When you have a project too small, too precise or too important to trust to ordinary human hands with ordinary human limitations, it might be time for computer numerical control (CNC) precision machining. This process involves tools precisely following instructions coded on a computer or digital storage device to create something to the exact specifications of the programmer.
A Brief History of CNC Machines
The first computer numerical control machine was used in the 1940s, which is really impressive since computers didn’t really exist yet. The CNC machines of this era were just regular machines that had been modified to follow points on punched tape using control motors. The first true CNC mill was built at MIT in 1952, and the principle was the same as a modern machine, with a moving table and a spindle driven by motors, all controlled precisely by a computer. As time has gone on, both the machines and the computers have become more sophisticated, but the theory has remained the same.
What CNC Machines are Used for Today
Modern manufacturing requires CNC precision machining. A CNC mill can provide the kind of precision cuts and holes that are necessary to build electronics, furniture, clothing, auto parts and just about anything else that can be built. It is especially effective in building tiny parts that humans might struggle to fabricate, such as microchips. In addition to the mill, other CNC components can include lathes, plasma cutters, routers, embroidery machines, grinders, welders and other tools. With an arsenal like this, there is very little that can’t be fabricated by CNC precision machining.
The Future of CNC Machines
The future may already be here, with the creation of the 3D printer. This is the ultimate CNC machine, in which a computer basically gives a machine a 3D blueprint and the machine proceeds to create it from whatever material it is loaded with. It is foreseeable that there will be a time when the fabrication process is automated from beginning to end. Perhaps a person has an idea for a new product and they purchase a CNC 3D printer. The printer then produces whatever other machines are needed to manufacture the product. Soon a full assembly line is running, and all the business owner needs to do is keep the raw material supplied and keep shipping out the finished product.