Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machinery is growing more popular, and it’s easy to see why. This high-tech manufacturing method removes many of the barriers that prevent designers from creating the products of their dreams. One of the greatest advantages of using CNC machinery is that you can build very complex components with a high degree of accuracy that simply isn’t possible using conventional methods of the past.
Whether you’re looking to manufacture the most consistent parts or you have an idea for a complex and innovative new product, you should strongly consider using CNC machinery for your next project.
The Role of CNC Machinery in Manufacturing
A CNC machine uses specialized software to control cutting tools or other manufacturing instruments. To program the machine, a programmer or skilled engineer uploads a digital model of the component or product from a computer-aided design (CAD) system. Then, using a CNC coding language called G-Code, the programmer gives the machine detailed manufacturing instructions such as:
- Where to cut or perform certain actions;
- How fast to perform each action;
- Which parts of the machinery must coordinate to perform a task;
- The rate at which raw materials get fed into the machine or work station;
- And more.
This differs from conventional machinery in that the entire process is programmed on a computer in advance and performed remotely by sophisticated machines.
By comparison, conventional machinery is usually performed by a team of engineers or operators who directly oversee individual machines that perform specific tasks in stages. For example, a part may go through a mill, grinder, and lathe, each of which is operated by different specialists. It’s a much more time-consuming and labor-intensive process. This is one of the main reasons why CNC machinery is playing a greater role in modern manufacturing. CNC machinery is a sleek, elegant solution to the most complex engineering and manufacturing challenges.
5 Major Advantages of Using CNC Machinery
One of the main reasons why CNC machinery is so popular is because it enables product designers to create more complex components. These machines are especially useful for manufacturing parts with angles that are difficult to measure and cut manually. But there are many other advantages of using CNC machinery in the modern manufacturing industry, such as:
#1: Eliminating Human Error and Inconsistencies
When you make a part or product by-hand or using conventional methods, you can’t achieve the same degree of consistency and accuracy as you can using CNC machinery. CNC machines use design software, detailed model references, and fine-tuned precision tools to produce and replicate multiple parts that are virtually identical (with an average variation of less than 0.020mm—sometimes as little as 0.003mm). Even the most advanced conventional machines can’t duplicate these results.
This means that you’ll get an extremely uniform end product. In industries where high uniformity matters (such as the automotive, aerospace, dentistry, and medical industries), this is a major advantage. It’s also a must-have for companies building complex machines or electronics that require different parts to fit together perfectly. Any slight variation in size, shape, or texture could cause the final product to malfunction. With CNC machinery, you can make almost any object and replicate it over and over—even if it’s incredibly complex and detailed.
#2: Speeding Up the Manufacturing Process
Unlike manual manufacturing or conventional machinery, which requires an engineer to operate or supervise the process, CNC machinery is a more hands-off method. Most CNC machines operate automatically without any direct input or control from engineers. The machine is ready to go as soon as it receives its instructions from the computer and the manufacturer supplies the raw materials. This means that you can fabricate parts much faster, as there’s no manual labor or excessive downtime required. Some machines can even operate 24/7.
#3: Using Fewer Resources
One of the advantages of using CNC machinery is that you’ll maximize resources at every stage of the product development process. In the early stages, you only need a skilled engineer or programmer to create a digital model of the design and program the machine. When it’s time to manufacture the product, the CNC machine is largely self-sufficient (but may be monitored by an operator). It can also be programmed to reduce waste and only use as much raw material as absolutely necessary.
#4: Reducing Manufacturing Costs Over Time
Using fewer resources and labor also leads to cost savings. When you conserve your resources, you can either reinvest what you saved into manufacturing more parts or you can reduce the retail price of your end product to gain a competitive advantage and attract customers. And, when you outsource your product development to a full-service CNC machinery provider, you’ll also save on overhead costs. The manufacturer is responsible for purchasing software licenses and the machinery, repairing or replacing machines and cutting tools, and hiring staff to oversee the process. You’ll only pay for the final results.
#5: Scaling Up Production
One final advantage of using CNC machinery is that it gives you more manufacturing options. You can start with a limited run of high-quality components. Later, if the demand for your product is high or you need to quickly scale up to corner the market, it’s very easy to fabricate more parts using a CNC machine. Moreover, the quality and consistency of your products remain exactly the same whether you’re building just a few parts or thousands. You can decide exactly how many parts you need at any given moment and reduce excess inventory.
It’s also very easy to make a part again, even years after you first manufactured it. As long as you have the design stored securely in the CNC software, you can return to it as often as you’d like.
With so many advantages of using CNC machinery in manufacturing, it’s an option that every product designer and business owner should seriously consider.
Should You Use CNC Machinery?
For most projects, the advantages of using CNC machinery are clear. If you’re looking for a manufacturing method that can deliver top quality products quickly with a high degree of accuracy and precision, CNC machinery is the obvious choice. It’s efficient, reliable, and cost-effective.
It’s also the ideal choice for industries that demand consistent parts or products that must be completed by a strict deadline. For example, some industries that almost exclusively use CNC machinery for manufacturing are:
- Dental and medical device companies;
- Telecommunications and oceanography;
- The military and other government organizations;
- Complex electronics manufacturers (for products like cell phones or computers);
- And many more.
However, while there are many advantages of using CNC machinery, it isn’t necessarily the right choice for every project. This method can be more expensive than other manufacturing options, depending on how complex your product is or how many parts you need to build. For instance, if you only need to manufacture a dozen simple universal parts, then advanced CNC machinery may be excessive. Rapid casting, 3D printing, and other small scale manufacturing methods are often better alternatives in this case.
To decide whether CNC machinery is right for your project, you should get in touch with an experienced team of manufacturing engineers who will walk you through the pros and cons of this system. They will take into consideration your manufacturing budget, the complexity of the part or product you want to make, how many units you need, and how fast you’d like them built. With this custom, holistic approach, you’ll get the most out of the manufacturing process.
PRL’s engineers have dozens of manufacturing options available to help you solve any challenge facing your product: CNC machining, custom tooling, 3D printing, thermoplastic molding, reverse engineering, and more. No matter what stage your product is currently at, we can create it and optimize it for manufacturing.