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CNC Machining

Computerized Numerical Control Methods

CNC machining starts with a piece of metal called a billet - essentially a lump of metal. The billet could have been cast, forged, or rolled.

It is put into a fairly standard machine tool, that has had position sensing and motors on the control knobs installed.

What's wrong with CNC machining?

Not much - although for some things forging may be better.

Many machinists think that CNC machining wastes metal, and it's difficult to argue with that in some respects. What's left is metal shavings, which are fairly value-less in resale (even for scrap). In today's steel-starved markets, that is significant. Forging uses most of the metal, by contrast. A bit of metal can seep into cracks between the tool and die.

CNC machines are complex -  full of servo-mechanisms and measuring technology that can measure to 0.005mm (0.0001") while covered in oil. According to manufacturers, a CNC machine has a minimum of 6 motors, meaning that operating costs can be high.

The advantages are too great to ignore

The truth is, though, that CNC offers a world of advantages over forging.

It's fast, and the control is a wonderful thing on multiple -run projects. Once your computer is programmed, CNC can make a perfect run of cuts and shapes without much of a chance of failure. If you only plan to build a small number of items, CNC is just the thing for parts with a complicated shape

A book I recommend to anyone interested in CNC machining is Machining And CNC Technology. This book is a student textbook, and it's expensive, but it comes with a CD-Rom as well as a dense, well written text.

It's  the first text written to fully integrate basic machine tool and CNC concepts throughout. Beginning in the first chapter, the differences between manually-operated and CNC equipment are shown and compared. The text is written for introductory courses, and does not assume previous machining background on the part of readers. Part I discusses the basics of today's integrated manufacturing world. In Part II students learn to safely set up and run manually operated equipment, always with the goal of transferring their skills to CNC systems. This part covers setups, safe operation, faultless program tryout and program writing, both with command codes and using CAM. CAD/CAM exercises are provided on CD-ROM, using the Mastercam® software program (student version). Finally, Part IV focuses on the future, highlighting technologies that have changed, and will continue to change, our manufacturing world.

An Introduction to CNC Machining and Programming is a less expensive, but still informative book. This unusually practical introduction to numerical control technology fully explains the most recent developments in machining and programming. Logically organized, CNC Machining and Programming begins with a review of basic concepts and principles and moves on to tooling, work-holding, machine setting, speeds and feeds, and part programming before concluding with a discussion of advanced techniques. Both beginning and advanced readers will find a wealth of new information in this complete overview of CNC.

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