Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines are machine tools that are operated by abstractly programmed commands, as opposed to machine tools that are run manually through levers and hand wheels, or automated through cams.
CNC machines have a long history. The first CNC machine was built in the 1940s and 1950s. However, further advancements in subsequent decades resulted in CNC machine tools operated with analog and digital computers – and these have revolutionized machining processes.
Today, in a modern CNC machine, component design is extremely automated through the use of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and computer aided design (CAD) programs. These programs are loaded into the CNC machines and they create a computer file with commands needed to operate a particular machine. Once the computer files and commands are loaded onto the machine, set and trialled, the CNC machine will continue to turn out parts under the occasional supervision of an operator.
Modern CNC machines combine several tools into a single “cell” because any particular component may need a wide range of different saws, tools, drills, etc, to be used. In some cases, different machines are used with an external controller that moves the component from one machine to the next. This controller can be a human or robotic operator. In either case, the complex series of steps needed to produce any part is highly automated, and the CNC machine produces a part that matches the original CAD design.
CNC machines are electronically controlled through a computer menu style interface. The program may be modified if necessary. The program may be displayed on the machine, and a simulated view of the process can also be displayed.
On any CNC lathe, the turret holds the tools and indexes them as necessary. In order to ensure a safe working environment and meet occupational health and safety standards, CNC machines are often completely enclosed.
CNC lathes or CNC turning centres are increasingly replacing older lathers due to their ease of setting and operation. Modern carbide tooling and modern machining processes can be used on CNC lathes. These days, it is possible to do advanced CNC machining on a lathe using a standard personal computer or laptop.
If you are looking for a CNC lathe, you need to choose a well proven CNC lathe model with a long track record in excellent performance. Factors to put into consideration when purchasing a CNC machine is your target production volume, the specific functions to be performed by the CNC machine, and of course, your budget.