The term “CNC” stands for “Computer Numerical Control”. With CNC milling, a software program controls and manages the behavior of a machine — eliminating the possibility of human error, and producing results that are more detailed, in a shorter period of time.
CNC mills are the most common option for computer numerical control machining, and are capable of performing the functions of both turning, and drilling machines. Most CNC mills are categorized according to their number of axis, and use specific codes to represent certain behaviors. But what can a CNC Mill do that makes it so special, and when might your project require the use of CNC?
Following, we’ll discuss the capabilities and processes of CNC Mills, to help you determine where these innovative machines could fit into your business.
Can CNC Mills Work with Your Material?
CNC Mills function by taking a block of solid material, such as wood or metal, and using rotating sharp tools or cutters to remove any parts that aren’t needed. These machines can work on various materials, including:
- Metal alloys – such as: aluminum, steel alloys, copper and brass
- Hardwoods and softwoods
- Modeling foams
- Machining wax
While CNC mills need specific cutting tools for certain materials, the tool-to-machine interface is often standardized, making the setup of CNC mills simple, and straightforward. Most businesses can use CNC mills to quickly manufacturer prototypes in their chosen material, so that they can immediately begin testing a new product or component.
Are CNC Mills Versatile and Adjustable?
The defining feature of CNC Mills is that they are computer-controlled. Computers feed them code taken from CAM (Computer-aided Manufacturing) software, which controls the cutting tools.
It is possible to outfit CNC milling machines with a variety of tool heads. Some of these tool heads may include rounding mills, cutters, ball-end mills, and fluted mills. CNC machines even utilize rotating tool ends that can change their angle according to the task, and the computer programming communicates with the machine to request tooling changes.
The tooling used in CNC machines depends on your desired outcome, and component material. Because materials like steel and wood have unique physical properties, they need different pieces to avoid damage.
Can CNC Mills Produce Detailed Components?
CNC milling can be the ideal solution for detailed prototypes or the temporary production of complex parts. CNC mills are also useful in the fabrication of unique, precise, components.
Although CNC Mills can cut many materials, the majority of the work done by these tools is on metal. As with any other machining practice, the detail and accuracy of the component produced will depend on planning measures and expertise.
When Should You Use CNC Mills?
As mentioned above, CNC Mills are not ideal for long-term, or large production runs. However, a company hoping to create a piece of precision equipment with the help of blueprint plans can be well-served by these tools. A CNC milling machine is capable of doing everything a regular milling machine could do, with the added benefits of computerized precision. CNC mills, when used in the right setting can deliver:
- Speed – CNC Mills quickly produce parts that would normally need multiple manufacturing steps.
- Cost efficiency – CNC Mills allow operators to take advantage of raw materials, and minimize waste through increased accuracy.
- Safety – The automated fabrication process means that the operator can avoid harm.
- Efficiency – CNC Mills use internal quality assurance detectors to prevent the waste of material when a deficiency is found.