How to Use a CNC Machine

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How to Use a CNC Machine

CNC machines are progressively becoming popular with hobbyists. It is a special machine in the tooling industry (especially in the tech and automotive industries) that merely depends on computers rather than humans to do certain tasks. Today, we’ll help you how to operate the CNC machine for your next project. Plus, other important related information you should know! 

What is a CNC Machine?

Stands for Computer Numerical Control, CNC machine is designed for manufacturing an extensive array of items. As have mentioned earlier, it is computer-programmed with specific software. You have possibly seen numerous products created with the help of CNC machine, from the granite countertops to the billions of cars roaming everywhere. 

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This machine makes use of a specialized language known as G-code. It guides the machine on how to grind, mold, melt, shape, and cut different materials (e.g., metal and plastic). It even helps in controlling the feed rate, velocity, feed rate, and other mechanical aspects. 

You can use it for making intricate 3-dimensional shapes as one piece. It delivers greater accuracy compared to manual machining. Above all, the CNC machine is repeatable. This means you can be able to use the program over again to manufacture a lot of identical parts. At first glance, you may think that it has similarity to another set of computer components. It still stands out from any forms of computation though, thanks to the consoles and software programs employed within the machine. 

CNC Machine Applications 

You can heavily depend on this machine for countless applications with a complete variety of materials including stainless steel, wood, plastic, aluminum, titanium, and even synthetic materials such as polycarbonate. 

The CNC machine could be utilized in various ways – making enclosures and circuit boards as well as for computer integrated manufacturing as examples. Many industries have been using it, including: 

  • Transportation with some parts of vehicles (e.g., shafts, breaks, and gears) that require accurate CNC machining
  • Agriculture for a premium quality, reliable machine parts production and other products 
  • Firearms to create complex triggers, barrels, plates, etc. 
  • Aerospace for precise aircraft travel parts like an aircraft turbine engine for safe and reliable air travel 
  • Dental for the items, such as dental implants, to be just precisely the right shape 
  • Electronics to ensure each tiny part always works with reliability and consistency 
  • Other industries including food and beverage, equipment, electrical, printing, manufacturing, jewelry, military, construction, and automotive

Benefits over Conventional Option 

Yes, both the traditional machines and CNC machines begin with a raw chunk of a material before forming it into a distinct shape. They both shoot towards the same end. However, what makes CNC machines differ and stand out from conventional methods is automation. We are talking about the rate of production, precision, and speed.

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With the traditional method, an experienced employee carries out all the basic to complex steps just to set up and make the machine work. This is not the case with the CNC machine. A skillful employee programs the software to cut the part.​ Definitely, a cost-effective solution. 

Save money and time. Imagine struggling with continuous orders. You’ll need tons of hands just to make the job quicker when doing it the conventional way. CNCs could be able to work long hours to produce numerous client orders in a short amount of time. You only need less training hours and employees to use the machine. 

Remove human errors. No more dealing with a too large glass or too short aluminum. Just program the CNC machine when it should deliver the product and voila! 

Reduce material waste. CNCs are precise and minimize the materials wasted. Therefore, saving you more money and time on rework. 

Boost productivity. The use of the machine allows manufacturers to work and deliver output at a much quicker pace – all without the added requirement of extra resources and employees. 

Low maintenance. Typically, the machine does not require much service aside from doing a few light cleanings and changing the cutting implements. Not to mention, the g-code software automatically updates itself when needed. 

Easy and safe to use. CNC machines do not require you to get nearby the cutting tools which reduce occupational safety & health accidents. 

Check Out: Must-Have CNCs for Woodshop Owners

How to Operate a CNC Machine? 

Now, we’ve come to the core of this article. Though before starting, you have to determine the type of machine you really need since there are different types of CNC machines available. 

The CNC milling machine is your tool of choice if you need to create parts with metal while a CNC router is great if you intend to work with wood. 

  1. With CAD software, draw a part you want to make. Make use of gridlines for a specific measurement. 
  2. Assuming you are happy with your drawing, it is now the best time to export the file, and they import it in a CAM program. Here, you’ll determine the types of tools you have to use as well as how fast or deep it needs to cut. 
  3. Make the g-code for the CNC machine to read. Simply find the g-code reference for the machine if you prefer typing it directly into the machine. Then, key in the commands in the program, bypassing the CAM and CAD process. 
  4. This is where the fun starts. Make sure the material is properly in place, stand back, and start the program. Feast your eyes with the precise cut out designs produced by your machine. 

Important Tips: 

You want to make sure the entire machining process will always end smoothly and be satisfying. We recommend taking proper care of your CNC machine (especially) whenever you use it. Clean the contact surfaces, and the tools must be all in good condition. Clean off the tooling and table after each cycle. The fixture vise must be free from chip buildup. Make sure to check the tips of drills and end mills so they will be usable all through the run of production. 

CNC machines are definitely a great investment for any business. It automates the process of fabrication, so you don’t need to worry about errors or worker negligence which all contribute to slow operation and poor productivity. 

About the Author Dan

Just a random guy who likes to build things. Providing tool knowledge, appliance/device testing tips, and DIY project info in an easy-to read & non-intimidating style.