What Is A CNC Machine?

CNC Machining

What is CNC? If you find yourself asking this question, you are mirroring the position of a CNC machine: information remains opaque to the machine until it is presented in a useful way so that it can be decoded. What is a CNC machine, what does CNC stand for and what is a CNC machine used for? Three very common questions! So, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you understand what a CNC machine is, the various ways in which it can be used, and how we at Birmingham Specialities can help you and your business profit from this incredible technology.

CNC Machine Definition

CNC machines have developed to become some of the most indispensable programmable machines in the manufacturing process for countless industries. CNC machine programming works on the principle of computer numerical control to independently perform a wide range of machining processes. This technology can produce components and parts for firms and industries in ways that ensure repeat precision and accuracy.

Types Of CNC Machine

CNC machines encompass 3D printers, machining robots, routers, grinders, drills, routers, mills and turning machines. At Birmingham Specialities, we have milling and turning CNC machines, which are two of the most common and useful machining technologies.

What Is A CNC Turning Machine?

CNC turning machines work in the opposite way to conventional drills. A stock of material is spun against a stationary drill or cutter to remove chips of material in a circular fluid motion.
Lathes, which are machining tools that are used for shaping materials, such as metal and wood, are particularly handy when it comes to producing parts that have geometrical symmetry around some axis.

What Is A CNC Milling Machine?

CNC milling machines also work on the principle of rotation. Rotary cutting tools are used to remove material from its stock.. The CNC machine feeds the stock material to the CNC cutting tool in the same direction as the CNC cutting tool’s rotation (in manual milling, the machine the workpiece is fed in the opposite direction).

There are two key types of CNC milling processes:

  • Face milling – this cuts flat and shallow surfaces or cavities into a material, usually at a perpendicular angle and is placed face down towards the top of the workpiece. Removing some of its material.
  • Peripheral milling – this cuts deeper cavities into a material and is placed parallel to the workpiece. In other words, the cutter is positioned so that the sides are machined away. the workpiece.

A material will usually be roughly machined to form the part’s approximate shape, and then be machined at slower feed rates and shallower cut depths to acquire its more precise specifications and dimensions.

All of this works without the need for constant attention from a human operator, with tools being run automatically using CNC. This leads to substantial gains in productivity and efficiency.

Digital Design

The CNC machine needs to know what exactly it has to produce, so the first part of the machining process involves computer-designing a model of the part. This can be a 2D-vector or 3D-solid part computer-aided design (CAD).

At this stage of the process, the properties of the material being machined are studied and analysed for the possibilities and restrictions that these might offer for the machined part. In general, materials need to be adequately resistant to temperature and various chemicals, have a certain level of hardness, tensile strength and shear strength to withstand the rigours of the production process.

At Birmingham Specialities, we are market-leading precision engineers and metal manufacturers, who are able to machine CNC components from a wide array of metals and plastics, including:

  • Mild steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Copper
  • Composite
  • Polymer

At Birmingham Specialities, our models can be created in-house, since we have access to sophisticated computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and design programmes, such as SolidWorks and AutoCAD. This allows us to produce effective model designs and deliver them to our CAM team even more efficiently.

The CAM Stage

CAM software is then used to verify and prepare the completed model for actual production. This software configures the CNC machine’s parameters in accordance with the model’s geometry and composition.

This means setting things like the machine’s axes, “back off” techniques, coolant flow, feed rate (how fast the workpiece is fed towards the machine tool, in inches/minute), cutting speed (in surface feet/minute).

The CAM stage also determines the nesting of the product, which refers to the orientation and placement of parts relative to raw material.
It also encodes all of this information and instructions to the machine in the form of M code and G code. M code, otherwise known as miscellaneous code, dictates the secondary functions of the

CNC machine, which include directing the motion of the machine cover before and after production. G code, otherwise known as geometric code, dictates the position, movement and speed of the cutting heads, controlling when, where, and how the CNC machine tools turn on or off and travel across the workpiece.

With the CAD or CAM stages complete, the CNC machine is in a position to decode all the information and operate.

Benefits Of CNC Machining

There is a wealth of benefits of CNC machining, which are detailed below.

Versatile And Customisable

The process can be used to produce parts and tools in a variety of different shapes and sizes for all sorts of industries. These include parts for automotive, medical, and rail sectors.

Small And Large Scale Production

CNC machines can produce a one-off part, a prototype, or larger volumes of the same part owing to the repeatable nature of a digital CAD design.

Faster Run Time

CNC machining has a faster run time than manual manufacturing with less operator attention required and no need for data to be manually punched or fed into the system and interpreted.

Greater Vision

At the design stage, it is possible to predict how a part will look, feel and behave, without a tangible prototype.

More Precise

CNC machined components are produced so as to achieve an incredibly high degree of accuracy, down to thousands of an inch ( or microns with metric measurement).

Still Involves People

Just because the machines themselves are automatic doesn’t mean that people aren’t involved in CNC machining. The advanced kind of machinery involved necessitates suitably qualified individuals at every step of the process. CNC designers need to be well-versed in CAD and CAM software and are required for the initial construction of models. CNC programmers write the programs to automate production, and CNC operators ensure the smooth running of the actual machine on the factory or manufacturing floor.

How Can Birmingham Specialities Help?

This is where we come into play. We have a talented and passionate workforce who boast decades of experience in CNC machining, design and operation. We know how to position specialised equipment to cater for larger and heavier parts, how to minimise waste, how to avoid stress-related distortions or abnormalities, and most importantly, how to rectify problems quickly and efficiently.

This gives our clients the confidence that they will consistently receive a high quality end product, which is fit for purpose in the sorts of secondary manufacturing desired.

We hope you found this guide useful and that your burning question of ‘what is a CNC machine?’ has been answered. However, if you would like to find out more information or need further advice, please feel free to contact us by calling 01213565026 or emailing

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