CNC Milling is a manufacturing process used to remove material from a workpiece to get a desired product. CNC milling machines accomplish this by various directional cuts on numerous axis. Milling machines are available in vertical and horizontal options. Both models are widely available and they offer alternative ways to machine a part.
How Do They Work?
All milling machines operate by revolving a cutting tool around and on top of a piece of raw material. They are capable of machining a wide range of materials, including plastics, wood, glass, and metal. The process of Milling starts with designing a 2D or 3D model on a CAD software. Afterwards, the design is exported to a CNC compatible format, and programmed in a CAM software.
Programming involves assigning all necessary operations such as speeds and feeds, tools, depth of cut and numerous other variables. Upon finishing the program it is then compiled into G-code. This code is then exported to the milling machine where can be executed.
Difference Between a Manual and a CNC Mill?
There are many differences between manual milling machines and CNC milling machines. First and foremost, CNC machines have numerous features that help automate the manufacturing process. Whereas manual milling machines come with limited features and require human interaction at every step.
The overall structure of both machines is also quite different. The z-axis on CNC machines moves the tool up and down, whereas the worktable on manual machines moves up and down. A two-axis linkage is present on manual machines, whereas a normal CNC machine can operate on 3, 4 and even 5 axis.
CNC machines have helped revolutionize manufacturing by allowing precise actions to be repeatable within fractions of an inch. However, depending on the complexity, set-up requirements and tolerances some parts may still be more efficiently run on a manual milling machine.
What Are CNC Milling Machines Good at Manufacturing?
CNC machines are capable of prototype and production work while holding a high degree of accuracy and repeatability. Due to the initial investment needed for programming and set-up, low volume quantities can be costly. However, CNC machines can produce parts at a much faster rate than manual machines. With recent advancements in technology, CNC machines are becoming more reliable and versatile in the work they can perform.
In general, CNC machines can manufacture a wide variety of parts. Their main limitation is based on their table size and spindle. Some machines are better equipped to handle stainless steel and steel while others may only be able to handle aluminum.