CNC machining is nothing short of a gift for manufacturers, providing high-speed manufacturing with complete automation and ultra-high precision. The countless benefits of the CNC machining process have made it applicable in manufacturing industries in every sector.
This article will explore the vast applications of CNC machines and how it shapes various industries.
What is CNC Machining?
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. The CNC machining process is a manufacturing process that creates the final part by the removal of material using a cutting tool. There are many different types of CNC machines with numerous cutting tool options for different applications.
Applications of CNC Machine
For a good understanding of the applications of CNC machining, we will go through the various industries that use this technology and the different types of the production process within each industry.
The aerospace industry and CNC machining have developed hand in hand. In fact, the requirements of the aerospace industry have played an important role in the development of CNC machining processes. The aerospace industry constantly aims for sturdy materials for the construction of space equipment and other gadgets.
Most of this equipment focuses on factors like safety and quality control. Therefore, high-precision machining is a definite requirement. CNC machining fills out the checklist very well. Some of the equipment in aerospace that utilizes CNC technology are:
- Landing gear parts
- Radiofrequency Suppression Materials
- Electrical Connectors
The automotive industry is one of the biggest sectors for CNC machining. CNC machining offers its advantages in every stage of the automotive manufacturing process, from Research and Development (R&D) to large quantities production.
In addition, CNC machines like CNC milling machines and CNC lathes apply for a lot of different components, from large engine block parts to small gears and panels. These machines work on plastics as well as metals in automotive industries.
An automobile combustion engine alone uses tens of CNC machining processes. This includes turning large metal blocks (usually aluminum) into engine body, crafting cylinders and pistons, and various other parts that create the cylinder assembly in the engine block.
Here are some of the automotive components that use CNC machining:
- Engine parts
- Cylinder Blocks
- Dashboard panels
- Gas gauges
Marine industry relies on high quality craftsmanship since it creates water transportation that might travel all over the globe. The high scale manufacturing process for boats and other water transportation requires automation to fulfil the manufacturing deadlines and quality control. This is only possible with CNC machining.
CNC mills, CNC lathe, and electrical discharge machining, and other CNC processes create almost all the boat construction parts. This ranges from the hull, which is considered to be a boat’s skeleton, to interior trimmings. Here are the list of some of the components that CNC programs manufacture for the marine industry:
- Deck structures
- Hull structures
- Deck structures
- Trimmings and Joints
- Interior furnishings like:
- Kitchen Countertops
- Storage Cabinets
- Wraparound seatings
As in the case of the automotive industries, the electronics industry utilizes CNC machining in prototyping as well as the production stage. A major advantage that CNC machining offers in electronics is the ability to handle small-scale construction with high consistency.
A major example of CNC machining in electronics is the metal alloy casing of Apple products like the Macbook and the iPhone, which are made using a CNC milling machine and CNC routers. CNC applies not only to the exterior bodies but also to the internal components of consumer electronics products.
- Electronics Body
- Semiconductor manufacturing process
- Wafer plates
- Gas distribution channels
- Solder flex stencils
- Wafer carriers
- Heat sinks
While smartphones are also a part of electronics industries, their usage of CNC machines is so high that they require a special mention of their own. A majority of smartphone construction is done with CNC manufacturing.
For instance, even the touch sensitive glass panel screen of a phone is also made through CNC machining (called Glass milling machines). Glass in applications like smartphone screens require a specific surface finish. Only CNC machines have the capability to achieve this in the large quantities that are required.
Here are the smartphone parts that are made with CNC machines like CNC routers and CNC milling machines:
- Smartphone bodies (both metals and plastics)
- Smartphone cases
- Touch-sensitive glass
- Rear glass panels
- Aesthetic etching
- Supported Accessories
- Inside housing and fixtures
Military and Defense Industry
The requirements of the military and defense industry are similar to the aerospace industries. Instead of simple parts, these industries require complex machinery for the wide range of innovative materials and sophisticated equipment that they manufacture.
The applications of CNC machining in these sectors are quite vast, from intricate customized designs of weapon bodies to a missile’s internal components. Here are a few of the parts that are made by a CNC manufacturing process:
- Main rotor hubs
- Seat frames for land and air transportation
- Transmission parts
- Missile components
- Helicopter components
- Retainer rings
- Ammunition hoisting components
At first thought, it can seem surprising to know that CNC machinery is used in the healthcare sector. However, the applications of CNC machining in healthcare are quite extensive. CNC machining in healthcare is used for the manufacturing process of medical supplies and for rapid tooling to create dies for injection molding. The injection molding process then creates equipment like face masks.
High precision and extremely smooth surface finishes are other important requirements for healthcare industry tools. Many of these, such as bone screws and plates, go inside a patient body and remain there. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that the patients do not face discomfort.
While some plastic components can be crafted with injection molding, metal parts and any complex parts exclusively use CNC machining. Some of the parts that healthcare manufacturers craft with CNC machines are:
- Bone screws
- Bone plate
- Surgical Instruments
The energy industry is quite vast with subsectors such as the oil and gas industry. As a matter of fact, the energy industry is still in the growth stage with the rise of green energy and renewable energy resources. CNC is the supporting pillar for making tools and equipment for every energy sector.
For instance, in the case of wind turbines, precision CNC machining is needed to make the blades balanced enough to rotate with the wind. These blades, along with the bearings and other components, are crafted with CNC machines like face milling machines. For non-renewable energy resources like oil and gas, CNC machines make parts for pipelines and refineries.
Here are common applications of CNC machining for the energy industries:
- Turbine Blades
- Hydro Generators
- Generator housings
- Solar Panel frames
While a subsector of the healthcare industry, the vast custom parts of the dental industry have made this industry a major consumer on its own. This is why it utilizes many different CNC machining technology for a wide variety of parts.
Dental equipment such as prostheses requires very high precision requirements since they need to fit into the required space that has exact specifications. Some common CNC machines utilized by the dental sector are end mills and CNC drilling machines. Here is the dental equipment that CNC machining makes:
- Dental Prostheses
- Dental Cap
- Orthodontic Trays
- Telescope Crown
- Implant Abutment
- Implants Guide
- Screwed-in bar
- Inlay core
Niche manufacturing industries are not huge industries like the ones mentioned so far. However, they are small to medium-scale manufacturing facilities that are dependent on CNC machining for reliable parts.
CNC machining is the go-to method for making jewelry and etching and engraving it. Jewelry-making utilizes CNC machine tools like CNC milling machines, CNC lathe, CNC routers, and CNC laser engraving machines. A jewelry CNC machine not only helps in manufacturing and forming metal jewelry, but also in grinding and polishing works.
Some of the things that use CNC in the jewelry sector are:
- Casting models
- Marble faceting
- Jewelry polishing
CNC machining is not used directly to craft shoes. However, it is used to make metal molds that are used as dies to create the design seen on rubber soles. Engraving of the brand name and logo can also be done with the help of the CNC machine.
Furniture making utilizes CNC machines for all types of materials such as wood, glass, metal, plastic, and even upholstery. The range of CNC machines used for furniture making is vast, depending on the particular job required. For instance, dining table wooden legs can be designed with simple CNC lathes while metal cutting can be done with electrical discharge machining. Here are some of the things crafted by a CNC machine in furniture making:
- Dining table legs
- Chair legs
- Metal frames
- Glass cutting
Musical instruments require next-level craftsmanship and precision. This is because a slight deviation from the intended design can lead to significant changes in the musical harmony of the instrument, making it defective. For this purpose, CNC machines turn out to be the ideal choice. Here are a few of the things in musical instruments that require CNC machines:
- Custom parts for old instrument restoration
- Guitar necks
- Violin necks
- Wooden instrument bodies
- Turning knobs
- Fret slots
- Experimenting with new materials
While the use of CNC for semiconductors has been mentioned above in the applications pertaining to electronics and smartphones, the actual use of CNC in the industry is much more. Since semiconductors form the basis of modern industry, knowing the applications of cnc machining in this sector might be useful. Here are some of the products:
- High precision molds
- Wafer conductor processing units
- Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs)
- Heat Sink
CNC has completely changed the way tooling has developed. CNC technology paves way for custom-made dies and molds that can create any type and shape of products. Additionally, it has provided the opportunity for making tools for prototyping, leading to rapid prototyping and rapid tooling. Rapid prototyping provides the ability to create prototypes with an extremely fast turnaround.
The signage sector has evolved considerably in terms of available designs and usable materials. Some of the common materials that are popular in this industry are wood, plastic, aluminum, sheet metal, brass, acrylics, foam, engineering materials, and more. These materials have to be molded into a new shape for every new job based on the design.
A CNC machine makes this possible by the ability to turn any design into a finished product. Designers create CAD models for every signage, turn it into a CAM CNC program which then runs on the machine. This enables CNC machines to recreate any lettering styles, sizes, and fonts for signage.
Construction and Architecture
Before the construction of a large skyscraper or building complex, a scaled-down model of the complex is constructed. CNC machining helps in accomplishing this task. CNC machining also creates decor elements for architects and interior designers. The design elements and their features can be highly customized based on the particular tasks at hand.
The optical communication industry is the sector that makes instruments to comprehend and manipulate light waves for various purposes. The materials for this industry are primarily glass based, and quality control is required on a microscopic level. Due to the requirement for high precision, only CNC machining provides the necessary features for any optical communication project. Some of the applications of CNC machining in the optical sector are:
- All types of lenses
- Laser components
- Camera lenses
- Custom optical parts
Robotics and Automation
The robotics and automation sector has come a long way but is still considered in its early stages due to the endless possibilities in the area. CNC machining provides the methods to meet these possibilities by creating any type of parts that serve the purpose. Some of these parts are:
- Robotic arms
- End effectors
Research and Development
All manufacturing industries have a research and development sector that tests new technology, parts, and products. CNC machining is the primary method used in this sector for prototyping, which creates a fast model of the required part. CNC machining is also used to make dies and molds for the prototyping stage production of parts.
Agriculture is a huge industry that makes everything from small shovels to large-scale tractors, combines, and harvesters. CNC milling process is used for every agricultural tool in some way, regardless of scale. There are many different CNC machines used for cutting and drilling purposes.
Some of the common applications of CNC machining as an agricultural manufacturer are:
- Tractor components
- Irrigation system parts
- Manual tools
Food and Beverage
The food and beverage industries aren’t the first thought that comes to mind when thinking of CNC machining. However, these industries rely heavily on CNC in many different areas. While machines like CNC waterjet cutters work directly on food items for cutting, others are used for packing or creating cooking equipment. Some common applications are:
- Die casting
- Food processing machine tools
The metal fabrication industry is the provider of many other secondary industries. It relies on CNC processes like EDM cutting, laser cutting, waterjet cutting, and more to cut large sheets of metals. Other CNC programs aim to forge these metals into any shape desirable.
As is quite evident after reading the information provided above, the applications of CNC machining are quite vast. This technology is used directly or indirectly in almost every industry imaginable. In any given sector, the number of equipment that utilizes CNC or CNC-made parts is so high that it is not even possible to list them entirely in an article.
An important thing to note is that for any application, CNC technology provides its benefits only if quality CNC services are used. 3ERP is a leading CNC machining services provider in this regard, able to meet any manufacturing requirements along with tailored customizations as required.