CNC Machining is a process used in the manufacturing sector that involves the use of computers to control machine tools. Tools that can be controlled in this manner include lathes, mills, routers and grinders. The CNC in CNC Machining stands for Computer Numerical Control.
On the surface, it may look like a normal PC controls the machines, but the computer's unique software and control console are what really sets the system apart for use in CNC machining.
Under CNC Machining, machine tools function through numerical control. A computer program is customized for an object and the machines are programmed with CNC machining language (called G-code) that essentially controls all features like feed rate, coordination, location and speeds. With CNC machining, the computer can control exact positioning and velocity. CNC machining is used in manufacturing both metal and plastic parts.
First a CAD drawing is created (either 2D or 3D), and then a code is created that the CNC machine will understand. The program is loaded and finally an operator runs a test of the program to ensure there are no problems. This trial run is referred to as "cutting air" and it is an important step because any mistake with speed and tool position could result in a scraped part or a damaged machine.
There are many advantages to using CNC Machining. The process is more precise than manual machining, and can be repeated in exactly the same manner over and over again. Because of the precision possible with CNC Machining, this process can produce complex shapes that would be almost impossible to achieve with manual machining. CNC Machining is used in the production of many complex three-dimensional shapes. It is because of these qualities that CNC Machining is used in jobs that need a high level of precision or very repetitive tasks.
If you are considering a career in CNC Machining, it would be useful to have a background in mathematics, industrial arts and mechanical drafting, as well as computer usage.