Types of CNC Machines You Need to Know
Computer numerical control machining is a broad topic, confusing most readers because of the variety of similar processes done by distinct CNC centers. Sometimes it may be difficult to understand why not use only one piece of machinery for each part being manufactured.
Read below about all existing types of CNC machines, their descriptions, and distinctive purposes, and learn why to utilize one or another CNC center for a specific component.
Milling CNC Machine
CNC mills are precise machines that operate by rotating cutting tools while removing material from a fixed workpiece. They are highly versatile and can produce slots, treads, shallow, flat surfaces, and other face-milled features. They can work with asymmetrical and complex designs.
Milling CNC machines can be either horizontal, not universal, but suitable for long workpieces, or vertical ones, having long and thin cutting tools intended for any shape cutting. Milling machines can be modified in many ways. For instance, some of them may have up to 12-axis versus regular 3-axis centers. Others may have automated pallet changers with robots.
Lathe/Turning CNC Machine
The most distinctive feature of lathe and turning machines (which are more advanced types of lathe) is that they rotate a workpiece during the machining operation. Their cutting tools are fed in a linear motion along with the rotating bar stock, shaping a material until the desired design is achieved. Such machines are perfect for symmetrical designs.
Lathe/Turning machines are presented with various models, some of which are 5-axis ones, while others have integrated milling, drilling, and tapping functions. As milling machines, lathe/turning centers are versatile and can be modified for any manufacturer’s needs.
Drilling CNC Machine
While being similar to milling machines, CNC drills move the cutting attachment in a vertical motion only. It is frequent that milling and drilling functions are united in one advanced CNC milling and drilling center.
CNC Boring Machine
Boring CNC centers are less prevalent in industrial processes than milling or turning ones, which may have boring or reaming cutting tools. However, they still are a frequent equipment unit in large manufactures, fulfilling enlarging function effectively. Some advanced centers incorporated milling, turning, drilling, and boring operations.
CNC Grinding Machine
Grinding machines are usually applied as equipment for surface finishing in the late stages of manufacturing. CNC grinding machines may have automated loading and unloading facilities.
Waterjet Cutting CNC Machine
Most waterjet CNC machines are 2-axis and cut only the profile of a workpiece. However, some models with up to 5 axes are also available. Such centers are cheaper in purchasing and maintenance compared to others, such as laser or plasma cutters.
Laser Cutting CNC Machine
Automated laser cutters have a pointed router that produces a highly focused laser beam that can cut, slice, or engrave materials. Typically, the laser heats a material and makes it melt or vaporize, creating a cut of any shape in materials.
Compared to other CNC machines, laser cutters are suitable for a wider range of designs, and their cuts do not need additional finishing processes. CNC laser cutters can be used for decorating components and may be used to add extra design to previously processed parts. The advanced laser cutters are 6-axes robot-driven ones.
Plasma Cutting CNC Machine
However, plasma cutters can work only with materials that are electrically conductive, such as steel, aluminum, brass, and copper. Other materials, like granite, wood, and plastic, cannot be cut using this CNC center.
Electrical Discharge CNC Machine (EDM)
EDM CNC machines are primarily used for creating micro holes, slots, and other complicated features that are difficult for other centers to cut.
CNC Router Machine
A CNC router works similar to milling and drilling machines, carving shapes in a workpiece by the spindle. Usually, CNC routers are presented with 3-axis models.
3D Printer CNC Machine
It may be surprising that 3D printers are considered to be CNC machines. However, they are automated and intended to manufacture components, as any other CNC center does. They are also run by G-code programs created with the help of CAD/CAM software.
3D CNC printers extrude thin layers of molten material, mostly plastic, thus, forming three-dimensional parts. This process called “additive manufacturing” is highly effective in creating objects that vary in shape, size, rigidity, and color. They may have other cutters’ functions integrated.
Pick and Place (PNP) CNC Machine
PNP automated machines are often used as parts of production lines, which arrange components moving on a conveyor belt. Such pieces of machinery are difficult to set up but highly effective in placing micro components.
In most situations, it is possible to choose a machine that suits a particular manufacture better than others or incorporate functions of many CNC centers. Therefore, for each distinct case, a certain CNC machine would be more convenient and effective than others.