You have many options for manufacturing parts, from CNC machining to additive technologies like 3D printing and formative technologies such as injection molding. If you’re curious to learn what is CNC machining, keep reading for some of the basics, benefits, and inherent limitations of this competitively priced process.
The Basics of CNC Machining
CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) machining is considered a subtractive manufacturing technology. Parts are created by removing pieces from a solid block of material.
Here’s a look at the steps in a basic process at our CNC shop:
1. The customer provides a CAD (Computer Aided Design) model.
2. Our expert machinists set up the machine using the CAD file to create the CNC program, or G-Code, that will be used to create the part.
3. The CNC machine follows the G-code to remove material and create the part.
Types of CNC Machines
Depending on the type of CNC machining, the G-code dictates the speed and direction of movement of the machine cutting tools and/or the part itself.
The types of CNC machines are vast. These are four common types:
1. CNC Lathe
2. CNC Mill
3. CNC Router
4. Wire EDM (Electrical Discharge Machine)
The complexity and shape of the part, along with material, determines the best type of CNC machine for the project. For example, a cylindrical part is a good option for a CNC lathe where the cutting tool makes contact with the spinning material, while a five-axis CNC mill is the best choice for more complex parts with varying geometry.
Best Materials for CNC Machining
Choosing the appropriate material for your part is more about the end-use and requirements of the design. CNC machines can manipulate a variety of metals and plastics. In fact, when it comes to making plastic and metal components, most are manufactured via CNC machining. Whether you need a titanium, basic aluminum, or plastic piece, a CNC machine can likely handle the job.
Benefits and Limitations of CNC Machining
CNC machines make manufacturing scalable and cost-efficient. Once programmed, a CNC machine can create the part one time or 100,000 times. Tight tolerances are no problem for a CNC machine, and the turnaround time is comparable to that of industrial 3d printing processes.
Inventors creating prototypes or those in need of one-off custom parts would be smart to opt for CNC machining. It doesn’t require special tooling and easily scales, making it more cost-effective than other options.
Due to the process planning, startup costs of CNC Machining can be high in comparison to 3D printing. Geometric complexity has a major impact on the costs of CNC machining since it can require more involvement from the machinist or custom fixtures to produce the part. However, it’s still cheaper than injection molding or investment casting.
CNC Machining with RCO Engineering
Are you looking for a CNC machine shop to create a prototype or other part for your automotive or aerospace part? RCO Engineering is located right outside of Detroit, Michigan. Contact us now to get a quote on CNC machining your part(s).