CNC machining is a manufacturing process in which pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of factory tools and machinery. The process can be used to control a range of complex machinery, from grinders and lathes to mills and routers. With CNC machining, three-dimensional cutting tasks can be accomplished in a single set of prompts.

Short for “computer numerical control,” the CNC process runs in contrast to — and thereby supersedes — the limitations of manual control, where live operators are needed to prompt and guide the commands of machining tools via levers, buttons and wheels. To the onlooker, a CNC system might resemble a regular set of computer components, but the software programs and consoles employed in CNC machining distinguish it from all other forms of computation.

CNC Machining is Fully Automated

In today’s CNC protocols, the production of parts via pre-programmed software is mostly automated. The dimensions for a given part are set into place with computer-aided design (CAD) software and then converted into an actual finished product with computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software.

Any given work piece could necessitate a variety of machine tools, such as drills and cutters. In order to accommodate these needs, many of today’s machines combine several different functions into one cell. Alternately, an installation might consist of several machines and a set of robotic hands that transfer parts from one application to another, but with everything controlled by the same program. Regardless of the setup, the CNC process allows for consistency in parts production that would be difficult, if not impossible, to replicate manually.