CNC, which means Computerized Numerical Control, is a machining technique that employs computers to control the lathes, routers, grinders, drills and mills. Using computerized control modules to control these tools during the machining process results in more accurate work, less working times per piece and high quality finishes. Such factors make sense especially in high volume work such as large-scale industrial restoration work where wastage of raw materials and high quality matter. The computer modules that operate the machining tools rely on CAD (Computer Aided Design) and CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) programs that ensure the designs are adhered to accurately, resulting in high-quality work pieces.
CNC machines find use in a wide variety of machining scenarios that involve cutting (plasma, flame and laser), welding (friction stir, arc and ultrasonic), grinding, bending, hole punching, pinning, gluing, fabric stitching, routing, picking and placing.
Industrial applications of CNC machining techniques include:
- Automotive – The automotive industry has come to rely on high-precision machined components that rely on CNC machining processes. Passenger, military and racing vehicles rely on this machining technique for kingpins, cylinder head covers, crankshafts, collars, bushes and other high precision components required in high volumes.
- Medical – The medical industry is heavily reliant on CNC machined instruments and tools. Due to the sensitivity of some of the medical and surgical procedures involved, this machining technique is used to make surgical instruments, dental equipment, test sample holders, specialized frames and metallic crucibles.
- Construction – The construction sector also relies on a lot of equipment made using CNC machining techniques. Although the construction sector does not need high precision equipment as much the medical and automotive industries, CNC-based machining processes produce equipment such as brackets, pump housing, pool clamps, valves and specialized end caps needed in large volumes to reduce working times and raw materials wastage.
- Aeronautical – The aeronautical industry relies heavily on high precision equipment and fittings that have to be mass-produced. Aviation, be it civil or military, requires airframes and engines whose parts operate on tolerances to within a human hair. Such high precision is only possible through CNC machining processes resulting in many high quality parts. These include cylinder heads, turbine fan blades, wing spars, pump casings, winglets, intake manifolds, rivets, bolts and many other parts.
- Electronics – The electronics design and manufacturing process is plagued by not only the need for high precision work, but also operations on the micro-scale. Due to these minute operation parameters, the only machining techniques that can result in accurate, high quality work are CNC-based. Therefore, CNC machining techniques are used in the electronics industry to make microchips, bus standoffs, motherboards and other electronic components.
CNC machining also finds use in restorative surface treatments such as anodizing, electroplating, painting, powder coating and polishing. Restorative work accomplished using CNC processes results in high quality the first time around, keeping costs low and reducing wastage of materials.