, CNC has allowed significant advances in the machining industry.

Different machine types have different series of motions depending on the cutting tasks required but the method of motion control is fairly consistent in CNC. Each direction of motion is referred to as an axis and CNC machines can have two, five and even twelve axes and can either be linear or spherical depending on their application. The machines can manufacture high-tech components for use in the medical, aerospace and automotive industries from a range of materials including titanium, aluminium, copper, brass, alloys and high temperature plastics. CNC machines are involved in producing items such as nuts, inserts, threaded parts, pins, shafts, gears and fittings and can be produced in high volume in addition to high precision. The art of these processes lies not only in the final products but on the skill of the operator who programmes the CNC machines.

CNC Machine Basics

Variables on the operation of CNC machines will vary from one CNC type to another. CNC machines are available is several different types. Anything from lathe machines to water jet machines, so the mechanics of each different machine will be different; however, the basics work primarily for all the different CNC machine types.

CNC machine basics should be called benefits. The benefits of a CNC machine are the same for each machine as it is for every company who owns one. Computer aided technology is a wonderful thing. A CNC machine offers that benefit to its owners. Intervention by the worker is needed less, as the machine does all of the work once the software is programmed to the specifications desired. The machine will continue to run until the process is complete, all completely unmanned. This frees up the worker to perform other tasks if necessary.

CNC machines offer these benefits:
o Fewer mistakes caused by human error
o Consistent machining each and every time
o Precise machining each and every time
o Reduced operator fatigue, if any at all
o Frees up the operator to perform other tasks
o Speeds up production
o Reduces waste
o Skill level to operate machine is lower (must know how to program the software)

These are just a few of the benefits that CNC machines have to offer. They offer many other benefits that are determined by the type of CNC machine that is used.

Switching from the production of one product to another is very simple and can save the business a lot of time. In the past it could have taken a day to several days to set a machine up to make the proper cuts that are needed for the order. Now, with the CNC machines, set up time is drastically reduced. It's pretty much as simple as loading a different software program.

CNC machines operate not only through a computer software program, they are motion controlled and operate on several different axes depending upon the type of the machine. The CNC lathe machine operates on the X and Y axis unlike the 5 axis machines that are now available on the market. The more axes that the machine operates on, the more delicate and precise the cuts; the more creative you can become in your projects, and the more you can offer fabrication services. The CNC machines can pretty much do it all without human intervention other than through the use of the computer software.

No more hand wheels and joy sticks causing the motion that most machining tools require. Now, the computer, through the software program, instructs the machine on what exactly to do and the machine continues to perform until the brush machine specifications or guidelines have been reached, upon which time it discontinues operation for that sheet of material. The human intervention that is needed with a CNC machine is the programming. Programming for the machines is written in sentence like structures that are in code. The code tells the different axes what to do and completely controls all aspects of the machine.

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