Computer numerical control, or CNC, is a widespread process that has transformed many aspects of manufacturing. CNC is the phrase or acronym that describes using computers to program machines used for manufacturing. Stamping, cutting, drilling, forming, and shaping metal, plastic, foam, wood, and other materials using CNC machinery ensures greater consistency and quality in precision parts.
Industries that use CNC machining have streamlined their operations and become more efficient at mass-producing custom parts. Programming and operating CNC machinery requires special training and skill. Manufacturing workers can learn CNC principles online with free classes or academic programs.
Industries that benefit from improvements in manufacturing created with CNC include aerospace, automotive parts manufacturing, medical machine manufacturing, transportation, defense, and marine industries, along with oil and gas industries and electronics. CNC enables a high level of precision and accuracy in parts manufacturing and provides exacting tolerances for parts of all sizes. In Arlington Heights, Toyoda Americas Corporation, located on University Drive, is an example one of the most significant companies worldwide that uses CNC.
Toyoda Americas Corporation: Toyoda UA2090 5-Axis CNC Machine, as an example.
Toyoda Americas Corporation’s North American headquarters is 100,000 square feet and home to a variety of 20+ machining centers under power.
What About 3D Printing?
Some industry analysts have predicted that 3D printing will rapidly replace CNC machining. The primary difference between 3D printing and CNC production is that 3D printing is an “additive” process, where layers of material are added atop each other layer to form a part, typically using a heat process to express material into a shape defined by a computer program.
CNC manufacturing, on the other hand, is a “subtractive” process, where excess material is cut away or removed to create and shape the part. Each process has strengths and weaknesses. Manufacturers can use both in complementary ways. Parts manufactured using either process still emerge with imperfections and often must be deburred using vibratory or tumbling machines that finish and polish the parts, removing rough edges or excess materials left behind from heat or cutting processes.
The type of imperfections a part develops depends on the process of fabrication and the materials. Thick metal reacts differently to cutting than plastic reacts to layering. Specifications for strength and tolerance will vary depending on the size and intended use of the part and its ultimate destination, and these will dictate which process is best to manufacture a particular precision part. Workers with skills in CNC machining and 3D printing are increasingly in demand as manufacturing processes adapt to provide precision, speed, and quality in fabrication.
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