CNC machining has countless applications. With it, manufacturers make parts and products for virtually all industries. Some of the industries that most heavily rely on CNC production machining include industrial manufacturing, metalworking, aerospace, architecture, electronics energy, oil and gas, marine, military and defense, and medicine and healthcare.
Examples of some of the products that manufacturers make to assist in metalworking include dies, coinage dies, molds, fittings, equipment components (gears, shafts, shaft assemblies, etc.), and the like.
Examples of products that manufacturers CNC for the aerospace industry include ground support equipment, compressor cases, control panels, separation discs, electronic enclosures, electronic housings, and instrument panels.
Examples of products that manufacturers CNC machine for the energy industry include light assemblies, solar energy cells, housings, gear cases, covers, hubs, brackets, couplings, guides, sleeves, weldments, fluid manifold blocks, gas blocks, motion components, and shaft components.
Oil and Gas
Manufacturers use CNC machining to create countless products for oil and gas. Examples include spacers, connected rod bushings, pump liners, wrist pin bushings, drill bit parts, hydraulic components, electric submersible pumps, valving systems, actuating systems, sealing systems, vacuum systems, and blowout preventers.
Some of the many marine industry products that manufacturers CNC machine include connecting shafts, arrester gears, valves, flanges, engine parts, propulsion systems, transmission units, power trains, and marine power units.
Military and Defense
Examples of CNC machined military and defense parts and products include clamshells, fuser rollers, flanges, retainer rings, track hubs, main rotor hubs, missile components, aircraft seat frames, helicopter components, aerospace couplers, naval structural systems, naval shift components, naval engines, transmission components, and munitions hoist components.
Medicine and Healthcare
For medicine and healthcare, manufacturers CNC machine products like spinal fusion cages, expandable rib cages, bone plates, maxillofacial prosthetics, endovascular devices, vena cava clips, surgical forceps, surgical equipment, blood delivery housings, dental scalers, and fixation devices.
Miscellaneous products that manufacturers make using CNC machining include household fixtures, satellite system components, ball joints, valve bodies, internal computer assemblies, semiconductor components, suspension arms, thermal device components, spindle housings, tensioners, fasteners, input shafts, output shafts, rail and switch gears, module blocks, and more.
Engineers built the very first computer numerical control machines during the 1940s and 1950s. Their inventions were essentially motorized tools that followed points as they were directed by inputs from punched tape. Later, engineers added analog computers and digital computers into the mix.
In the 1970’s, manufacturers began making practical uses of the very basic versions of CNC machining software available to them. The technology available to them was initially limited.
Since then, huge changes and developments in computer technology have made the process much more precise and reliable. Improved codes have made CNC machines easier for beginners to operate. With computer imaging software, manufacturers are able to involve their clients in the product design before production begins. They may even use the machines to create one or several prototypes before going into full scale production. After a production run is over, the product code can be filed away for use in the future.
Today, CNC manufacturers do more than manufacture a final product. They consult, design, and optimize production for their clients.
After manufacturers have chosen the right software and materials for a project, the CNC manufacturer and client collaborate. They conceptualize the product using computer design and imaging programs, so that they both have a sense of what will the manufacturer make, and so that they can make any necessary changes. The same programs then convert the concepts into code that the CNC machine will understand.
Finally, manufacturers must load the raw materials for the product into the machine. The loading process may be automated or done manually by workers. To keep the materials secure, most CNC machines feature fixturing capabilities. The term “fixturing” simply refers to securing your workpiece or materials to the machining bed.
The code then directs the machine as it begins working with the material. This results in precise, high quality parts that meet an exact set of specifications.
Each of these services is controlled by its own CNC program that has software directed by a computer code. G code, for example, is a universal CNC language. However, some manufacturers use bitmap, drawing exchange format, or M-code to control their equipment.
To keep their CNC systems accurate, fast, and powerful, manufacturers perform regular maintenance on their machines.
When designing your part or product in their CNC machine shop, manufacturers consider a number of factors. These include the material capabilities you require, your requested product volume, your required product diameter, etc. Based on these factors, manufacturers will decide what processes are necessary to design and create your part, what software they should use, and the best material(s) for your part.
Some of the many materials that CNC machining manufacturers may pick from include wood, plastics, ceramic, metals (carbon steel, mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, copper, titanium, etc.), super alloys, and glass.
It’s easy for CNC machining service providers to create custom products for you. To learn more, talk over your application with your potential suppliers.
Vertical milling machines work using cutting tools that move on a vertical axis. Note, though, that vertical milling machines can cut or drill from the front, side or from above, as long as the tools move there vertically. Typically, manufacturers use vertical axis mills to form 1D shapes.
Horizontal milling machines hold and move cutting tools on a horizontal axis. They work like vertical milling machines, except that they also use a rotary table that lets them make contact at multiple angles. Because of what they allow, rotary tables used in this setting are often called “universal tables.” Horizontal mills are more expensive than vertical mills, but they are more versatile and work extremely well.
CNC cutting machines make cuts with extreme precision. Where and how deep they cut depends on the carefully coded instructions given to them by the CNC technology. CNC machines can direct cutters to operate on up to six different axes of motion at once.
CNC drilling machines typically feature of number of different turrets or spindles. To quickly alter what they are drilling, the tool bits housed inside turrets or spindles are automatically rotated or changed out by CNC tool changers. Automated changes are as quick as two seconds.
CNC lathes, which are similar to CNC turning (milling) machines, machine workpieces by shaping them as they rotate. They can wield a number of different machine tools at once, such as drills and cutters. Older CNC lathe models use two axes, but newer lathes use more, allowing manufacturers to take on more complex projects. CNC lathes usually read G-code.
Variations and Similar Services
CNC milling (CNC turning) is the most common type of CNC manufacturing on the market, but companies who specialize in precision CNC machining often offer more detailed CNC machining services.
Some of the most common of these precision CNC machining services include cutting, drilling, and grinding. These functions can be CNC programmed into a single unit, or the unit can have several machine tool heads that are engaged during particular tasks.
CNC milling, sometimes called CNC turning, is a CNC precision machining process that manufacturers most often use to engrave materials. People call it CNC turning because the machine rotates as it works. CNC milling machines work well for engraving because they engage turning machine tools, like cutters and conical tools, on multiple axes at once. Manufacturers can perform CNC turning quickly without sacrificing quality.
CNC cutting involves the use of all kinds of tooling and processes (e.g. lasers, blades, plasma cutting, waterjet cutting, etc.), with the help of CNC technology, to remove material from a workpiece. The goal of CNC cutting is to shape or finish a 2D or 3D part or product with tight tolerances.
CNC drilling involves the use of machines to bore holes or threads of different shapes and sizes, as guided by computer software. Manufacturers can modify CNC drilling machines to drill into all kinds of materials. CNC drilling is efficient and effective. Examples of some of the industries in which manufacturers use CNC drilling include military and defense, recreation, automotive manufacturing, aerospace, agriculture, pharmaceutical processing, chemical processing, and food and beverage.
CNC grinding is a CNC machining process during which CNC software controls an abrasive belt, disc, or wheel. The abrasive element finishes parts and products by removing unnecessary surface material.
Beyond drilling, grinding, milling, and cutting, secondary services like finishing, anodizing, heat treating, lapping, stress relieving, and polishing may all be accomplished by special CNC equipment.
CNC machining offers a myriad of benefits. First, when manufacturers stock their facility with CNC machinery, they greatly reduce the need for human labor. This is because a single worker can monitor several machines at once during operation. Second, CNC machining is incredibly versatile. With it, manufacturers can machine a breathtaking variation of materials. Also, they can create products in virtually any shape or size, and with virtually any tolerances and level of intricacy. Another advantage of CNC machining is the fact that it can so quickly produce a large quantity of products. In addition, CNC machining offers repeatable results. These results are consistently high quality.
Things to Consider
Some manufacturers only have a limited number of machines, while others stock a wide variety so that they can accommodate a broader range of projects. Every machining center is different. To find a manufacturer with both the right skills and right capabilities for you, make sure to thoroughly discuss your application requirements with your potential suppliers. We recommend that, before you talk to any candidates, you put together a list of these application requirements, so that you don’t forget anything when you talk to them. Remember to include things like your request volume, your standard requirements, your budget, your timeline, your delivery preferences, and your post-delivery support preferences.
Once you have put this list together, check out our list of suggested suppliers. You will find it by scrolling towards the middle of this page. All of those we have listed are high quality CNC machining suppliers. Determine which manufacturer might be right for you by first by comparing their respective capabilities and offered services to your list of specifications. Pick three or four CNC machining companies that you believe hold potential for you. Then, reach out to each of them to discuss your application, using your specifications list as a conversation guide. Finally, compare and contrast each of your conversations. Determine which service provider is right for you, then get started with them. Good luck!
CNC Machining Informational Video