The advent of computers brought the concept of numerical systems to reality for many industries. Manufacturing, in particular, has widely embraced the technology, with CNC machining now seen as the gold standard and offering many advantages over more traditional measures.
CNC vs. Traditional Machining: the basics
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control and such a system is made up of software that communicates instructions to the physical hardware.
- A software system is written and presented in a numerical code format (AKA, a program).
- The program is essentially a list of instructions that communicates the commands to the hardware of the system. This instructs the machines components to carry out particular tasks in a chosen order.
Traditional machining, on the other hand, works through direct human intervention:
- The operator is responsible for telling the machine where and when to move and the particular tasks to carry out (cutting, drilling, milling etc).
- This is done through the use of various levers, instruments, controls, rulers etc and involves a skilled person to carry out this constant task. The operator can start and stop the machine at will and is responsible for choosing the feed and the movement of the hardware.
The key takeaway is that CNC machining can, post programming, pretty much be left to its own devices. Traditional machining, on the other hand, requires constant human interaction.
The Case for CNC Over Traditional…
There are many advantages for switching to CNC, ranging from dramatic cost-efficiency to greatly increased health and safety for machine operators.
- Reduced running costs: Once a machine has been processed (something that typically takes around 30 minutes) it can be left to work in isolation. This leaves the operator free to carry out other tasks, such as programming and working further machines. Because CNC machining only needs overseeing to ensure no errors occur or to tweak a program, each operator’s time is far more cost-efficient. Companies benefit from hiring less manpower while achieving increased output.
- Increased levels of safety: The nature of traditional machining means operators are, by necessity, in close proximity to moving parts and cooling fluids, both of which represent significant hazards. CNC machine operators view the components behind the safety of protective glass or shields, meaning a much-reduced level of risk.
- Heightened efficiency: Human error is a significant factor with traditional machining methods. Set up accuracy is wholly dependent on the skill of the operator, and mistakes are common. CNC machine set up, on the other hand, is carried out through computer programming and a special coordinate measuring probe. This allows for automated zero point certification, significantly reducing set up inaccuracies.
- Less need for test runs: When setting up for traditional machining it’s necessary for the operator to become familiar with the set up and tool passes. This usually requires test runs to achieve the required standard. CNC systems avoid this, allowing operators to visualise the finished process before it’s physically carried out.
- Increased flexibility: CNC driven systems can combine multiple tools in a single machine, negating the need for separate appliances to drill, mill and lathe. This is possible through the input of necessary codes that instruct the hardware to move in the required trajectory. This reduces the need for multiple machines to carry out a variety of different tasks.
- Faster cutting speeds: Manual operation can only be carried out safely at cutting speeds of up to 10,000 rpm. Machines running in excess of this must be kept stable to prevent vibrations – something that’s not possible for a manual operation. CNC turning service machining can, however, perform at higher cutting parameters. This is because the cutting area is sealed off, therefore encasing projectiles and the regular use of high pressure coolant fluid to reduce heat build-up.
CNC Machining Reduces Human Error, Enhances Output & Boosts Profit
The case for CNC machining is powerful and is being rapidly embraced throughout all areas of engineering. The advantages are many, and working with a manufacturer that can offer direct machine CNC programming presents a powerful opportunity to increase productivity, boost accuracy (and therefore customer satisfaction), improve health and safety, optimise your workforce and upskill your staff.
About the Author: This is a guest post by Jason De Silveira, founder, director and company secretary of a specialist equipment rental and services company, Nexxis Pty Ltd and subsidiary SixDe. Jason has over 20 years’ project management experience on installations, commissioning and start-ups in Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Kuwait, Ghanaand Dubai. Nexxis believes in a genuine solutions-driven approach, flexible financing options, expert advice and the very latest global technologies, which sets them apart from other technical equipment companies.