What is CNC technology, and how does it apply to electronic parts assembly?
Automation in manufacturing is the new norm as industries look to optimize output. But this process takes extensive research and preparedness to set up.
Among the fundamental tenets of computer-aided manufacturing is CNC machining which forms the core of our discussion today.
So without further ado, read our guide for more insights into this topic.
What is Computer Numerical Control (CNC)?
CNC represents an automated manufacturing process that precisely controls machine tools via Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) Software.
This system is handy in manufacturing various parts primarily made of metal and plastics.
Some of the CNC machine tools that use the technology to automate production successfully include the following:
- Lathe machine
Nonetheless, its use is not limited to machine tools, as you’re also likely to find CNC machining in electronic assembly and Electrical Discharge Machining applications. The other everyday use is in welding.
How Computer Numerical Control Works
A Worker is setting up a Lathe Machine.
CNC machining is a comprehensive process that involves several steps, as we’ll explain below:
First, the manufacturer creates a geometric code, primarily a custom computer program with instructions for the component under manufacturing.
The system also features a machine control unit responsible for storing this program.
Some systems also feature other programming codes called M-Codes that work with the geometric code in the CNC machine operations.
The geometric code controls aspects such as the machine’s motion under use.
In addition, the other programming codes help to control the operation of the tools doing the designated tasks of the system. Some of these controls include:
- Setting the feed rate
- Inputting the desired speed of the machine arms
- Setting up the positioning of the machine parts
Also crucial in the manufacturing program is computer-aided design (CAD).
It is primarily a sketch of what is the expected output.
So it is the basis of the manufacturing process whereby the manufacturer feeds it into the geometric code for decoding and execution.
Next, the manufacturer performs test runs on the system. When everything is okay, the final step is to input the raw materials to start manufacturing.
Why is Computer Numerical Control Important?
CNC Milling and Drilling.
It Reduces Production Costs
The setup could be pricey, but production becomes significantly cheap once everything is live and kicking.
- It lowers production costs due to the system’s overall efficiency and allows for scalability without incurring additional costs.
- The process has minimal waste, which is key to reducing manufacturing costs.
- There are limited human interventions in the production process. Hence, companies don’t have to go through the hectic of investing in expensive worker safety measures like insurance and safety gear.
Better Worker Safety
Automation is the core of CNC machining, which means there are limited human interactions with the production system.
This is imperative in guaranteeing worker safety.
Moreover, where necessary, a CNC machinist can control the system remotely, so there’s a limited chance of accidents.
Limited Human Error
The trials, simulations, and optimizations that go into electron beam machining operations mean there’s little room for error.
The system finenesses everything, ensuring the elimination of all possible defects.
The process also fastens production, which guarantees a high throughput rate.
Getting the intricate designs right is impossible with conventional manufacturing alternatives.
But with a numerical control machine, everything is a breeze. Even sophisticated designs like inputting contours are easy to create.
Boosted Operational Intelligence
CNC machining services can give any production plant an edge in all operations as it simply makes everything tick.
The machining operations are not limited to manufacturing; you can incorporate them into mainstream business operations.
So utilizing CNC machines brings wholesome changes to the entire production system.
After the manufacturer sets everything up, the production process has almost zero chance of failure.
Everything will be bliss if the machine operator is always on time for scheduled maintenance practice.
It means a lot for contract manufacturers as they can handle voluminous orders without fail.
CNC Machining Equipment and Components
Auto CNC Turning Robot.
Let us check out the two main categories of numerical control machining equipment and the various examples that fall under them.
Types of CNC Machining Support Software
The following three software are pertinent in CNC production, each playing a specific role.
Computer-aided design (CAD) software
As per their name, CAD software is helpful in the design of models for use in manufacturing the product.
They are the basis upon which the other CNC software creates programs by specifying what is expected in the output.
Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software
They rely on the product design by CAD software to create the program for use by the CNC machine.
Thus CAM is the machining program the system references when at work.
The qualified machinists operating a CNC system take a peripheral role when the CAM software is at work as it handles everything.
It is also essential for checking out the features of the finished product.
Computer-aided engineering (CAE) software
As per the name, this software for engineers assists in product development.
Its roles include assisting in the design, simulation, and modification of the design. Examples of CAE software include:
- Computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
- Finite element analysis (FEA)
- Multibody dynamics (MDB)
Types of CNC Machines and Machine Tools
We have three main types of machines and their respective tools:
CNC Drilling Equipment
They feature drill bits responsible for making cylindrical perforations on the materials under production. Several types of drill bits include:
- Screw machine drills
- Peck drills
- Spotting drills
CNC Milling Equipment
These feature multi-point cutting tools that are imperative in modifying the component under production to give it the desired shape.
The common CNC milling tools include the following:
- Chamfer mills
- Helical mills
CNC Turning Equipment
They are cardinal in the final finish processes of production. The mill turn machines are critical in other applications such as grooving, threading, and roughing.
Other CNC Machining and Tools Processes include:
- 3D Printing
- CNC Plasma Cutting
- CNC Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM)
- CNC Grinding
- CNC Welding
- CNC Waterjet Cutting
- CNC Laser Cutting
- CNC Punching
Computer Numerical Important Applications
A metalwork CNC milling machine.
The manufacture of airplanes is a delicate process in which the finesse of the final product is a core element.
Thus, CNC machining comes in handy as it is the only way to achieve such precision in production.
The technique is imperative in fabricating aluminum and nickel, cardinal in aerospace assembly.
Medical Equipment Manufacturing
Accuracy and precision of medical equipment are cardinal to their effectiveness in diagnosis and disease control.
This is why CNC manufacturing takes the core role in medical equipment assemblage.
The automotive industry is highly competitive, with manufacturers seeking the right balance between quality and volume.
Thus, CNC comes in handy during vehicle prototyping, research, and the actual connection of the parts.
The technology is also central to assembling gearboxes, dashboard panels, and gas gauges.
Electronics/ PCB Assembly
Electronics manufacturing giants have employed numerous CNC operating systems to boost production.
It underlines the significance of this process in the electronics industry, where accuracy is highly necessary.
Also, the mass production of microelectronics in different electronic parts depends on CNC technology.
These include semiconductors, Heat sinks, PCBs, and Electrical Insulations.
Oil, Gas Mining, and Marine Industry
Drilling rigs take exquisite accuracy; thus, the drillers fit the rigs with CNC-controlled bits to enhance precision.
Also, the mining industry relies on the efficiency of parts such as hydraulic components whose excellent performance depends on CNC.
It is also the technology used in designing parts for marine equipment to help keep the ships afloat.
Advancements in CNC Technology
A CNC Machine At Work.
Use of CNC With AI and IoT
It is one of the most remarkable developments in CNC technology. The integration with IoT has been imperative in improving machine interaction options.
Today, matters such as data collection and control of the tools are seamless, thanks to the application of AI in these processes.
Further, the interaction of these technologies has also boosted data collection, enabling manufacturers to make informed interventions.
Future of CNC Technology
CNC production will only get bigger as manufacturers find ways of optimizing production to improve the efficiency of the technology’s application.
Today, it is possible to manufacture a device all on the same machine.
This ease of production will improve throughput as manufacturers produce everything under one roof.
Also, the technology is gaining prominence in the chip industry, which is good news for electronics manufacturers.
Electronics assembly and quality will even get better in the future.
Possible Limitations to CNC Technology
Blue color Laser CNC cut of metal with light spark.
Loss of Jobs
Unemployment will rise if the technology growth continues in the coming years.
It eliminates the need for the massive human personnel formerly responsible for manufacturing.
The cost of setting up the CNC systems is also a key impediment to the technology rollout. Only large firms with a high capital return can afford to buy the systems, which creates manufacturing monopolies.
Setting up the programming codes is also a complex process that requires highly skilled personnel.
In their absence or if there’s an error in the programming, there is a high likelihood of system failure.
CNC manufacturing is the future, especially in the electronics industry, where the demand for parts is never-ending.
Although this technology comes with a huge premium price, especially in setting up the systems, it is a worthwhile investment.
It has proven to significantly harness the mass production of parts where precision is the bare minimum.
As time tallies, manufacturers will hopefully find a way of cutting the high initial setup costs to allow small industries to take up the technology.