What is CNC Engineering, and How Will It Benefit Your Production Process? 12 Apr 2022
CNC engineering is an incredibly accurate and versatile way to get identical results time after time. Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines are used in industries from electronics to transportation, but they benefit any production process where you need ultimate precision. We’ve taken a closer look at CNC engineering and prototyping and the benefits for your production process.
What is CNC engineering, and how does it work?
CNC engineering replaces manually operated tools with computer-operated machines. These can reproduce your designs time and time again with minimal variations.
CutLaserCut has 2 CNC machines, a large Biesse for work up to 3000x1500x100mm and a smaller tabletop CNC for very precise work on materials up to 350x320mm.
Like most CNC machining, our CNC machines use rotating tools to remove excess material from sheets and blocks. This is CNC Milling or Routing. Where the material is mounted on a flat bed and the cutting tools are programmed to move in X,Y and Z axes (plural of axis) over and through the material to cut it very precisely.
CutLaserCut can also remove material from the sheet without cutting all the way through. This is called pocketing or routing. Sometimes it is better to shape the finished piece in this way from a single piece of CNC material (MDF, plywood, foam, acrylic etc) than to build the piece up in layers of thinner material. Which is also an option.
Our large Biesse CNC also has drag and oscillating knives that are great on certain materials, including foam and thin vinyls. The knives remove almost no material from the cut, even less than our lasers.
Whereas the rotating tools are anything from 2-12mm. Because these cuts effect the size of the finished piece, we need to account for this when setting up your drawing and to ‘offset’ the line to either one side or the other so your finished piece is the size you need it to be. We aim at 6mm as a standard tooling for most materials, as this is a good balance of the various factors.
There are also specialist edge finishes we can add, such as chamfers at various angles including 45° / 60° and roundovers. If you need a specialist edge finish we can obtain the tooling to match this exactly.
Other CNC processes, not currently offered by CutLaserCut, include:
- Turning: Some CNC tools use a rotating chuck to hold the material while the desired shape is cut using stationary tools. This process is similar to using a lathe. We can offer this on one of our specialist lasers, but not currently our CNCs.
- 5 axis, the CNC tool head can be positioned to cut materials from the sides and even underneath. Useful for very complex shapes we’d otherwise need to fabricate
- EDM: In more advanced processes, an electrical discharge is used to create the shape.
Our CNC machine can cut vinyl, neoprene and products that can’t be laser cut. CNC engineering is also used on stainless steel, aluminum, brass and other metals when producing mass-produced parts for industry. CutLaserCut offers some metal cutting in-house and uses a trusted partner for other metal work.
The CNC engineering process is pretty simple. First, we’ll take your CAD drawing and programme it into a format the CNC machine understands. This programming can take some time, but once programmed, we can recreate the design again and again, so CNC engineering is very well suited to production runs.
The relative speed of the process makes it ideal for CNC prototyping when you need a sample quickly and efficiently. There are no special dies or other tooling to be cut before your product can be made. CutLaserCut offers a dedicated prototyping service (embed this link: https://cutlasercut.com/getting-started/prototyping-and-production/)
The benefits of CNC engineering for your production process
CNC engineering has real benefits for your production process if you’re looking for improved accuracy, greater efficiency, and cost savings.
Consistent product quality
The CNC process is far more precise than using manually controlled machines. As a result, you can guarantee that you’ll achieve the same results repeatedly without error.
Increased speed and efficiency
Using computers to control the machines means the entire production process is automated. As a result, using CNC processes increases speed, efficiency and quality in the production process. And because machines don’t need to take breaks, you can keep manufacturing for longer.
Produce complex shapes
CNC engineering is the intelligent choice if you need to create complex shapes and designs. Unfortunately, manual machines and methods are often incapable of matching the versatility of the CNC process.
CNC machines are packed with safety features, unlike manual lathes, drills, and punches. Only one operator is required, working behind enclosures. Ensuring higher safety standards in the workplace.
CNC engineering is so accurate that it reduces waste and eliminates errors, thus lowering production costs. And because one skilled worker can operate several machines, CNC cutting can significantly reduce your overheads. In addition, increased speed and precision also increase your bottom line, with no compromise on product quality.
CNC engineering: the bottom line
It’s evident that there are plenty of benefits to using CNC engineering in the production process. Although it can be more costly for smaller production quantities because of the programming involved, it’s a cost-effective choice for mass production.
It also makes sense to choose CNC engineering if precision and consistency are critical for your product. The use of computers greatly minimises any potential for human error, producing high-quality items that are accurate to within a few microns.