CNC machining uses a variety of tools to create an array of products. Depending on the application, different types of CNC machining operations are also performed. That, in turn, means different outcomes for the product. The following are some of the major CNC machining types, including when it’s best to use them.
CNC Machining Definition
CNC machining in full is computer numerical control. It’s a process in which a computer is used to control the movement of tools. This technology is used in manufacturing for both metals and plastics, as well as other less common materials such as composites, wood, and foam.
One of the CNC machining advantages is that it makes products with very tight tolerances. You can also use it to create intricate designs. The computer control aspect of CNC machining is what allows for such precise results.
Now that we have a basic understanding of the technology let’s look at the different types of CNC machining service techniques. We will also be looking at the applications that each machining method is best suited for.
Types of CNC Machining
When it comes to CNC machining, manufacturers and hobbyists can use a variety of techniques. The type to use will usually be based on the kind of material being machined, the machining method, and other reasons. The following are some of the most common types of CNC machining.
1. Lathe CNC Machining
Also commonly called CNC lathe turning, this type of CNC machining is used to create products that have a cylindrical shape. In CNC lathe machining, the workpiece is fixed in place, and the cutting tool moves around it. The machine essentially consists of a chuck and a spindle, which hold the workpiece against a cutting tool that remains stationary.
Lathe-based types of CNC machining operations provide several advantages: It allows you to create intricate cylindrical parts quickly and with a high level of accuracy. It’s also a versatile machining method that also requires minimal changeovers.
CNC Lathe Applications:
This type of CNC machining technique is commonly used to knurl, taper turn, and grooving metals. It’s also used to create threaded parts, as well as ream and bore holes. With CNC lathe machining, though, it’s important for the work piece to be thin, or accuracy may suffer.
2. CNC Grinding
This is a finishing process that uses abrasive material on the workpiece surface. The grinding wheel is mounted on a spindle and rotates at high speeds. The stock, on the other hand, is fed into the spinning wheel, and the grinding process starts.
Like the other types of CNC machining processes, CNC grinding also has several advantages. For one, it can create a high-quality surface finish. It’s also a versatile process that can be used on a variety of workpieces.
CNC Grinding Applications:
CNC grinding is mostly used to improve the surface finish of products. These include metals, plastics, and other products to be used in households and industries. CNC ground products are also used in automotive and other engineering applications.
3. CNC Milling
This is one of the most used types of CNC machining methods. It employs an array of cutting tools to remove material from the workpiece. A variety of milling operations can be performed, including end milling, face milling, and slot milling. Others are pocket milling, chamfering, and boring.
When it comes to CNC Machining, milling offers the advantage of versatility. That’s in addition to the speed and repeatability of the technology. And since the process can be automated, it can handle large production runs, especially in a manufacturing concern.
CNC Milling Applications:
Milling-based CNC machining types produce a wide variety of designs depending on the type of milling technique used. Some of the products that can be created using this method include engine parts, medical devices, and dies. It’s also used to create toys and other products.
4. CNC Router Machining
The CNC router is similar to a lathe, only that it’s more compact. The router uses a cutting tool that is mounted on a spindle. The spindle is connected to a motor, which rotates the cutting bit at high speeds.
The router also has a bed, on which the workpiece is placed. The cutting tool is then moved around the workpiece to create the desired shape. CNC router machining offers the benefits of working with softer materials like plastic and foam or even wood.
CNC Router Applications:
This type of CNC machining is commonly used to cut, drill, and mill metals, plastics, foam, and wood. It can also be used to create very intricate designs. Router types of CNC machining are also popular for producing prototypes.
5. CNC Drilling
This CNC machining technique uses a cutting tool to create holes in the workpiece. The drill is mounted on a spindle, which is connected to a motor. The motor rotates the drill at high speeds, and the cutting bit is moved around the workpiece to create the desired hole.
When using CNC machining, accuracy is higher than that of conventional drilling. As a result, you can achieve extremely tight tolerances, even as small as 0.001mm. Plus, it becomes possible to change the drill bit without stopping the machine, which means faster machining processes.
CNC Drilling Applications:
CNC drilling is employed in industries to create holes for products such as pipes and engine parts. It can also be used to produce other types of designs and features, such as slots and pockets. Different types of materials may also be drilled, such as metals, plastics, and wood.
6. CNC Laser Machining
This CNC machining method uses a laser to cut materials. A laser is a very fine and focused beam of light. In CNC laser cutting, the material is placed on a bed, and the cutting head moves around it. The laser cuts through the material by vaporizing it.
Different types of laser cutting techniques can be used, including CO2 laser cutting and fiber laser cutting. The main advantage of using laser for CNC machining work is that it’s highly accurate.
CNC laser Applications:
CNC laser machining is commonly used to cut metals and plastics. It’s also sometimes used to engrave or mark materials. Because it’s a very precise process, CNC laser cutting is often used to create products with very intricate designs.
7. CNC Plasma Cutting
This CNC machining method uses a plasma torch to cut materials. Essentially, the material is placed on a bed, and the cutting head moves around it. The plasma torch cuts through the material by melting it at temperature levels of up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unlike CNC laser cutting, CNC plasma cutting does not require a very high-powered laser. It also offers increased versatility by allowing the use of many different CNC machining materials.
CNC Plasma cutting Applications:
CNC plasma cutting is often used to cut metals. It’s also sometimes used to cut plastics and other materials. Because it’s a very precise process, the plasma cutting method is often used to create products with very complex designs.
8. Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM)
This type of CNC machining technology uses controlled electrical sparks to remove material from the workpiece. The process starts by placing the workpiece underneath an electrode wire.
The wire then emits an electrical discharge that’s hot enough to vaporize the stock material, with temperatures reaching up to 21,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The vaporized material then leaves behind the desired shape or machined feature or a liquid is used to wash it away.
CNC EDM Applications:
EDM is commonly used to machine hard metals that are difficult to cut using other types of CNC machining. It’s also used to create very precise shapes and designs. Due to its high precision EDM machining is mostly used to produce micro slots and holes.
9.CNC Waterjet Cutting
A waterjet CNC machine uses high-pressure water to cut materials. The water is forced through a small nozzle at very high speeds, and this cuts through the material.
When the material is hard, the water will contain abrasive particles, such as aluminum oxide, which helps to increase the cutting power. Softer materials like wood or when CNC machining plastic usually does not need abrasives to be added.
CNC Waterjet Machining Applications
Like the other types of CNC machining, waterjet cutting finds use in a variety of applications. It also has its pros and cons. For example, it is heat and dust free. However, the cutting time is typically slower, plus it cannot be used to cut tempered glass (the glass would shatter instead). Waterjet cutting can also be expensive.
CNC machining is a popular manufacturing process that uses computer-controlled tools to create products. The process can be used to create a variety of products, including parts for cars, airplanes, and medical devices. Different types of CNC machining methods are also used, as explained in this article. This gives manufacturers and other CNC machine users a lot of flexibility when creating products.