What is a CNC Machine? CNC stands for Computer Numeric Control. Sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Years ago, it was just NC, or Numeric Control. Since, they’ve added computers to control the machine.
In the simplest of terms, think of a drill press. It’s a machine that drills holes. But before you can drill the hole, you have to loosen the chuck, install the correct drill bit, drill the hole in the correct place, turn off the drill, and remove the drill bit. Manually, this could be time consuming and cause fatigue over the course of numerous parts. This is a simple example, but throw in some lathe or milling machining and you have a greater chance for error.
With the CNC machine, all of this drilling can be done automatically instead of the manual process listed above. Machining has to be precise, and whether you use a CNC lathe or milling machine, you have to make sure the part is right. The computer takes a lot of the guesswork out of the machining of these parts. In fact, a CNC programmer can sometimes get bored watching the machine do all the work.
But there is more programming for the machine than you would think. The operator has to enter a set of instructions. The programming uses about 50 words and tells the machine how fast, how deep, and location for machining.
What can you do with a CNC machine? In manufacturing, you can use this tool for milling, drilling, reaming, boring and counter boring. You can also groove and thread parts in a CNC turning center. You may have several setups including CNC lathes, CNC drill and tap area, CNC milling, or even CNC grinding.
EDM (electrical discharge machining) can also take advantage of CNC operations. EDM can be either vertical or wire. A vertical EDM machine uses an electrode to make a cavity for a plastic injection-molding machine. A wire EDM machine uses a wire to cut metal for a tooling operation for fabrication. EDM is more closely related to making tooling for other machines, people often overlook the use of CNC with these machines.
CNC machines can also be used with routers in the wood industry. CNC can also be used with lettering and engraving.
I hope this gave you some basic information about what a CNC machine is and what they are used for.