Computer numerical control (CNC) machining, a subtractive manufacturing process that employs computerized controls and machine tools to remove layers of material and produce a desired part, is one of the most commonly used manufacturing techniques. However, it’s actually based on technology that was developed in the 18th century.
The beginning of industrialization in the mid-eighteenth century saw the technological precursors of CNC machining. However, it wasn’t until the Cold War that the technology was automated and the CNC machining method was fully realized. Finally, in 1952, Richard Kegg developed the “Cincinnati Milacron Hydrotel,” considered the first modern CNC milling machine.
Milling technology continues to evolve and find new applications each year alongside rapidly-developing computer and manufacturing technology. And amidst disruptions including the boom of “smart” technology and the COVID-19 pandemic (and its ongoing impacts on consumer behaviors), manufacturers increasingly seek ways to improve productivity and flexibility while cutting costs.
This challenge requires the widespread adoption of new technologies, some of which are likely to take hold industry-wide in the coming year. These trends are on the horizon — and almost certain to shape the direction of CNC machining in near future.
More axes for efficient operations
Traditional CNC machines feature linear motion in three axes. While many machines now include a moving bed, a 3-axis milling center remains still as the cutter itself moves. Typically, with a 3-axis machine, the bed moves linearly along two axes while the spindle translates up and down along the third axis. 4-axis machines enable more detailed cutting by incorporating a rotational axis.
Typically, a fourth-axis rotary is mounted to the machine table, and the part is mounted to the face of the fourth-axis rotary. This makes 4-axis machines well-suited for manufacturing medical devices and parts with complex geometries.
Fife-axis machines enable micromachining, and are capable of producing extremely detailed cuts at unmatched speeds. They consist of three linear axes and two rotational degrees of freedom. They continue to become more compact and cost-effective, enabling many small manufacturers to take advantage of the more efficient CNC technology.
At the same time, six-axis machines, which arrived on the market in 2019, are also becoming more practical and popular. They provide additional axes of freedom over more conventional but simpler three-axis models.
Higher speed, higher accuracy
Speed and accuracy are two important indicators of CNC machines, which are directly related to machining efficiency and product quality.
Currently, the CNC system uses a bit-digit, higher -frequency processor to improve the basic computing speed of the system.
At the same time, ultra-large-scale integrated circuits and multiprocessor structures are used to improve the data processing capability of the system, that is, to improve speed and accuracy of interpolation operations.
The linear motor is used to directly drive the linear servo feed of the machine table, its high speed and dynamic response characteristic are quite superior.
The use of feed forward control technology greatly reduces the tracking hysteresis error, thus improving the machine accuracy of corner-cutting.
Use of the robotics
While robots have long been used in CNC machining, it’s only recently that collaborative robots, or “cobots,” have seen widespread adoption. Cobots, unlike industrial robots, are designed to work closely alongside human workers. They’re programmed to work intuitively, and can even be taught their intended operation with manual movements.
They are incredibly versatile and rarely require significant time investment up-front. It’s expected that this technology will help make workers more productive while also reducing costs in the long-run by reducing the likelihood of human error. Also, cobots are also generally lightweight and easy to reprogram, they can be quickly moved and repurposed for tasks as needed. This makes them a good fit for manufacturers that prioritize agility and flexibility in their workflows.
Workforce training initiative
Equipment manufacturers are increasingly installing 3D CAD viewers into their standard machine platforms. This screen acts as the primary visual guide for operation setup and progression, and can even be configured to include troubleshooting videos.
The integration of this software in CNC machining equipment will help manufacturers not only improve workforce training but also increase the effectiveness and efficiency of existing employees. What’s more, though this technology comes at a high upfront cost, it is likely to increase cost-savings in the long run by reducing operator error.
Software Accessibility and minimization of the control system
Over the past 10 years, the computer-aided design, modeling and simulation technology landscape has become increasingly democratized.
CAD/CAM software is more accessible than ever. It’s available at lower prices, and developers of these tools are making user-friendliness a higher priority.
Also, miniaturization of the digital control system makes it easy to combine mechanical and electrical equipment into one.
At present, it mainly uses ultra-large-scale integrated components and multi-layer printed circuit boards, with the use of three-dimensional installation methods, so that electronic components can be installed in a high-density, large-scale reduction of the system occupies space.
The use of the new color LCD thin display instead of the traditional cathode ray tube, will make the CNC operating system further miniaturized.
This allows it to be easily mounted on the machine tool equipment, making it easier to use for the operation of CNC machines.
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Today, we operate in a 55,000 sq. ft. facility and employ more than 35 people. We are an ISO 9001 Certified Company, with a culture that continues to emphasize Quality, Customer Service, and On Time Delivery.
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