Computer Numerical Control, more commonly known as CNC machines, are a fascinating modern-day solution to complex problems. In a nutshell, CNCs are the combination of computer programs (written codes), and the old-fashioned machine fabrication. They have been a boon in modern machinery due to the versatility provided by the programs that the machines are run by. The idea is that the same machine can conduct many different cuts based on the code (program) that it is fed. The machines come with Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software programs and tools that can conduct cutting and shaping tasks. Computer Aided Design (CAD) models are then provided by the customer for specifications on how to create the final product they are seeking. When the CAD is fed into the CNC’s CAM, it provides instructions on how the different parts of the machine should move and operate to create the product of desire.
While they may not be the solution to every machining problem, CNCs have become quite popular in the trade for obvious reasons. So much so that the market for it has become increasingly competitive with prices considerably lower compared to when they were first developed. Many manufacturers across the globe have taken on to designing CNC machines. However, just as with any technology and machining solution, you often get what you pay for. A cheaper deal isn’t always the best one when choosing your machining partner. However, knowing the process and associate costs of building a CNC machine can put you in a better place for negotiation. Below are the phases often associated with CNC machining.
The Design Phase
This is perhaps the most important part of the entire process of creating CNC machines. During this phase, the ultimate goals and functionality for the machine is visualized, often with the aid of drawings and computer software. Dimensions of the parts for the machine are considered in great detail. It is important to have very specific ideas of what the capabilities and limitations of the machine will be during this step. While redoing designs to satisfaction may be tedious, it is far less tiresome and costly than having to scrap a planned design in a later stage. There are design best practices that should be followed for optimal results. A good team of engineers and proper use of aiding software should lead to designs that can save the customer production costs during the life cycle of the machine. Moving forward with a mediocre design can lead to high scrap yields, improper cuts, and other possible limitations later on, all of which can be very costly.
Gathering the Parts
Depending on the type of CNC machine you are building, the right manufacturing parts will either need to be sourced or built. If you are working with a machining company that provides in-house moulding and creation for CNC parts, then the cost of the final machine may be cheaper. If the parts are being created in-house, talk to the company about the materials that will be going into them. There may be a variation in price depending on available materials. However, don’t compromise on the quality of the final product for a cheaper material. Ask the experts for the optimal build based on what your needs are.
Once the design is finalized and the parts are in, the fun begins. Putting the machine together should not be difficult if all of parts were designed and created with proper dimensions and fit. However, the precision of CNC machining can be affected by the quality of the assembly. While simple to perform, this makes assembly of the machine vital to its final performance. This part of the process should be relatively simple and quick, and should not cost you too much in terms of time or resources. If there are details in construction, this may be due to other issues that should be reviewed and resolved quickly. Rather than force something to work, it is best to go back to the design phase if need be.
Once everything is put together, it is time to test out the final product! Give your machine a CAD to prototype and let it get to work. The first runs are very important because you are watching for exactly how precise your new invention is. Manual measurements of dimensions of cut products should be conducted to ensure quality. If any of the measurements are off, it may be necessary to check the dimensions of the parts of the CNC. If everything works just fine, you have yourself a tool to automate repetitive in cutting like no other!
In terms of the efficiency of CNC machining, factor in its operation versus manually completing a customer’s orders for a certain number of pieces. Needless to say, precision CNC machines not only eliminate human error, but also reduce production time significantly. These two factors alone can lead to offsetting many of the costs associated with manufacturing. Working with constant speed, these machines will easily outperform a team of labour and provide finished products are that are of high yield and production quality.
Should you invest in a few yourself? They may not be good at everything, but depending on what your needs are, the benefits of precision in CNC machining can far outweigh any costs of establishing these assets in your business. They are relatively simple to create, and if manufactured with the right design, material, and foresight, CNC machines can significantly reduce costs associated with labour and quality control.