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How does CNC machining work?

How does CNC machining work?
December 01, 2023

What is CNC machining?

CNC machining is a manufacturing process that utilizes computer numerical (CNC) machines to remove material from a workpiece. It involves the use of programmable machines and specialized tools to precisely cut and shape the workpiece according to a pre-designed CAD/CAM model. The process allows for high precision, repeatability, and complex geometries, making it widely used in various industries, such as automotive, aerospace, and electronics manufacturing.


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Here is a step-by-step explanation of how CNC machining works:


Designing the part: Initially, the desired part or component is designed using CAD software. This can be a 2D or 3D model.


Creating the program: Once the design is completed, the CAD model is converted into a CNC program using CAM software. The program contains the instructions that determine the toolpath, cutting depths, speeds, and feeds.


Loading the program: The CNC program is transferred to the CNC machine's computer control unit. This can be done via a direct connection or using a storage medium like a USB drive.


Setting up the machine: The workpiece is securely fixed to the machine table or a workholding fixture. The cutting tools, such as drills, end mills, or lathes, are chosen based on the requirements of the part.


Tool length and diameter measurement: The machine operator may measure and input the dimensions of the cutting tools into the machine's control system to compensate for their length and diameter during machining.


Homing and referencing: The machine is powered on, and the axes are homed to establish a reference position. This ensures accurate positioning of the tool relative to the workpiece.


Running the program: The CNC machine operator starts the machining process by executing the CNC program. The machine moves the cutting tool along the programmed toolpath while removing material from the workpiece.


Monitoring and adjustments: During the machining process, the operator monitors the operation and makes any necessary adjustments to ensure accuracy and quality. This may include tool changes, toolpath optimization, or modifying cutting parameters.


Finishing and inspection: Once the machining process is completed, the finished part is inspected for dimensional accuracy and surface finish. Additional post-processing operations like deburring or surface treatments may be performed if required.


CNC machining offers high precision, repeatability, and the ability to manufacture complex parts with efficiency. It is widely used in various industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical, and electronics, for producing components with tight tolerances and intricate geometries.


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