Computer numerical control (CNC) machining describes a set of material removal manufacturing techniques that use computer-guided tools to shape raw materials. Examples include CNC milling, which uses multi-axis with cutting tools to achieve desired part geometries, and an array of specialized tooling to create a variety of machined features (i.e. drilling, reaming, boring, and tapping).
Compared to traditional machining, CNC machining is both more efficient and more accurate, allowing manufacturers to create higher quality parts in less time. The process also allows for unparalleled precision, which is ideal for industries such as defense, medical, and electronics. Precision CNC milling accommodates the most exacting product specifications, consistently achieving tolerances as tight as ± 0.001 inch or better.
Types of CNC Precision Machining
CNC machining encompasses many specific processes, each with a specialized purpose:
CNC milling and turning are the most common processes, but a combination of these other machining techniques may be required to shape certain components. A skilled manufacturer will work with you to develop the most efficient and cost-effective machining plan for your project.
CNC Machining Advantages & Materials
The advantages of CNC machining extend to many diverse components, including both metal and nonmetal parts.
Benefits of CNC Machining
Here are the main advantages of precision CNC machining:
- Higher precision: Precision CNC machining can achieve tolerances of ± 0.0001 inch and better, which would be extremely difficult and costly to achieve with conventional processes.
- Longer product lifespan: Precision components fit better in their applications, reducing wear on the part itself and surrounding equipment. Thus, precision parts can significantly extend the working life of a product.
- Increased safety: CNC machining automates repetitive and labor-intensive processes, significantly reducing lead times while also limiting the risk of human error or injury.
- Cost-effectiveness: CNC machining is extremely cost-effective. Precision machining reduces material waste, labor costs, and rejection rates, resulting in a more affordable product. CNC machining offers excellent value because it can produce high volumes of top-quality parts across an array of applications.
CNC Machining Materials
CNC materials extend across all metals, from non-ferrous types of metal (such as aluminum, copper, brass, and bronze) and ferrous types (i.e. carbon steel, stainless steel, alloy steels), as well as non-metallic materials like plastics. The ideal material depends on the application requirements, including the environment in which the parts will be used as well as the required precision. Some common materials include:
- Stainless steel: Stainless steel is extremely versatile, known for its strength and corrosion resistance. Different grades of stainless steel offer varying levels of machinability.
- Carbon steel: Carbon steel is a hard, strong metal made primarily of carbon and steel. Carbon steel is recyclable and affordable, but they are more prone to corrosion and wear.
- Alloy steel: Alloy steel includes a wide range of steels that contain various alloy contents that influence their mechanical properties. Alloy steel is lighter than carbon steel and just as strong. These metals typically offer better resistance to temperature and environmental exposure.
- Aluminum: Aluminum is valued for its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, which makes it a good choice for weight-sensitive applications.
- Brass: Although used less often than aluminum or steel, brass is also a versatile material, offering a low coefficient of friction and high resistance to wear and corrosion.
- Bronze: Bronze is another material known for low friction and good corrosion resistance. Like brass, it is an alloy of copper, although it contains tin rather than zinc.
- Copper: Copper gives bronze and brass their color and corrosion resistance. Unalloyed copper is most valued for its thermal and electrical conductivity, but it also has natural antimicrobial properties that make it useful for the medical industry.
- Plastics: Many plastics are machinable, including ABS, PVC, PEEK, and acetal. Depending on their composition, plastics can have comparable strength to replace metal in certain applications. Other favorable properties include cost, dimensional stability, and temperature and wear resistance.
The team at Solutions Manufacturing, Inc. can help you identify the right materials for your CNC machining project.
Applications of Precision CNC Machining
Precision CNC machining can be used in practically any application that calls for parts with tight tolerances and high repeatability. This includes everything from single-unit prototyping jobs to high-volume production runs. CNC machining is also useful for creating precision tools, dies, and fixtures to be used with other manufacturing techniques.
CNC machining is useful in any industry that requires custom components.
- Electronics & Telecommunications: Precision CNC is ideal for the tiny, precise parts used in circuit boards and fiberoptic applications. These include heatsinks, microwave components, connectors, couplers, and adapters. At Solutions Manufacturing, we can also craft customized chassis, housings, and covers for electronic devices.
- Metal Fabrication: Manufacturers that work with metal parts often find CNC secondary processing necessary for refining complex geometries and improving tolerances.
- Aerospace: Aerospace companies rely on CNC machining for long-lasting panels, instrument bezels, and flight deck enclosures. Lightweight materials like aluminum are highly machinable and ideal for these applications.
- Power Generation: The precision and complex shapes required for amplifier components in power generation applications make them excellent candidates for precision CNC methods. Solutions Manufacturing can create both air- and water-cooled components.
- Medical: Medical devices must be durable, easily sanitized (or disposable), and precise. CNC machining is ideal for components used in imaging and surgical equipment, as well as the high-volume production of surgical tools.
- Construction & Agriculture: Precision bushings, bearings, shafts, and other machined parts ensure reliable performance across construction and agricultural applications.
- Marine: Pleasure craft such as yachts and ski boats require custom machined components for both aesthetic and functional features. Precision machining with corrosion-resistant materials ensures these parts can withstand heavy wear at sea.
- Military & Defense: Military and defense applications have some of the most stringent precision requirements. We manufacture precision components for radio, munitions, and vehicle applications.
- Industrial Food Processing: Food processing applications are similar to medical ones in that they require easily sanitized components such as plastics and stainless steel. CNC machining makes it easy to craft corrosion-resistant components for conveyers and specialized equipment that come into contact with food.
- Hydraulics: Hydraulic components must fit precisely to withstand pressure and prevent premature wear. Our machined hydraulic blocks and valve bodies offer the exact fit needed for lasting performance.
Whether or not your application is listed here, the expert team at Solutions Manufacturing, Inc. can advise you on the most appropriate manufacturing technique for your project.
CNC Machining at Solutions Manufacturing, Inc.
CNC machining is one of the most versatile techniques available in modern manufacturing, offering unmatched precision, efficiency, and value. At Solutions Manufacturing, we do more than just machine workpieces—we offer value-added finishing services so that we can deliver parts ready for assembly. As an ISO 9001:2015 manufacturer, we use the latest precision CNC milling and turning equipment to produce machined components to our customers’ specifications.