The manufacturing industry relies heavily on CNC (computer numerical control) machines, including operations that once used engineer-operated equipment like routers, shaping machines, vertical millers and center lathes. The many CNC machine advantages mean operator-required equipment has in some cases been replaced entirely.
WHAT IS A CNC MACHINE?
A CNC machine is a machine that utilizes Computer Numerical Control over machine tools like lathes, routers, grinders or mills. Computer Numerical Control is different from typical PCs in the type of software used to control the machine, which is specially customized and programmed with G-Code — a specific CNC machine language that allows precise control of features like speed, location, coordination and feed rate. CNC machining is becoming increasingly popular as a way to fabricate metal parts as well as plastic parts, as it allows manufacturer to produce complex shapes that would be nearly impossible to create manually.
Here’s a look at the advantages of CNC over conventional machines, as well as a brief look at some of the disadvantages.
ADVANTAGES OF CNC
If you haven’t looked into how your metal parts are fabricated, you will want to find out if you are using CNC machining or not. There are a great many advantages to using CNC machines, so if your business has a manufacturer that is not using them, you may want to make a change or find out why. Of course, before you do that, you will need to know what the many advantages of CNC are. They include:
- No Need for Rest: CNC machines work around-the-clock and on weekends. They only stop working when they need maintenance or repair.
- Scalability: When you enter the design parameters and specifications into a CNC machine, it can execute huge quantities – we’re talking about thousands of repetitions. These machines never need rest and you get incredible scalability.
- More Capabilities: When used in tandem with advanced design software, CNC machines can create outputs that cannot be replicated by manual machines. Even the most gifted of engineers can’t do with conventional machines what advanced software can do with CNC machines.
- Limited Supervision: It often only takes one person to monitor the work of several CNC machines. Given that these machines to so autonomous, one person can watch the machines work efficiently for hours on end after they’ve been programmed. What you save on manpower can be passed along to customers, helping you achieve a competitive advantage.
- Uniformity: When you choose the advantages of CNC machines over conventional machines, your CNC outputs match exactly. Even the most talented engineers will produce components that vary slightly. Not so with CNC machines.
DISADVANTAGES OF CNC
With all of these advantages, the decision to use CNC would seem obvious. However, there is one disadvantage to using CNC machines, and it may overshadow the advantages:
- Expense: CNC machining does cost more than conventional machining techniques. As mentioned above, however, an investment in the advantages of CNC machining means cost savings over the long term.
If your company is on a very limited budget, you may have to opt for a manufacturer that does not use CNC machines and is more affordable. Keep in mind, though, that your future success will likely be highly dependent upon the quality of your product, so if you can find a way to absorb the cost of a CNC metal fabricator, it is usually in your best interest to do so.
IS A CNC MACHINE RIGHT FOR ME?
If speed, accuracy or precision in your metal fabricated parts are important to you, a CNC machine is right for you. If having your metal fabrication processes automated so you don’t have to worry about worker negligence, time off, or errors slowing down your operation, a CNC machine is right for you. If you need to make complex metal shapes for your business, especially three-dimensional shapes, a CNC machine is right for you. The only obvious situation where a CNC machine may not be right is if you are a very small operation that needs very simple metal shapes, where the CNC machine would not confer a huge advantage relative to the cost. For competitive industries, however, CNC machines are usually best.
At Summit Fairlawn Tool, we are your one-stop shop for full-service metal fabrication. We offer a wide range of capabilities including turret punching, manual welding, stamping, robotic welding, fabrication, tube bending, assembly and other value-added solutions.
Contact us today for more information on CNC vs. conventional machining. Make sure to ask for a free, no obligation estimate!