How Do CNC Machines Work?

Computer numerical control (CNC) machines use software code to control production equipment and automate machining processes. Removing material through subtractive manufacturing, CNC machining generates components in an extremely accurate, efficient, and replicable way. But how does a CNC machine work? Learn more about the CNC machining process, the equipment involved, and its proper maintenance.

What Is CNC Machining?

Precision is vital in metal fabrication processes to ensure that even in large production runs, the end products are uniform and repeatable, fully match the intended design, and hold tight tolerances. Manufacturers can best achieve this by using computer software to automate and control production equipment. CNC machining cuts operation time and reduces errors while boosting output, revenue, and efficiency. It also decreases the amount of manual labor necessary to manage equipment, which equates to cost savings.

Using computer-aided design (CAD) software, manufacturers develop a 3D model of a part, including its required properties and dimensions. Running the model through computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software will evaluate the computerized design for errors. Once the model is ready, the software generates a CNC program of coordinates, operation parameters, material nesting, and other details of the component that the CNC equipment can then interpret and act on to machine parts. The written code is capable of controlling component movement, like adjustments to the cutting head or workpiece, as well as voltage and processing speed, including the equipment’s RPMs and the spindle speed.

Types of CNC Machines

So, what is a CNC machine and what can a CNC machine do? Manufacturers rely on numerous pieces of CNC equipment to automate a variety of fabrication processes. CNC machine process equipment includes:

  • Milling and turning machines
  • Electrical discharge machining (EDM) equipment
  • Laser, waterjet, plasma, and flame cutters
  • Press brakes

This machinery can swiftly carry out processes such as grinding, cutting, drilling, slotting, routing, milling, turning, and much more.

Benefits of CNC Machining

CNC machining is prized for its accuracy and speed. Decreasing the human labor factor in fabrication generates replicable parts faster and in greater quantities. Also, subtractive manufacturing processes like CNC machining are much more cost-effective for high-volume production runs of mechanical components than additive methods like 3D printing. Additive manufacturing typically utilizes plastics, and versatile CNC machining is applicable for manufacturing parts from a variety of heat- and stress-tolerant materials. CNC machines can even manage finishing and post-processing treatments to provide more comprehensive capabilities.

Preventive Maintenance Tips for CNC Machines

While CNC machines typically need less human involvement, they do require meticulous maintenance for optimal functionality over time. You can accomplish this by following basic and proactive maintenance checklists throughout the year.

Daily Maintenance

To properly maintain your CNC machine, you should check the following each day:

  • Hydraulic fluids and pressure: Maintain 4.5 MPA
  • Grease and chuck pressure
  • Lubrication levels
  • Door windows: Clean, as needed
  • Stainless steel covers: Clean off and lubricate with hydraulic oil
  • Chips: Clean out

Quarterly Maintenance

For every three months of operation, or 500 hours (whichever comes first), inspect:

  • Coolant tank filters: Clean or replace, as needed
  • Chip conveyor chain: Apply grease

Biannual Maintenance

At six months or 1,000 hours, examine the following for optimal preventative maintenance:

  • Hydraulic tank and cooling and lubrication units: Drain, clean, and refill each with the appropriate oil, lubricant, etc.
  • Coolant tank, radiator, and wipers: Clean all components, straighten the radiator fins, and replace the wipers if needed
  • Equipment leveling: Make adjustments as necessary
  • Line and suction filters: Replace at this time
  • Jaws and chuck: Thoroughly clean

Yearly Maintenance

Barring any incidents, you will likely only need to check the following once each year, or approximately every 2,000 hours:

  • Headstock and tailstock: Examine for taper
  • Spindle:Look for end and radial play
  • Turret: Check its inclination and parallelism
  • Chuck cylinder: Inspect for run-out
  • X- and Z-axis: Run a backlash program
  • X- and Z-axis gibs: Adjust, as needed

Taking these steps proactively rather than waiting for something to go wrong will help your CNC machines work as intended for full operational functionality and efficiency.

Choose Rubin Engineering & Sales for CNC Machine Services

Working with a reputable service company will allow you to focus on your business while dedicated experts assist with CNC machinery maintenance and repairs. Rubin Engineering & Sales LLC has three decades of experience servicing, repairing, and rebuilding machine tools of virtually all brands, types, and models. We specialize in breakdown service, emergency repairs, and obsolete or one-of-a-kind tooling, with capabilities for remanufacturing or refurbishing CNC machine components to OEM standards. We offer affordable, timely on-site service to companies large and small, as well as expedited domestic and international shipments for your convenience.

Contact us for more information on our maintenance and repair services for CNC machines, or request a quote today.

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