Six Most Common Types of Precision CNC Machining

The manufacturing industry is a massive sector in every economy and, today, it’s been rapidly transformed by technological development and the latest trends. Advanced technologies, such as 3D printing, cloud computing, nanotechnology, and big data are all changing the way processes are carried out and they’re bound to affect the industry further. 

One such technology that’s changed the landscape of the manufacturing industry is CNC machining. CNC, or computerized numerical control, machining is a manufacturing process utilizing pre-programmed computer software to control the movement of factory machinery and tools. This complex and versatile process can be used to control a wide range of machinery, including routers, mills, grinders, and lathes.

At the rate it’s growing, the CNC machine market is expected to grow to $100.9 billion by 2025. It’s rapidly changing the manufacturing industry because of its ability to create complex parts quickly and with high precision. Additionally, it’s also an excellent way for manufacturers to turn their ideas into products due to its prototyping capabilities and, hence, is widely used in applications across many different industries, such as medical, aerospace, hydraulics, and oil and gas. 

CNC machining encompasses various types of applications. The most common types of precision CNC machining are:

CNC Milling

CNC milling uses rotating multipoint cutting tools to remove material from a workpiece. In contrast to a manual milling operation where the machine inputs the workpiece opposite to a cutting tool’s rotation, CNC milling feeds this workpiece in the same direction as the rotation.

CNC milling services are used for a variety of operational capacities, such as face milling, which involves cutting flat and shallow surfaces and flat-bottomed cavities into your workpieces. You can employ peripheral milling i.e. cutting deep cavities like threads and slots into your workpiece. 

CNC Electrical Discharge Machines (EDM)

Also known as die sinking, spark eroding, wire burning, and spark machining, the CNC EDM uses incredibly controlled electrical sparks to mold materials to the desired shape. The process creates extremely high heat, up to 21,000 degrees Fahrenheit, by placing a component underneath an electrode wire and programming the machine to emit an electrical discharge from the electrode wire. Using the heat generated, your chosen material is flushed away with liquid or melted to create any shape you want.

This process is typically used to create highly specific slots, micro holes, or angled or tapered features. It’s also used to create other complex features in a workpiece or component and is especially useful for hard metals that are typically difficult to mold into a specific feature or shape. 

CNC Drilling

CNC drilling uses multipoint drill bits to create cylindrical holes in a workpiece. In this process, the rotating drill bit operates perpendicular to the plane of a workpiece’s surface, producing vertically-aligned holes. Keep in mind that you need to match the desired diameter of the hole to the diameter of the drill bit. 

Apart from vertical drilling, you can also perform angular drilling using workholding devices and specialized machine configurations. The drilling process can perform operational capabilities, such as tapping, countersinking, reaming, and counterboring. 

CNC Laser Machines

These machines are equipped with a pointed router with highly focused laser beams that cut, engrave, or slice materials. The laser melts or vaporizes the material using heat, thereby creating a cut in it. The material is typically in sheet form where the laser beam moves back and forth over it to create a cut.

Due to their high level of precision, CNC lasers can create a greater variety of designs than conventional machines, such as mills and lathes. Additionally, the cuts and edges produced don’t require additional finishing. 

CNC lasers are most commonly used to make parts or decorating machined components. Laser engraving can be performed even after the machining operations are complete, making the process highly convenient. 

CNC Plasma Cutting

Another CNC technology that’s used to cut materials is CNC plasma cutting. It uses a high-powered plasma torch typically controlled by a computer. It’s compatible with electrically conductive materials, such as stainless steel, brass, regular steel, copper, and aluminum.

It follows the same process as a gas-powered, handheld torch, but the difference is that while those torches can handle up to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, CNC plasma torches can achieve around 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. 

CNC Turning machines and lathes

These CNC machines are most associated with their rotational abilities. They can turn materials during the most complex machining processes and operate in a linear motion along the rotating bar stock, thereby removing all material around a circumference as specified.

Closely linked to CNC lathes are Swiss lathes, where a bar stock material turns quickly within a machine and moves through a guide bushing. Since a part of the bar is exposed, the material is held tightly which eliminates errors and boosts accuracy.

CNC turning machines and lathes are widely used to create external and internal features on a component, such as tapers, slots, drilled holes, reamed holes, threads, and broaches. Various components are made on CNC turning centers and lathes, such as bolts, poppers, screws, and shafts. 

Final Thoughts

Due to its high level of accuracy, precision CNC machining has opened a wide array of possibilities in the manufacturing industry. Of course, factors such as material used, lead time, budget, volume, and features of the machine affect the delivery of your result, but you’re likely to find an optimum method for what you require. 

Overall, CNC machining is an excellent manufacturing technology to consider if you require precise results. Choosing CNC can be a complex process, but with an expert on board, you can figure out which machine is the most suitable for your operations.