18 Chapter 8: CNC

Unit 1: Introduction to CNC

What is CNC? CNC is a Computer Numerical Control. CNC is the automation of machine tools that are operated by precisely programmed commands encoded and played by a computer as opposed to controlled manually via handwheels or levers.

In modern CNC systems, end-to-end component design is highly automated using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) programs. The series of steps needed to produce any part is highly automated and produces a part that closely matches the original CAD design.

In the CNC machines the role of the operators is minimized. The operator has to merely feed the program of instructions in the computer, load the required tools in the machine, and rest of the work is done by the computer automatically. The computer directs the machine tool to perform various machining operations as per the program of instructions fed by the operator.

The CNC technology can be applied to wide variety of operations like drafting, assembly, inspection, sheet metal working, etc. But it is more prominently used for various metal machining processes like turning, drilling, milling, shaping, etc. Due to the CNC, all the machining operations can be performed at the fast rate resulting in bulk manufacturing becoming quite cheaper.

How It Works

The CNC machine comprises of the computer in which the program is fed for cutting of the metal of the job as per the requirements. All the cutting processes that are to be carried out and all the final dimensions are fed into the computer via the program. The computer thus knows what exactly is to be done and carries out all the cutting processes. CNC machine works like the Robot, which has to be fed with the program and it follows all your instructions.

You don’t have to worry about the accuracy of the job; all the CNC machines are designed to meet very close accuracies. In fact, these days for most of the precision jobs CNC machine is compulsory. When your job is finished, you don’t even have to remove it, the machine does that for you and it picks up the next job on its own. This way your machine can keep on doing the fabrication works all the 24 hours of the day without the need of much monitoring, of course you will have to feed it with the program initially and supply the required raw material.

Since the earliest days of production manufacturing, ways have been sought to increase dimensional accuracy as well as speed of production. Simply put, numerical control is a method of automatically operating a manufacturing machine based on a code of letter, numbers, and special characters. As they developed, application of digital computers control of manufacturing equipment was realized. Computers were soon used to provide direct control of machine tools. The integrated circuit led to small computers used to control individual machines, and the computer numerical control (CNC) era was born. This Computer Numerical Control era has become so sophisticated it is the preferred method of almost every phase of

precision manufacturing, particularly machining. Precision dimensional requirements, mainstay of the machining processes, are ideal candidates for use of computer control systems. Computer numerical control now appears in many other types of manufacturing processes. A distinct advantage of computer control of machine tools is rapid, high-precision positioning of workpiece and cutting tools.

Today, manual machine tools have been largely replaced by Computer numerical Control(CNC) machine tools. The machine tool are controlled electronically rather than by hand. CNC machine tools can produce the same part over and over again with very little variation. Modern CNC machines can position cutting tools and workpieces at traverse feed rates of several hundred inches per minute, to an accuracy of .0001”. Once programming is complete and tooling is set up, they can run day or night, week after week, without getting tried, with only routine service and cutting tool maintenance. These are obvious advantage over manual machine tools, which need a great deal of human interaction in order to do anything. Cutting feed rates and spindle speeds may be optimized through program instructions. Modern CNC machine tools have turret or belt toolholders and some can hold more than 150 tools. Tool change take less than 15 seconds.

Computer Numerical Control machine are highly productive. They are also expensive to purchase, set up, and maintain. However, the productivity advantage can easily offset this cost if their use is properly managed. A most important advantage of CNC is ability to program the machine to do different jobs. Tool selection and changing under program control is extremely productive, with little time wasted applying a tool to the job.

A program developed to accomplish a given task may be used for a short production run of one, or a few parts. The machine may then be set up for a new job and used for long production runs of hundreds or thousands of production units. It can be interrupted, used for the original job or another new job, and quickly returned to the long production run. This makes the CNC machine tool extremely versatile and productive. Computer-aided design(CAD), has become the preferred method of product design & development. The connection between CAD & CNC was logical. A computer part design can go directly to program used to develop CNC machine control information. A CNC manufacturing machine can then make the part. The computer is extremely useful for assisting the CNC programmer in developing a program to manufacture a specific part. Computer-aided manufacturing, or CAM, systems are now the industry standard for programming. When CAD, CAM & CNC are blended, the greatest capability emerges, producing parts extremely difficult or impossible to make by manual methods.

CNC motion is based on the Cartesian coordinate system. A CNC machine cannot be successfully operated without an understanding of the how coordinate systems are defined in CNC machine and how the systems work together.

To fully understand numerical control programming you must understand axes and coordinates. Think of a part that you would have make. You could describe it to someone else by its geometry. For example, the part you have make is a 5 inch by 8 inch rectangle. All parts can be described in this fashion. Any point on the machined part, such as a pocket to be cut or a hole to be drilled, can be described in term of its position. The system that allows us to do this, called the Cartesian Coordinate or rectangular coordinate system.


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