CNC machining is rising in popularity and for all the right reasons. It is the most cost-effective, time-efficient, and high-precision manufacturing technique that ensures accurate, reliable, and customized products.
While CNC machining is an automated process that uses computer-controlled programs to cut and shape parts of complex geometries and angles, there are a lot of steps that go into the production of a single component.
If you are new to the world of CNC machining, this post is for you! We will explore how components and parts are manufactured using CNC machining and discuss the steps involved.
So, let's get into it!
CNC machining is a digitally controlled manufacturing technique that enables accurate cutting and shaping of various parts and components. CNC machines can work with a variety of raw materials including metal, wood, composites, and plastic.
Industries like automotive, defense, medicine, and electronics are benefiting greatly from this manufacturing process because it is highly cost-effective and scalable.
Other than that, CNC uses various technologies to function–some of them include:
CNC machines take a block of raw material and transform it into highly accurate, customized, and perfectly finished parts. Using CNC machining, it is possible to shape products as intricate as gearboxes and as tiny as electronic components.
But, how does the process work? From raw material to the final product, here is what the lifecycle of a CNC-machined component looks like!
Designing a CAD model is the first step to building any part with CNC machining. The CAD model of the machined part should be precisely designed with all the features, dimensions, geometries, and angles specified.
Engineers design CAD models with the help of simulation add-ons and topographical features to ensure every element of the part turns out accurate.
Before the CAD design is sent for machining, it should be converted to a format readable by the CNC program. This means the file you feed into the CNC machine should communicate the commands to the software.
Once the design is uploaded to the CNC machine, it needs to be translated into what we call a G-code. The operator of the machine is responsible for preparing this code.
The G-code is a set of commands or instructions that tells the CNC machine what it needs to do in order to complete and finish the part. This code dictates how the machine will move, position, and operate in general.
All the main components of a CNC machine are controlled by the G-code including the cutting tool, spindle, and auxillary parts.
After feeding the G-code to the CNC machine, the next step is to mount the raw material onto the bed. The raw material is usually in the form of a rectangular block.
Metals like aluminum, titanium, and steel are routinely machined using CNC equipment. It is also possible to shape CNC parts using plastic or composites.
The type and nature of the raw material are decided during the design phase. Factors like strength, hardness, and ability to resist temperature, wear, and tear are some common considerations for selecting the raw material.
Once the raw material is placed inside the machine, we can apply the G-code and get the machine moving. Either the material or the tool starts moving and the shape begins to form on the block of material.
It is important to note that in CNC machining, not all the actions are performed using the same tool. Many automatic CNC machines have the feature to switch between tools to produce highly precise and reliable end products.
Smaller tools, for instance, help produce less rough and highly detailed end products. However, machining with smaller tools can take a lot of time and result in higher production costs.
It is important to keep both the tool and the component cool during the machining phase. Due to high cutting forces, the part and the tool can easily overheat. Therefore, the right type of coolant should be selected to keep the operations running smoothly.
Typical coolants for CNC equipment include:
Before we discuss deburring, let's explore what burrs are. When the part is machined with CNC equipment, the operations like milling and turning can leave small imperfections on the surface of the component known as burrs. These imperfections can look like scratchy lines, ridges, or protrusions that can greatly impact the quality of the finished product.
To remove these undesired burrs, deburring is carried out either manually or mechanically to make the machined component reliable and smooth.
In manual deburring, a technician manually scrapes the machined part with the help of a small tool. This removes the burrs from the surface, leaving the part refined and smooth.
A heavy, brush-like device is employed in mechanical deburring which quickly removes the burrs from the part surface. While mechanical deburring is more effective, it can be costly compared to its manual counterpart.
Quality control is another crucial step in the manufacturing of machined parts. This step involves manually or automatically checking the deburred and machined components for any errors.
Manual QC is the cheapest option but can be time-consuming. It involves the use of devices like screw gauges or vernier calipers to measure different parts of the component and ensure it is accurately machined.
Automatic quality control uses tools like coordinate measuring machines or CMM to accurately measure different features of the finished product. While this technique gives more accurate results with a tolerance of one micron, it can be highly expensive.
Once the machined part is checked for quality, the next step is to give it a surface finish. The most popular option in this area is anodizing, but manufacturers can also go for painting, gluing, and powder coating.
The idea is to prevent the finished product from oxidizing.
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