CNC Machines Their Impact on Modern Manufacturing
CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines are being used in almost all manufacturing and industries throughout the world. Early CNC machines were introduced in the 1950s and by the late 1960s were beginning to be utilized in many manufacturing machining applications. The impact of CNC machines in manufacturing has revolutionized manufacturing. One of the many advantages of CNC machines is the ability to complete multiple operations consecutively without operator intervention, greatly reducing cycle times and the possibility of error. CNC machines also provide increased safety by reducing the necessity for mid-cycle intervention by an operator.
Modern CNC machines have computer process capabilities and operate by reading G and M code formatted programs. Most programs are created off the machine using CAD (computer-Aided -Design). The CAD software creates geometry, which is then converted into programs defining tool selection, feeds/speeds, and toolpath, via CAM (computer-aided-machining). CAM converts the above-mentioned information into a machine-readable language (usually in a G and M code format). These programs run the CNC machine and can be stored in machine or offline for later use.
According to Fortune Global Insights “The global CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine market is projected to grow from $86.83 billion in 2022 to $140.78 billion by 2029, at a CAGR of 7.1%”.
CNC Machines continue to increase their impact in most manufacturing industries. The reasons for their growth are numerous, but a few of the obvious ones are:
Maximizing Efficiency and Operating Costs
The use of CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) in design, and prototyping, shortens the manufacturers’ timeline from concept, to design, to testing, to production. The use of CNC machinery helps improve efficiency both in the prototype and production stage. These reductions ultimately lower operating expenses, which have an obvious positive effect on revenue improvement.
CNC machinery can produce parts in almost every material. They provide a broad base of applications for many industries and markets. CNC machines can produce multiple geometric shapes, sizes, and materials. Due to advancements in computer controllers, servo/software feedback systems, and tooling technology, their application continues to grow.
Higher Quality and Automation
Thanks to the continuing advancements in machine tool design and manufacturing techniques, the many advantages of CNC machines are able to achieve higher levels of precision. The ability to produce complex shapes requiring multi-axis simultaneous machining is becoming more common. Improvements in CAM/CAD software and servo feedback systems have added another layer of accuracy and reliability to the machining process. These improvements also increase the reliability of the end product.
CNC machines are also adaptable to different levels of automation. Depending on production requirements different types of robotics can be assimilated into the machining process. These machines can run unmanned depending on the production lot size, length of time for cutting cycles, and the number of available cutting tools. Automation/robotics require much less operator intervention than standard manual equipment. With a proper understanding of cycle times, feeds/speeds, and cutting tool life production can continue with maximum spindle utilization and minimum cycle interruption.
Most of the later models of CNC machines have automation plug-n-play software/hardware, making robot interface a simple proposition. The many advantages of CNC machines are able to add flexibility and power to the CNC controller giving the machine the necessary monitoring of tools, servos, and automation instructions.
The quality of CNC machines continues to improve. The machine builders have identified key wear areas to monitor and thanks to regular maintenance programs, and predictive internal machine diagnostics, costly repairs and machine downtimes are greatly reduced.
CNC machining can greatly improve the operator’s safety level. The latest level of CNC machines is well guarded. Their design minimizes operators’ intervention in dangerous areas and maximizes operator safety. Depending on the number of tools (tool redundancy) can further eliminate operators having to work inside the machining envelope, thus increasing safety. The machining areas are also well-contained, reducing the possibility of errant chips or unnecessary exposure to coolant or cutting oil.
With each new machine generation, CNC machines continue to provide a greater degree of accuracy. There are constant advancements being made in machine design, more powerful controllers, and software interface with axis servos. Every generation of electronics adds more definition (smaller increments of input) to the machine and feedback system, giving the programmers and operators a higher level of controlled accuracy.
The manufacturing marketplace continues to grow, and with that growth, CNC machines have become a more prominent part of the manufacturing landscape. The ability of CNC machines to repeatably produce parts of a high consistent quality, with less operator involvement, fits an efficient economic model necessary to compete globally. This does not necessarily eliminate all direct labor but does redefine some of the skills needed by labor. Many of the labor tasks are now outside the work envelope. The operator’s role is to support the CNC machine, which adds to the overall productivity. The net result is greater efficiencies and higher levels of profitability. The expanded use of CNC machines are essential to our manufacturing future.
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