Different Types of CNC Machining

Computer numerical control (CNC) is a method of automatically controlling machinery to run repeatable operations to create highly precise products. CNC machining is viewed as a gold standard of machinery control. The method can be used with a variety of tools. The following are six of the most common types of CNC machines.

CNC Mill

Mills feature various built-in tools for drilling and cutting. Many CNC mills feature three- to six-axis movement systems that allow for complex two- and three-dimensional designs. The computer guides the mill to make the necessary cuts and drills, usually based on G-Code, a standardized programming language for CNC. Mills are often considered the standard option for CNC machining.

CNC Laser Cutter

As the name suggests, this machine features a laser for cutting on multiple axes. This tends to offer a very high level of cutting accuracy, exceeding many other CNC machines. However, they are not as powerful as plasma-torch-based CNC machining. Lasers on these machines are usually CO2, neodymium or yttrium-aluminum-garget.

CNC Lathe

Lathes are used for shaping a material while it is rotating. This type of machine has fewer axes of control than mills. However, it excels at smooth machining of rounded objects. It is usually more compact and lighter than a CNC mill. Compared to manual lathes, the CNC machines can achieve greater precision and more detailed cuts. The central lathe moves the material into position while built-in tools do the cutting.

CNC Plasma Cutter

A CNC plasma cutter offers very similar functionality to a laser cutter. However, it is more powerful and less precise. The built-in plasma torch can achieve temperatures of up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. So, this type of machine can cut a wide variety of tough materials such as metals. A plasma cutter offers many of the same capabilities as a CNC mill but uses a plasma torch rather than the cutting edge of a tool.

CNC Electric Discharge Machine

This type of CNC machine is perhaps the most different from the others. It uses electrical sparks to shape materials. The sparks have an erosive effect which allows the machine to deform the material into the intended shape.

Typically, there are top and bottom electrodes. The machine then manipulates the material between these electrodes. The power of the electrodes can also be controlled via the computer. A CNC EDM can produce complex shapes that may be difficult to create with more conventional tooling.

CNC Router

Like its manual counterpart, a CNC router uses a small cutting head to create various cut types. The CNC machine can move the route tool along various paths. Routers can be equipped with specially shaped cutting heads to achieve cuts that may be difficult with other CNC machines.

Compared to other machines, routers are highly efficient. So, they tend to produce items in less time and with less material. However, they are somewhat less flexible than CNC mills. Nonetheless, CNC routers are available with three- to-six-axis movement.

Get a Quote on CNC Machining for Your Next Project

The right CNC machinery can enable you to achieve your desired product in less time and with better results. Whether you need rapid prototyping or other production, you should trust your machining to a shop with extensive CNC capabilities.

Special Tool and Engineering can provide CNC machining for all your production needs. Our full-service machine shop specializes in working with aluminum. We work in markets such as automotive, consumer goods and defense. If you are interested in have parts or components machined from aluminum, we are happy to help. Contact us today to get started with a quote for your project.

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