Milling and lathes are a familiar technology. Humanity has used them to produce various metal and wood products for at least several centuries. On the other hand, progress never stands still, and machines are constantly being improved. Milling and lathes are not an exception. Nowadays, manual and semi-automatic machines are often replaced by CNC equipment, which has changed production processes.

Common features of CNC machines
The main difference between the average CNC router machine (and other CNC machines) is the control unit, which is programmed by the operator and controls the whole production process. Due to the usage of software and controller systems, CNC machines significantly improve production automation, production speed, and profitability. However, we will talk about these advantages in more detail later.

There are several types of CNC machines, depending on their tasks and the tools they use to make products. These are CNC milling machines and lathes, laser machines, drilling and grinding machines, plasma torches, and multifunctional stations.

There are also highly specialized CNC machines designed to perform specific tasks in production, but such equipment is usually produced in single copies.

Where are CNC machines used?

CNC machines are used in all areas of industry – from mechanical engineering and the production of metal parts to the production of microcircuits and circuit boards, from the production of decorative jewelry to the production of dental implants. These machines produce components for assembling furniture, household appliances, and even spaceship parts.

Depending on the machine model, the equipment can process metal, wood, plastic, polymers, composite materials, cardboard, glass, ceramics, etc.

In recent years, CNC machines have begun to be actively used by large industrial corporations and small businesses. Suppliers even offer machines for home and ‘garage’ installation.

The main advantages of CNC machines

  1. Let's start with increased production speed. Since CNC machines operate without an operator, they can handle all tool and workpiece manipulations faster. A machine controlled by an algorithm does not need to make preliminary measurements and other preparatory manipulations, and this saves time.
  2. Even an experienced specialist can tire while working; a CNC machine will perform the task without stopping 24 hours a day. Of course, the operation of the machines needs to be monitored, but if they are configured correctly, the equipment will operate without failures or errors. In addition, some machines automatically change tools without stopping the production process.
  3. CNC machines can perform the same operations repeatedly, producing the same part with minimal errors. This is an essential advantage for serial production.
  4. If programmed and controlled by a qualified person, CNC machines can produce products with complex shapes. It is either impossible to produce such products on conventional machines, or the production process will take a lot of time and require the participation of professionals.
  5. CNC machines increase an enterprise's production speed and competitiveness and make production more profitable. This is achieved by hiring fewer specialists (one operator can operate several machines simultaneously) and reducing machine maintenance costs. Automated equipment uses cutters and other tools more efficiently.
  6. Another advantage is increased safety since specialists have less contact with potentially dangerous tools and pieces of equipment. However, safety rules must be strictly followed even when working with CNC machines.

Attention! Despite all the advantages described above, CNC machines are unsuitable for all industries. For example, purchasing an expensive CNC machine may not be cost-effective if you are a one-piece manufacturer or work in small-scale production.

The cost of CNC machines varies from several hundred dollars to several tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the model and manufacturer.

How to choose a CNC machine

  1. Type of tool and spindle. Depending on the type of processing the machine performs, there are turning, milling, laser, drilling, and other machines. Multifunctional stations are capable of performing various tasks and changing tools independently. The spindle is the most important and, simultaneously, the most reliable part of the machine, which is responsible for rotation.
  2. Number of processing axes. Typically, CNC machines can process a product in up to 5 axes. Multifunction stations can have up to 8 machining axes.
  3. Software. There is standard software for programming CNC machines that use G codes. However, the control panel and programs for controlling the machines (as well as their compatibility with other computers or electronic equipment) may differ. The software can be updated by the developer.
  4. Desktop size. An essential criterion for choosing a machine is the minimum and maximum size of the product that the equipment can work with. Suppliers offer small machines for home use and large-sized stations with a working table of 1500-2000 millimeters or more.
  5. Additional options. Modern machines can be equipped with additional systems and options. For example, a cooling system, a system for fixing the product on the desktop, a garbage removal system, etc.

In addition, CNC machines are distinguished by power and accuracy, warranty period, maintainability, and other parameters, which the supplier’s representative will tell you about. In addition, do not forget to ask a specialist about the conditions for servicing the machines since the more functional the CNC machine, the more difficult it is to maintain.

Conclusion: consider all the pros and cons

To summarize, CNC machines are more modern equipment that is becoming the optimal choice for various production areas. If chosen correctly, such machines work faster and more accurately; they are autonomous and cost-effective.

However, such a machine will only be a good purchase for some businesses since CNC machines require operator qualifications and have higher purchase costs.