Meet Your "Other" Employees: The Basic Parts of a CNC Machine

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If you carve your name on a wood using a very sophisticated font, you’re lucky if you’ll finish your first name in 24 hours perfectly. Years ago, wood crafting and metal crafting are very expensive massive- labor industries because every aspect of the manufacturing is done by hand. There was minimal machine intervention but the designs were still as intricate.

Today, with the help of technology, wood carving, metal molding, cutting and even finishing can be done simultaneously with minimal hands involved. In fact, a company is deemed unproductive if it mass produces products every day BY HAND.

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines are in demand in industries where hands are better off pushing buttons than doing actual labor. Businessmen are raving about this wonder-machine because it is accurate, speedy and flexible.

The CNC machine is actually a factory of its own. There are different parts that have specific functions. Let’s get to know the “factory workers”.


The Vice is what holds the material which is to be cut or molded. It is important that the vice must be tight; so the material will be held securely. When the CNC machine starts to operate, the material will dash out of the vice if it is not secured. The vice usually works like a clamp that needs to hold the material not just securely but also in the right position.


The Guard—just like any other guard—works like a “protection” to the person operating the CNC machine. Once the CNC starts working, scraps of the material can “shoot off” at high speed. This is very risky for the operator if a piece hits him/her. The guard completely covers all the hazardous sides of the CNC machine.


The chuck holds the cutting tool. Sophisticated designs require maximum chuck precision so the actual design can be realized.


The motor rotates the chuck at very high speed. It is hidden and protected inside the machine. You have to take care of this part very carefully. Nowadays, cooling and lubrication is automated in most CNC machines. Usually, if this part doesn’t function well, it is the most difficult to treat. It is advised to have a CNC technician handy all the time.


Like the sea bed, this is the sturdy base of the CNC machine. It is connected to the headstock and aids the carriage and tailstock to be parallel with the spindle’s axis. It is securely bolted so it remains unshaken by the vibration of the machine when it starts operating.


This is the where the first-level shaping occurs. The cutter is usually made from high quality steel so as to cut the specific material fed to the CNC machine.

As a businessman, it is important that you get to know your employees, bond with them and earn their respect without scaring them. When you have CNC machines working for you, it is equally important that you understand them well. Do not be fooled by the CNC machine salesmen who court your interest because they are usually just after your purchase.

You have to master what comprises these machines, what makes them dysfunctional and most of all, what makes them stay in your company. Just don’t start talking to them. That would be really, really, dysfunctional.

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Motion Control - The Heart of CNC

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What is Motion Control?

Motion control can be applied in many categories such as robotics, CNC operated machine tools and Kinematics, wherein motion control in kinematics are usually simpler. It can be mainly used nowadays with packaging, textile, assembly industries, printing, and semiconductor production. The hardware of a motion controlled machine usually consists of drive systems, motors, a computer, a PLC or Programmable Logic Controller to run the programs, and an amplifier.

The basic design of a motion control system would include a motion controller to produce a set of points including closing a position, a drive or amplifier to convert the control signal of the motion controller into a high power electrical current, an actuator, one or more feedback sensors, and mechanical components to convert the motion of the actuators to the desired motion.

CNC machines use programmable commands to make inputting motion to the machine easier rather than using cranks or other conventional machine tools. Almost all CNC machine tools can have programmable motion type (whether it would be rapid, linear or circular), the amount of motion, the feedback rate, and the axes to move.

Motion control is the simplest function of any Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine. It is precise, consistent, and automatic system of control. CNC equipments need two or more modes of direction to which they are called axes. There are two common axis types and they are called linear and rotary. The linear axis type of motion control is driven along a straight path while the rotary axis type is driven along a circular path.

The operator of the motion controlled machine counting the number of revolutions made on the handwheel, added the generations of the dial would accomplish accurate positioning. The drive motor of the machine would be rotated to a resulting amount, which would then drive the ball screw, which would cause the linear motion of the axis. The feedback device at the end of the ball screw would confirm its revolutions.

The same linear motion can be found on a table vise. When you rotate the vise crank, it would also rotate a lead screw, which would then be able to drive the movable jaw in the table vise. In comparison to a motor controlled CNC machine, the linear axis in it is extremely precise compared to that of a table vise. This is because the number of revolutions of the axis drive motor in the CNC machine accurately controls the amount of linear motion along the axis.

A CNC command programmed and executed within a control of a machine would tell the drive motor of the machine as to how many number of precise times it would rotate. This in turn would rotate the ball screw then the ball screw would drive the linear axis. After the process has started, a feedback device located at the end of the ball screw would confirm the programmed number of rotations that the machine would run has taken in effect.

How would axis motion be controlled?

Utilizing a form of coordinate system would make axis controlling a whole lot simpler and more logical to the CNC control. Two coordinate systems that are being used in CNC machines that have been popular are rectangular and polar coordinate system, to which the more popular of the two is the rectangular coordinate system.

Graphing is a common application for the rectangular coordinate system and is needed to cause movement in a CNC machine.

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