- History of CNC machining
- What is CNC machining?
- What is a CNC Machining Process?
- What Materials Are Suitable for CNC Machining?
- Which Industries Use CNC Machining?
- What is the Current Market Situation for CNC Machining?
- What Are the Current Trends in the CNC Machining Market?
History of CNC machining
Due to advances in technology, computer-controlled machines, also known as CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines, are widely used in all industries. CNC machines are automated machine tools that produce industrial parts without direct human assistance. They use coded instructions sent to a computer to enable factories to produce workpieces accurately and quickly. CNC machines have evolved considerably since the 1950s by adapting to digital technology, and their complexity has increased considerably.
A. The prototype of the CNC machine tool
Prior to the introduction of CNC machines, machinists were limited in their ability to produce workpieces, resulting in poor adjustments or wasted material. Labor productivity was low and it became urgent to be able to operate the machines automatically. This idea gave birth to the so-called Swiss precision machines.
In the 1940s, the first numerically controlled machines (CNC) appeared. Parsons Corporation of Traverse City, Michigan, developed a system for building helicopter rotor templates. In this process, the manufacturing steps were stored on punched tapes or cassettes. The machine then reads this pre-programmed information and the workpiece is shaped. It is considered to be the first true CNC machine.
CNC Milling Machine: A Collaboration Between MIT Researchers and Parsons
During World War II, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began working to develop a CNC machine tool to support the Air Force. in 1949, Parsons joined forces with MIT’s Servomechanisms Laboratory to develop rotor blades for the aerospace industry.
They then developed a numerically controlled (NC) milling machine. This experimental NC milling machine received commands via data on a perforated paper strip.
On May 5, 1952, the first working model of a CNC continuous milling machine was presented, for which Parsons applied for a patent.
B. APT language development
The Air Force then funded further research. Under the direction of Douglas T. Ross, the Laboratory’s Computer Applications Group developed the Automated Programming Tool language (APT), a special programming language that was easy to use.
The invention of APT was a major turning point in the development of NC in terms of programming costs. It finally answered the question of whether NC could be economically viable. the APT language became the standard for programming CNC machines in the USA in 1974, the international standard in 1978, and finally the world standard today.
C. Digital technology in the service of CNC machine tools
In the 1960s and 1970s, CNC machine tools continued to develop. Digital technology in particular contributed to this, making the automation of the production process much more efficient.
In 1957, the first CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software, a CNC programming tool called PRONTO, was developed by Dr. Patrck Hanratty. A direct link was established between CNC and CAM.
In 1960, Direct Digital Control (DNC) eliminated the need to type programs on paper tape, allowing the programmer to send files directly from the computer to the machine controller.
CNC machines evolved in the 1970s with the advent of more powerful computers and the availability of cheaper microcomputers.
The latter made CAD (Computer Aided Design) more accessible to a wider range of users.
In the 1980s, powerful workstations and Unix computers facilitated the development of CNC machines, and the CAD systems themselves were enhanced.
The development of CAD/CAM made it possible to multitask CNCs and increase productivity on several levels. 1976 saw the introduction of 3D CAD/CAM systems.
Today, many people can purchase – or even design – their own homemade CNC machines. In the future, CNC machining will continue to evolve as robotics and automated processes are developed in virtually every field.
What is CNC machining?
CNC machining is a “subtractive” manufacturing process that typically uses a computer-controlled system and machine tools to remove layers of material from a blank (or workpiece) and produce a custom part. This method is often used in contrast to additive manufacturing processes (such as 3D printing) or press manufacturing processes (such as liquid injection molding). The automated nature of CNC machining makes it possible to produce simple, high-precision parts with high precision and accuracy, as well as unique and medium-scale production at low cost.
A. What are the main steps in CNC machining?
Although the CNC manufacturing process offers a wide range of operations and possibilities, the basic principles of the process remain largely the same. The main steps of CNC machining are as follows
1. CAD model design
The CNC machining process begins with the creation of a two-dimensional vector or three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) of a solid workpiece. This can be done in-house or by a CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) design services company. CAD software allows designers and manufacturers to create models or renderings of their workpieces. They can design the product according to the customer’s specific specifications in terms of size and shape.
Once the CAD design is complete, the designer exports it to a CNC-compatible file format such as STEP or IGES.
2. Conversion of CAD files
The formatted CAD design file goes through a process, usually, CAM, to extract the geometry of the part and generate a digital programming code. This programming sends instructions to the CNC machine and controls the tooling to produce the custom part. CNC machines use different programming languages. The best-known CNC programming language is the generic code or geometry code known as G-code. This G-code controls when, where, and how machines move. For example, it controls when they start or stop, how fast they reach a certain point, and what path they take.
After the CNC program is generated, the operator loads it onto the CNC machine.
3. Configuration of the machine
Before executing a CNC program, the operator must prepare the CNC workpiece for operation.
These preparations include.
- Mounting the workpiece directly on the fixture, on the spindle, or on the vise.
- Attaching the necessary tools, such as drills and milling cutters, to the appropriate machine components.
Once the machine is completely set up, the operator is ready to run the CNC program.
4. Execution of the machining operation
The CNC program acts as a working instruction for the CNC machine: it passes the machine control that governs the actions and movements of the machining tool to the machine’s integrated computer, which is responsible for operating and controlling the machining tool. After the program is started, the CNC tool is prompted to start CNC machining. The program guides the machine through the process as it performs the operations required to produce a customized workpiece or product.
What is a CNC Machining Process?
CNC machining is a manufacturing process that is applicable to a wide range of industries, including automotive, aerospace, and construction. It is capable of producing a wide range of products such as automotive chassis, surgical equipment, and aircraft engines.
The process includes mechanical, chemical, electrical, and other methods of shaping custom parts or products. The following are examples of the most common CNC machining operations.
1. CNC drilling
In CNC drilling, the CNC machine typically advances a rotating drill bit perpendicular to the plane of the workpiece surface. This technique produces vertically aligned holes. Their diameter corresponds to the diameter of the drill bit used to drill the holes. The functions of the drilling process include countersinking, milling, reaming, and tapping.
2. CNC Milling
In CNC milling, the CNC machine feeds the workpiece into the cutting tool in the same direction as the rotation of the cutting tool. This is not the case with manual milling, where the workpiece is fed in the opposite direction of the rotation of the cutting tool.
The functions of the milling process include:
Face milling: cutting flat, horizontal surfaces and flat-bottomed cavities in the workpiece.
Circumferential milling: cutting cavities such as grooves and threads in the workpiece.
3. CNC Turning
In CNC turning, the CNC machine guides the cutting tool in a linear motion along the surface of the rotating workpiece. This removes the surface from the circumference until the desired diameter is reached. Using this technique, cylindrical elements with external and internal structures such as grooves, cones, and threads can be formed. Drilling, facing, grooving and threading can be performed during the turning process.
4. Electric discharge machining (EDM)
Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is a process in which a workpiece is shaped by means of an electrical discharge. In this process, an electrical discharge occurs between two electrodes, causing a portion of the workpiece to be removed.
The smaller the distance between the electrodes, the stronger the electric field generated, until it is stronger than the insulating effect of the dielectric (non-conductive medium). This leads to the flow of current and the flashing of sparks between the two electrodes. These sparks in turn lead to the melting and vaporization of a part of the workpiece.
In the process known as “flushing”, the liquid dielectric carries away the removed particles after the current between the two electrodes has stagnated.
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What Materials Are Suitable for CNC Machining?
CNC machining processes are suitable for a wide range of engineering materials, including metals, plastics, and composites. The selection of the best materials for CNC manufacturing depends primarily on their properties and characteristics.
A. What are the characteristics of different CNC materials?
CNC machining makes it possible to produce workpieces from almost any metal or plastic. The different materials are characterized by.
- mechanical strength: expressed by the tensile yield strength
- Machinability: The ease of machining affects the price.
- Cost of the material.
- Hardness: mainly for metals.
- Temperature resistance: mainly for plastics.
B. Numerical control metal
Metals or metal alloys are used in applications where high strength, hardness, and heat resistance of the material are required.
- Aluminum is used to produce custom metal parts and prototypes.
- Stainless steel is easily welded, machined, and polished.
- Structural or mild steel is used for machine parts, assembly frames, and fixtures.
- Alloy steels contain other alloying elements in addition to carbon to improve hardness, toughness, fatigue resistance, and wear resistance.
- Tool steels are advantageous for making tools, such as dies, punches, and molds.
- Brass is ideal for applications where low wear is required, and in construction to form gold-colored workpieces for aesthetic purposes.
C. Numerically Controlled Plastics
Plastics are lightweight materials with a wide range of physical properties. They are often used for their chemical resistance and electrical insulation properties.
- ABS is typically used for prototyping prior to mass production through injection molding.
- Nylon, or polyamide (PA), is mainly used for technical applications, especially due to its excellent mechanical properties, impact resistance, and high chemical and abrasion resistance.
- Polycarbonate is usually optically transparent, making it ideal for a variety of applications, such as liquid equipment or automotive glass.
- POM (Delrin) is the material of choice for CNC machined workpieces.
4.1. High precision
4.2. High rigidity
4.3. Low friction
4.4. Excellent dimensional stability at high temperatures
Very low water absorption. 5.
- PTFE (Teflon) is an excellent electrical insulator as it remains resistant at operating temperatures above 392 °F (200°C).
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is suitable for outdoor and piping applications.
- due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, PEEK is primarily used as a replacement for metal parts. peek is also suitable for biomedical applications, as it meets medical quality standards.
D. Numerically Controlled Composites
Simply put, composites are several materials with different physical and chemical properties that are combined to create stronger, lighter, or potentially more flexible products. One of the most well-known composite materials on the market is reinforced plastic. Today, plastic is used in its pure form in most products, such as toys and water bottles. However, it can also be reinforced with fibers of other materials. This technology has produced some of the strongest, lightest, and most versatile composites available today.
Composites are often used to reinforce a purer material with fibers from another pure or composite material. Most commonly, carbon or graphite fibers are added to the composite. Carbon fibers are electrically conductive, have a remarkable combination of high resistance and tensile strength, have a very low (slightly negative) CTE (coefficient of thermal expansion), and offer good resistance to high temperatures. These properties make carbon an excellent fiber for many companies. In addition, it can be easily blended with a variety of materials.
In addition to carbon, glass fiber is a very common fiber reinforcement material. Glass fibers are not as strong or stiff as carbon fibers, but have other specific properties that make them attractive in many applications. Glass fiber is non-conductive (i.e., an insulator) and is usually invisible to most types of transmission. This makes it a good choice for electrical or broadcast applications.
Resins are an important component of composites. They form a matrix that holds the individual materials together without completely fusing them into a single, pure material.
Which Industries Use CNC Machining?
CNC machining creates the complex parts required by different industries. Many companies are looking for the ability to design their work processes precisely with the help of computers, which can be achieved through CNC machining. Countless industries, from the medical industry to the transportation industry, rely on the machining of parts. Thanks to advances in technology, this process allows for more complex custom designs than other production methods.
A. Aerospace industry
CNC machining is widely used in the aerospace industry because it often requires high tolerances, complex geometries, and the use of materials that are not easily achieved by other manufacturing methods.
In December 2009, Boeing made its first test flight of the 787 Dreamliner, one of whose main advantages is its lightweight. Its structure is made of 50 percent composite materials. Airbus has been conducting flight tests of the A350XWB since June 2013. In its long list of new features, Airbus uses 53% of composite materials. The use of composites brings two major benefits to the company. In addition to fuel and fairing savings, it has reduced fossil fuel emissions. The company has reduced flight times and met the Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation (ACARE) goals of reducing CO2 emissions by 50%, perceived noise by 50%, and NOx emissions by 80%.
B. Medical Industry
The healthcare industry relies on customized products to meet the diverse needs of patients. In addition, many of the devices used in the medical sector are disposable to protect patients from infectious diseases. Installations for companies in this sector require precision, speed, and high volume. CNC machining can produce a variety of workpieces using a wide range of materials and equipment needed in the medical field. These can be implants, orthopedic devices, MRI machines, medical instruments, etc.
Galen Robotics, a California-based developer of medical technology, offers new solutions for non-invasive surgery. To create a technology that stabilizes the surgeon’s hand during the delicate and precise nose, throat, or ear surgery, the start-up company uses CNC machining. The company has successfully built a robot using a variety of parts, from sensor holders to end effector housings. The CNC manufacturing model provides the small volume component of parts needed to build this prototype at a competitive cost and time frame.
While the aerospace industry needs machines that excel in terms of speed, the transportation sector is looking for durable and robust components. These features are necessary for transporting goods over long distances. CNC machines can produce workpieces from many types of materials, from brakes to engine components to tools. On high-speed trains, high speeds put additional stress on transport vehicles. This also requires a more precise fit of the parts used for the car body and engine.
D. Oil and Gas Industry
To build the large machines used in refineries and oil rigs, the petrochemical industry needs well-made parts that fit together precisely. Without a perfect fit, valves will leak, pistons will not generate pressure, and cylinders will not fill. Unlike other job sites, drilling rigs are located in isolated areas. If a component is not working properly, replacing or repairing it can interrupt production for days. For drilling rigs, optimized, ready-to-use components must be manufactured. They must be able to withstand sea salt, desert dust, or snow.
E. Military and Defense Industry
As with the petrochemical industry, parts used in the defense sector must be rugged enough to withstand the harshest conditions. In addition, military products must meet government regulatory requirements. The military sector encompasses so many sectors that products and parts manufactured for defense may be similar to those manufactured for other industries such as aerospace, transportation, electronics, marine, medical, etc. Specific to this sector is CNC machining, which can be used to produce pins, casings, artillery, missile, and fighter jet components.
The military is one of the industries that regularly upgrades its CNC machines to provide the latest technology at all times and ensure the best protection of its territory.
F. Electronics industry
The electronics industry uses CNC machining to produce small parts. In some cases, manufacturing requires laser precision to achieve the required fineness of up to 10 microns.
Most electronic devices as we know them today are manufactured by CNC machining. This includes custom electronic enclosures and the printed circuit boards inside these devices, as well as smartphones and tablets. CNC manufacturing is particularly beneficial for printed circuit boards. This form of manufacturing does not require the use of chemicals required by other manufacturing processes. The casing of Apple’s MacBook laptop is CNC machined from a single block of aluminum. This process gives the MacBook the hardness and performance of a robust one-piece material. As a result, this important piece of Apple hardware has been part of the CNC production line since 2008.
G. Marine Industry
The marine industry requires waterproof components to a large extent, as they are either directly exposed to water or wet conditions. Electrical equipment needs an enclosure to prevent water damage. In addition, marine vessels need to resist the corrosive effects of salt water.
The shipping industry also requires the portability of everything on a ship. Components used in marine equipment must be durable and hard-wearing, as repairs cannot be made until the ship is returned to land. Naval Group, a French industrial group specializing in the maritime defense industry and marine renewable energy, developed an anti-torpedo using CNC manufacturing technology in 2019. The idea is to generate a 360-degree acoustic signal to protect ships and submarines from torpedo attacks. CNC machining makes it possible to design very precise parts that are assembled into complex mechanical systems.
What is the Current Market Situation for CNC Machining?
The global CNC machine tool market is estimated at USD 67.78 billion in 2019. Increasing advancements in production technology have reduced the time required for manufacturing, allowing for a better finish to the design of the part. Newer machines do not require operators to constantly monitor the operation of the machine, reducing manual labor and saving companies money. Large-scale manufacturing companies are increasingly adopting and developing CNC solutions for the production of high-precision parts. In addition, the market for CNC machining is growing due to increasing manufacturing requirements in industries such as automotive, aerospace, and defense.
A. CNC Market Overview
Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on the current technological trends in CNC machining to improve machine-to-operator connectivity and increase flexibility on the shop floor. Developments in technologies related to the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning are bringing new capabilities. For example, it is now possible to inform the operator of the machine’s status via an app on a smartphone or personal computer. In addition, more modern processes used in CNC machines reduce the time needed to produce manufactured parts and limit the risk of errors.
B. What is the place of CNC machining in the world market?
The machine tool industry is fragmented, with many players occupying key positions in the global market. Key players include Bosch Rexroth AG (Germany), DMG Mori Co (Japan), Fagor Automation (USA), and Okuma Corporation (Japan).
Stakeholders are taking various strategic initiatives such as mergers and acquisitions, partnerships, and collaborations to promote technology and new product development. For example, FANUC, a leading global manufacturer of industrial robots, announced a partnership with Cisco, Rockwell Automation, and Preferred Networks (PFN) in 2016. The aim is to jointly develop and deploy the FANUC Intelligent Edge Link and Drive (FIELD) system.
The FIELD platform provides analytics to optimize manufacturing processes by connecting CNC machines, robots, peripherals, and sensors. The companies are collaborating to implement the systems for leading automotive manufacturers. Customers who have implemented these systems are seeing reduced downtime and greater cost savings.
C. Which regions of the world use CNC machining?
Asia Pacific dominates the CNC machine tool market. in 2018, the region accounted for the largest share of the global market at around 40%. This leadership can be attributed to the growing adoption of CNC tools in countries such as India, China, and Japan. Major manufacturers such as Okuma Corporation, Yamazaki Mazak Corporation, and DMG Mori Co, Ltd are present in these countries. China occupies a dual role as a supplier and user of CNC machine tools. This accounts for about 10% of its global production, which was valued at about $6 billion in 2018.
In 2016, China launched the “Made in China 2025” program, which started the trend of smart factories. This is an industrial strategy that aims to make the country a major supplier of high-quality and innovative industrial products both domestically and internationally. In addition, the Indian market is growing in the field of CNC machine tools.
In Europe, many companies are increasingly using CNC technology to achieve higher precision and reduce the cost of wasted material. They have developed new milling tools that offer greater flexibility and the ability to perform multiple operations on the same machine. As a result, companies have been able to reduce their footprint and use fewer workers on the job to perform operations.
The increased efficiency, speed, and precision offered by metalworking industries such as automotive and manufacturing have energized the regional market. Germany is the world leader in manufacturing and has an overwhelming share of the production and use of CNC machines in Europe.
In recent years, the United States appears to have stagnated. Renewable energy sources such as solar panels, wind turbines, and hybrid power plants have become important due to concerns about global warming and the depletion of traditional natural resources. In addition, reliance on large-scale automation is forcing the energy sector to make extensive use of CNC machines.
D. Which industries are most dependent on CNC machining?
CNC machines are mainly used in the automotive, aerospace and defense, energy, and construction machinery sectors. They typically require components with very high precision and a good surface finish.
E. What are the current challenges in the CNC market?
The costs associated with the purchase and installation of the machines are a challenge accepted by the market.
In addition, in order to be able to operate a CNC machine, the machine operator must be trained and have the appropriate skills to perform the required tasks.
In order to maintain the surface finish and accuracy of manufactured parts, manufacturers must adhere to a regular maintenance schedule.
In addition, low carbon production or consumption of energy and resources is becoming increasingly important in modern manufacturing.
What Are the Current Trends in the CNC Machining Market?
The CNC machining market is valued at USD 67.78 billion in 2019. It is expected to reach USD 103.43 billion by 2025, driven by the growing demand from the automotive, industrial, and energy sectors. Three trends are emerging.
A. Automation of plants
The integration of computers and CNC manufacturing has increased the speed and accuracy of equipment tenfold. Today, everything from milling to turning to precision lathing and cutting is done by CNC machining to maximize cost savings.
The highly competitive marketplace is forcing participants to focus on efficient technology. Today’s popular CNC machines shorten production time and minimize human error. As a result, the demand for automated manufacturing is growing, especially in the industrial and automotive sectors.
Leading companies are investing in research and development to improve tool design to enable them to perform multiple operations independently, thereby increasing the productivity of production facilities.
Hurco, for example, invested $4.7 million in 2018 in R&D initiatives to significantly improve its offerings and develop new products. The FIELD Systems platform connects CNC machines, robots, peripherals, and sensors to provide analytics for optimizing manufacturing processes. These initiatives are expected to continue to drive market growth over the next eight years.
B. New Technologies
The automotive industry is using technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics to meet the needs of its users. Their demand has exploded globally.
Europe is expected to experience significant growth. The driving force behind this will be the presence of a large base of automotive companies in particular. The automotive segment is expected to grow at the highest CAGR of 7.9% during the forecast period compared to other segments of the industry. In addition, high-end machinery manufacturers and leading technology developers such as Datron AG, Dr. Johannes Heidenahain GmbH, and Sandvik AB will also drive growth in the coming years.
In May 2018, the AI startup Bonsai and Siemens used artificial intelligence on a CNC machine in a test environment. For the first time, deep learning was successfully applied to the self-calibration of a CNC machine. This allowed the machine to self-calibrate 30 times faster than an experienced human operator.
CNC machining will continue to be modernized. The integration of 3D printing technology into CNC machines should enable better multi-material capabilities without wasting resources. Virtual and augmented reality will make manufacturing more inclusive. Manufacturing service providers will be able to customize every detail of a product design to maximize its utility.
C. Renewable Energy Manufacturing
Growing concerns about global warming and depleting energy reserves are driving companies to move to 100% renewable energy. CNC machining will help create systems that use alternative energy sources, such as solar and hydraulic power. CNC machines play an important role in power generation, as the process requires extensive automation. Hence, the above concerns are fueling the growth of this market.
In 2018, Flow Power, an Australian commercial energy retailer, signed an agreement with ANCA, a market leader in CNC machine tools and systems. The agreement, one of the first of its kind in Australia, gives ANCA direct access to long-term energy at wholesale prices through the use of renewable energy from the Ararat wind farm. This renewable energy can be used in real-time to balance the power consumption of the grid. This can save businesses thousands of dollars in electricity costs and reduce overall emissions.