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CNC Machining

Whether it's press tools or product knives, CNC machining plays a vital role in producing an item.

But what is CNC machining? You've probably heard the term thrown around often, yet many don't understand its significance in manufacturing.

However, you'd be surprised at the role it plays in item production and in society.

Curious to know more? Learn all the ins and outs of this unique process here.

What Is CNC Machining?

CNC machining stands for Computer Numerical Control. It uses codes and programming to create a perfect end product.

CNC machines are "electromechanical devices that can manipulate tools around a varying number of axes . . . with high precision per instruction from a computer program."

Putting it simply, computer commands control a machine's tools to create the desired prototype.

This isn't a new idea. NC, or numerical control, was developed in the 1940s to create stiffened aircraft skins. These rudimentary machines utilized programmable logic, following directions provided to the machine through punched cards or tape.

In the 1950s, MIT began conducting further research into numerical control. Eventually, a prototype of the future of CNC was produced.

The CNC machines of today continue to utilize numerical control, but the commands come from a computer program written in alphanumeric data.

How Does It Work?

Firstly, all machines adhere to specific digital instructions called g-code. These codes change to fit the particular product and the tools used. Today, most CAM programs use a 3D model that automatically generates the proper code.

CNC machining is a subtractive process. Instead of building a prototype from scratch, it removes material to the desired dimensions. As you have probably guessed, the g-code translates into cutting directions.

The machines have a different number of axes from which they work. Conventional machines have two axes, but 3-axis and 5-axis machines are popular in businesses due to increased affordability. Tools slide or rotate along these axes to create the finished product.

All CNC machines, even those made in the 1950s, have three components:

  1. A command function
  2. A drive/motion system
  3. A feedback system

The control unit reads and decodes the instructions, generates the commands and receives feedback signals about the machine's position along the axes. The cutting tool's position is continuously monitored, allowing the program to correct any positions or errors.


CNC machining creates parts found in everything from automobiles to spacecraft. The precision, flexibility, and efficiency it offers cannot be found in other machines.

According to Concerning Reality, "CNC machining is arguably the only way to produce high-precision metal parts for engineering designs across the world."

It offers a number of advantages that can't be obtained through other manufacturing methods.


Machines work around the clock, only stopping when repairs or maintenance is necessary. Coupled with the fact that the technology works at such a fast pace, businesses are enjoying high run-time rates.

Operators and businesses have never been closer to 100% run-time rates, and we all know that means a lot more products are created.


Machines today can offer repeatable tolerances as tight as +/- .00005 inches. The programming codes allow for extreme accuracy, avoiding the human error that occurs from manual production.

As a result, CNC machines are used in national defense, aeronautics and even the lenses of your spectacles.

Cost Savings

With this technology, businesses have lower labor costs while enjoying the high speed, production and accuracy CNC offers. Consequently, businesses can specialize in target sectors, offer high-quality products and expand if they wish.

Furthermore, because the program is stored on the computer, the coding can be reused as many times as owners wish.

Energy Savings

CNC machines offer energy savings and higher production. One study indicates machines with higher material removal rates can generate a 200% increase in production rate with only an annual electrical energy consumption increase of 19%.

These machines are efficient without consuming exponential amounts of energy.


Manual drills, milling machines and other equipment are no longer handled by a human. This means the danger of utilizing the machine is drastically reduced. Instead, workers only risk injury when performing maintenance or repairs.

In fact, most machines are behind safety doors and even have features to minimize dust from cutting operations.


Al Feldman, a CNC machine operator, points out the two CNC devices in his shop can undertake 75% of the total jobs the business experiences.

CNC machines are versatile. The Digital Tool Library on the technology allows one machine to create multiple products because it is programmed to work with a variety of toolsets.


Personalized manufacturing, an idea that would have once been a dream, is now a reality.

These machines allow programmers to create codes with unique specifications, creating the perfect custom-made product for clients. Furthermore, they can be used with almost any material. The options range from plastic all the way to titanium.

Types of Machines

While the types of machines vary, there are three popular models.

The first is the drill model. As the name implies, it uses a drill to cut into stationary stock.

The second is lathes. Lathes move in circular patterns to remove the stock material.

Milling machines make up the last popular type. Using rotary cutting tools, the material is cut away to shape the product.

However, these are not the only types of machines available. Electrical and chemical machines, for example, are uncommon but still in use. These devices use a mixture of electrical or chemical processes to create the product, such as electron beams or photochemical processes.

Still, others are available on the market, each with its own unique process and cutting style.

A Perfect Product

The creation of CNC machinery changed manufacturing, allowing a new age of perfection to march into the market. Now, products can be made cheaper, quicker and better than ever before.

But the process requires a trustworthy, professional company.

MIHEU is the largest Slovenian provider of steel heat treatment. From plasma nitriding to creating custom products, our company does it all. Contact us today to discuss your unique wants and enjoy the many benefits CNC machining offers.

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