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What is a CNC Machine: Used, Type and How Does It Work

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines have revolutionized the manufacturing industry by automating complex tasks, improving precision, and increasing production efficiency. These machines use pre-programmed computer software to control the movement of machinery and tools.

This article explores the various uses, types, and working principles of CNC machines, providing a comprehensive overview for professionals and enthusiasts alike.

what is a cnc machine

What is a CNC Machine and How Does it Work?

A CNC machine (Computer Numerical Control machine) is a computer-operated machine used to manufacture different parts and products. It works by executing pre-programmed commands from computer software, using CNC programming languages like G-code and M-code. These machines have a built-in microcomputer (MCU) that follows custom codes derived from blueprints or CAD drawings to perform precise operations, eliminating the need for manual control. This automation enhances production accuracy and consistency.

History of CNC Machines

The history of CNC machines dates back to John T. Parsons (1913-2007) of Parsons Corporation in Traverse City, Michigan, who is considered a pioneer of numerical control technology, the precursor to modern CNC machines. Parsons invented a punched card computer method to calculate points on helicopter rotor blades, facilitating the connection between machines and computers. In 1958, he applied for a patent to connect computers to machines, three months before MIT, which later used his concept to create the first CNC equipment. By the early 1970s, the U.S. Army promoted the use of CNC technology by building and leasing CNC computers to manufacturers, significantly enhancing productivity and automation in manufacturing processes.

What are the Common Types of CNC Machine?

Common types of CNC machines include:

  1. Drilling CNC Machines: Use rotating drill bits to create cylindrical holes in the workpiece.
  2. Automatic Tool Changer CNC Machines: Quickly replace tools, enhancing productivity and efficiency.
  3. Grinding CNC Machines: Use rotating wheels to remove metal from workpieces, often used for precision machining.
  4. 3D Printers: Layer by layer printing, commonly used for prototyping.
  5. Electric Discharge CNC Machines: Use electrical sparks to shape materials into desired forms.
  6. Plasma Cutting CNC Machines: Use plasma torches to cut conductive materials.
  7. Router CNC Machines: Designed for softer materials like wood and plastic, utilizing computer numerical control for routing paths.
  8. 5-Axis CNC Machines: Allow machining on multiple sides of a part in a single operation.
  9. Turning CNC Machines: Use single-point cutting tools to remove material from rotating workpieces.
  10. Surface Mount Technology (SMT) Machines: Place electronic components on circuit boards.
  11. Laser Cutting CNC Machines: Utilize laser beams to cut materials.
  12. Milling CNC Machines: Use rotating multi-point cutting tools for machining workpieces.

CNC machine tools can perform pre programmed tasks through automation, which is faster and more precise than traditional manual operations, thereby improving production efficiency. It is one of the indispensable and important technologies in modern manufacturing industry.

Are CNC Machines Expensive?

Plastic or metal CNC machines vary greatly in price. High-end 7-axis, 6-axis and 5-axis CNC machines used for military equipment can cost millions of dollars. Larger machines are more expensive but offer higher production efficiency. However, entry-level CNC machines for hobbyists can be as affordable as $100.

How to Choose the Best of CNC Machine?

Choosing the optimal type of CNC machine tool requires considering several key factors. Firstly, it is the materials to be processed and the required CNC processes (such as milling, drilling, cutting, etc.), each suitable for different processing tasks and materials. Secondly, the weight and working radius of the machine tool need to be ensured to handle the maximum size of the product. We also need to consider the feed rate, which is the rate at which the machine cuts materials during the manufacturing process. For jobs with high durability requirements, such as difficult machining tasks, cast iron machine are the preferred choice.

cnc machining

What are the Uses of CNC Machine?

CNC machines have a wide range of uses across various industries due to their precision, versatility, and automation capabilities. Some of the key uses of CNC machines include:

AutomotivePrecision machining of engine components, prototyping and rapid toolingCylinder heads, crankshafts, transmission parts, prototypes for new vehicle designs
AerospaceComplex part machining, high precision componentsTurbine blades, aircraft structural components, aerospace fasteners, landing gear components
MedicalManufacturing implants and prosthetics, surgical instrumentsDental implants, orthopedic implants, scalpels, forceps, surgical tooling
ElectronicsPCB manufacturing, custom electronic componentsCircuit boards, electronic enclosures, microcontrollers, connectors, sensors
DefensePrecision machining for weapons systems, military vehicle partsGun barrels, missile components, armor plates, vehicle chassis components
IndustrialTool and die manufacturing, custom machinery partsInjection molds, extrusion dies, bearings, gears, hydraulic components

CNC machines play a pivotal role in modern manufacturing, enabling industries to achieve higher productivity, quality, and innovation while maintaining competitive advantages in a global market.

What is the Importance of CNC Machining?

CNC machining (Computer Numerical Control) plays a pivotal role in modern manufacturing. By integrating Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software, CNC technology automates and optimizes production processes. This technology not only enhances production efficiency but also significantly improves working conditions and safety. Unlike traditional manual manufacturing that often involves heavy equipment and hazardous environments, CNC machining reduces risks of accidents and human errors by minimizing manual intervention.

One of its key advantages is its ability to enhance production accuracy and consistency, ensuring stable product quality and specifications. Moreover, CNC technology reduces costs by precisely controlling material usage and minimizing waste during the machining process, thereby optimizing energy consumption and making manufacturing processes more economical and efficient. This capability not only helps manufacturers stay competitive but also enables them to respond swiftly to market demands and customer requirements.

Overall, CNC machining drives advancements in manufacturing while creating opportunities for workers to engage in technologically-driven career paths. By mastering and applying these advanced technologies, workers can undertake higher-level and more challenging manufacturing tasks, contributing to a cleaner, more sustainable industry trajectory.

What is the Importance of CNC Machining


Understanding the different types of CNC machines and their working principles is essential for leveraging their full potential in various applications. As technology continues to advance, CNC machines will undoubtedly play an even more significant role in shaping the future of manufacturing.

BOYI offers professional CNC machining services with a state-of-the-art workshop equipped with hundreds of high-precision CNC machines. Whether you need precision machining of metal parts or complex plastic components, we provide customized solutions to ensure the highest standards of product quality and accuracy. Choose BOYI as your reliable partner for outstanding manufacturing support and technical services. Contact us today to get a free quote and start your project with confidence.



How are CNC machines classified?

CNC machines are typically classified based on the operations they perform, including lathes, mills, drills, grinders, EDM (Electrical Discharge Machines), and laser cutters.

What are the common types of software used in CNC machining processes?

In CNC machining, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software is used for designing, while Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software is crucial for programming and preparing CNC machines. CAD software like AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and Rhino3D is employed for creating designs. CAM software (such as Mastercam, Edgecam, and Solidcam) generates G-code to guide CNC tools and workpieces, allowing users to set tool paths and conduct cutting simulations. CAM software organizes workflow through job trees, making CNC programming intuitive and efficient.

What is distributed numerical control (DNC)?

Distributed Numerical Control (DNC) uses computer networks to manage the operations of multiple CNC machines. It transfers CNC programs over the network to each machine’s Machine Control Unit (MCU), allowing operators to centrally manage, edit, and retrieve programs without the need for individual inputs to each machine. Modern DNC systems support centralized program editing, comparison, and the ability to restart programs from interruptions due to tool failures.

How CNC machine shops manufacture parts?

In CNC machine shops, parts manufacturing involves design creation in CAD, programming in CAM, and CNC operation. Operators load tools and materials as programmed, run sample parts for quality assurance, and monitor production. CNC machines can operate unattended, automatically handling finished parts.

Catalog: CNC Machining Guide

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