CNC milling is an industrial process that produces a number of the products modern society relies on. From power plant components and auto parts to decorative pieces and jewelry, the products of this process are all around. Yet, many do not know what it is or how it works. Here is a basic overview of CNC milling and its uses.
Milling is an old term that is often associated with the production of lumber. The term encompasses any process where a raw material (i.e. wood, metal, stone, plastic) is fed into a machine and rotary cutters and lathes shape the piece to a predetermined form. CNC stands for computer numerical control. CNC milling links the cutting and shaping components of the machine to a computer that can precisely control the tools.
History of CNC Milling
After World War II, automation in manufacturing took off. Before the advent of computers, many industries experimented with numerical control using punch cards to set coordinates along a milling machine’s axes. Gradually, numerical control evolved into computerized numerical control as the processing power of computers improved. CNC milling technology was largely supported by the Department of Defense for use in aerospace manufacturing. After proving viable in the manufacture of planes, the technology filtered into a number of other manufacturing fields.
Today, computers and CNC milling equipment continue to grow together in sophistication. Industrial programmers can now create 3D models of the finished product and tweak it on a screen before ever producing a single unit. Modern equipment can accurately shape materials to within a thousandth of a millimeter. This means that CNC milling is no longer confined to large items. It is used in an ever-expanding variety of industries and can be applied to smaller items like gun parts and power tools.
Though often overlooked, CNC milling is essential to many industrial processes that make modern life possible.