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Introduction To CNC Machining

CNC machining is either the last or only process used in metal manufacturing. Of all metal manufacturing techniques, CNC machining is capable of repeatedly producing the most accurate and precise products with the tightest tolerances. CNC Machining

Metal manufacture has incorporated tools to help with the removal of extraneous material for centuries. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control and represents the advances made by the incorporation of computer-controlled guidance systems. The level of precision that this enables is what makes the modern machining process possible.


CNC in machining began in the 1940s in Traverse City, Michigan. A man named John Parsons of Parsons Corporation was using punch cards to instruct a machine as to the coordinates of the material to be removed. From 1949, he started to team up with the U.S. Airforce at an MIT lab to develop this system further into what would become known as numerical control. Initially, this process allowed for parts to be built for aircraft at a fraction of the time they would have taken originally with little need for human supervision.

CNC’s Advent

While these early systems did revolutionise the industry, there were still many ways in which they could be improved. The process of programming the machines that controlled the tools took a long time and it was easy for errors to occur. Also, as each company developed its own language there were issues with compatibility. Once again, the US Air Force came to the rescue by funding MIT research to develop an NC programming language that could be used by everyone. It was ready in 1959 and there are still versions of it in use today.

Originally, computers were a lot less common. Despite that, the technology was quickly developed. Early-on NC machines required small computers to be attached directly to them to control the operations they were to perform. Currently, it is more common for a central computer to control several NC machines simultaneously in a process known as DNC or distributed numerical control.

The Future of CNC

The technology has never ceased its development. Now, CNC is being applied to industrial robotics as well as traditional tools like mills and lathes. Even for more complex tasks like transportation and assembly. While 3D printing can be seen as a competitor, there are uses for it in development which allow it to complement the CNC machining process through the formation of templates and patterns to configure CNC tools.

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