Computer Numerical Control: Everything You Need to Know About CNC Machines


In 2018, manufacturing accounted for almost 16% of the global gross domestic product. That makes it among the most critical sectors of all economies throughout the world. After all, without it, we would have no way to utilize raw materials for products.

The global GDP, by the way, sums up to more than $80.93 trillion. That means that almost $13 trillion comes from manufacturing alone.

To produce such an output, manufacturers utilize Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines. CNC machines allow for the fast, safe, and accurate production of final products. Without these technologies, we would all have to rely on manual labor and production.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg, though, as there’s a lot more to CNC machines than just their speed. In this post, we’ll take a look at all the essential roles and benefits that they deliver.

What Is a CNC Machine?

CNC machines combine electrical and mechanical devices to manipulate other tools. They do so through the use of computer programming inputs. The CNC tool itself contains a microcomputer, which in turn, houses the software.

Computer numerical control refers to the actual method used to automate these machines. CNC machining, in turn, is the practice itself of using CNC machines. Either way, the automated nature of CNC machines allow for faster manufacturing.

CNC machines can carry out manufacturing tasks like drilling, milling, turning, and shearing. They are also adept in jobs like punching, facing, welding, shearing, and grooving. These are, however, only a few examples of what you can use CNC devices for.

How Do They Work?

CNC machines work hand in hand with Computer-Aided Machining or Manufacturing (CAM) programs. A CAM program, in turn, is software that creates the codes that the CNC tool follows. The codes can specify the speed, movement, and position that the CNC machine would then work on.

Here’s a step-by-step look at how CNC machines usually work.

1. Creating the Part or Product Design

For this first step, a designer often uses computer-aided design (CAD) software. This program allows the user to draw and design a specific part or product in either a 2D or 3D format.

The drawing itself usually includes specifications, such as part dimensions and structure. These specified “instructions” tell the CNC machine how exactly to create the part.

2. CAD File Conversion Into Code

CNC machines don’t automatically read CAD files. So, the designer has to convert the finalized CAD drawing into a CNC-compatible file first. This is where the use of a CAM program comes into play, as such software can carry out the file conversion.

3. Preparing the CNC Machine

Once the CNC-readable file is ready, machinists can now set up the CNC machine itself. During this step, they attach the necessary workpieces and tools to the CNC machine. For instance, they may use CNC milling machines, lathes, plasma cutters, or routers.

4. Process Execution with the CNC Machine

After preparing the CNC machine, the CNC machinist or operator can begin the process. They can now execute the file and program embedded into the CNC device. As soon as they do, the CNC machine follows all instructions contained in the code.

The Undeniable Benefits and Advantages of CNC Machining

All in all, CNC machines help businesses by reducing the need for manual labor. They also raise productivity, speed up manufacturing processes, and ensure part accuracy.

Here’s a closer look at some of the primary benefits and advantages of using CNC machines.

Continuous Production

CNC machines allow you to automate the production of many parts within a 24/7 period. So long as you correctly set up the device, it will continue to manufacture those parts as instructed. This, in turn, enhances productivity, as the machine won’t need to take as many breaks as a person does.

No Questions Asked

CNC machines follow a specific direction without any questions. They don’t deviate from the instructions contained in the code they need to follow. As a result, they are far more accurate in creating parts and products.

Your production team may follow your directions too, but they can still make mistakes. As humans, we are all prone to making errors. In fact, a study found that in manufacturing, 23% of all unplanned downtime stems from human error.

Frees up Time for More Integral Tasks

The use of CNC machines also frees up time that your people can then use for other tasks. For instance, instead of operating machines, your team can work on design creation. Or, you can have them research ways to improve products rather than produce the needed parts on their own.

Help Make Production Processes Safer

Were you aware that one workplace injury occurs every seven seconds in the US? That translates to 12,600 injuries a day, or a whopping 4.6 million within a year!

Unfortunately, many of these are again due to human errors. Of course, others are due to equipment failures and defects.

While CNC machines can develop flaws too, they may be safer, as they have reduced human exposure. Operators can leave them as-is once they’ve executed the code that the machine needs to follow. Since your people don’t have to frequently “touch” them, this may then help reduce injury risks.

Who Can Use CNC Machines?

Many CNC users complete educational courses to learn all about these machines. Technical or vocational schools teach students the proper and safe use of CNC tools. If you’re aiming for a career in the manufacturing sector, you may want to take these programs.

Some CNC machines, according to, don’t need prior machining knowledge, though. Hobbyists may find such small CNC machines easy enough to use for their projects.

Boosting Productivity and Safety With CNC Machines

There you have it, the most vital facts you need to know about CNC machines, how they work, and their benefits. As you can see, they are more than just tools that automate processes and boost productivity. They may also help you minimize workplace injuries relating to equipment use.

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