What Is CNC Machining? 6 of the Most Common Cnc Machines

May. 30, 2024

CNC, which stands for Computer Numerical Control, refers to machines that are vital in the manufacturing industry. These sophisticated machines are controlled by computers, delivering a level of efficiency, precision, and consistency that manual processes cannot match.


Operations that were once deemed impossible are now easily achievable thanks to CNC machining. Just as CNC machines can produce a wide variety of parts, there are also numerous types of CNC machines designed for specific tasks. Each type of machine varies in its construction, operation, and the products it can create.


Continue reading to explore the different types of CNC machines and their unique functions.


The Different Types of CNC Machines


If you've ever wondered what a CNC machine is, we'll break down the different types for you. These impressive machines are designed to manufacture a wide variety of items, leading to several commonly used types of CNC machines.


It's important to understand that these are not your average machines. They require the expertise of trained professionals to produce high-quality commercial products. All of the following machines use G-code, the programming language that CNC machines understand. Each type of CNC machine is tailored to a specific purpose.

CNC Automatic Production Line

CNC Milling Machine


One of the most common types of CNC machines, a CNC mill uses computer controls to cut various materials. These mills interpret specific programs of numbers and letters to move the spindle in different ways.


Many mills use G-code, a standardized programming language recognized by most CNC machines. A CNC mill can perform a wide range of functions, including face milling, shoulder milling, tapping, drilling, and turning. Most CNC mills come in three to six-axis configurations.


Compared to other tools, a CNC mill is quite large and can be quite costly.


CNC Lathe


A CNC lathe is a machine that cuts workpieces while they are rotated, using various tools to make precise cuts quickly.


These machines offer significantly greater precision compared to manual lathes. They typically have fewer axes than CNC milling machines, making them smaller and more compact.


CNC lathes come with controls similar to those of CNC mills and can interpret both G-code and other proprietary programming languages.


What Is a CNC Router


A CNC router is a machine similar to a handheld router, used for cutting various materials. This type of CNC machine can cut steel, wood, aluminum, composites, plastic, and foam.


A CNC router is similar to a CNC mill, using computer numerical control to route tool paths that enable its operation. CNC routers reduce waste and increase productivity by producing items much faster than other machines.


Most routers can operate on materials in all three dimensions, making them ideal for smaller projects, prototype models, and complex designs. You can find routers with three, four, five, and six-axis configurations.


CNC Plasma Cutter


Plasma cutting involves using a plasma torch to cut materials, primarily heavy metals like steel.


A CNC plasma cutter operates by blowing gas at high speed through a nozzle while an electrical arc forms through the gas to the surface being cut. This process converts some of the gas into plasma, with temperatures ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 degrees. The plasma is hot enough to melt the material, and it blows away the molten metal from the cut site.


In terms of shape and size, CNC plasma cutters are very similar to CNC routers. However, these machines are designed to work only with two-dimensional shapes.


CNC Electric Discharge Machine


Electric discharge machining, or EDM, creates precise shapes within materials using electrical discharges or sparks.


In this process, material is removed from a workpiece through recurring electrical discharges between two electrodes. These electrodes are immersed in a dielectric fluid, which typically receives an electric voltage. The material is positioned between the electrodes, and the machine calculates the necessary electrical discharge for each electrode.


CNC Laser Cutter


Finally, there are CNC laser cutters.


These machines, similar to CNC plasma machines, primarily use lasers for cutting and are highly effective with metals, plastic, or hardwood. The intensity of the laser can be adjusted depending on the material's density and strength.

CNC Automatic Production Line

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