CNC Machine shops

a large CNC machine shop (Computer Numeric Control) machining center


Machine Information Systems are great for CNC Machine Shops

First and foremost, what does CNC stand for?

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Controlled.

Ok Soooo... What does THAT mean?

This acronym refers specifically to an industry standard method of computer control. This system of control manages the direction and speed of machine tools for the purpose of fully automated manufacturing of simple to complex parts repeatedly.

Within manufacturing industry history, it was (at some point) decided it was not efficient (read profitable) to make everyday products by hand. So the CNC machine was invented (at some point after the computer of course).

With a CNC machine it is possible to make thousands of the same item in a day, depending on the complexity of the item. First the part is designed (drawn) using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.

This is processed by the computer to produce the files to be used by the CNC machine in guidance of the tools. The guidance of the tools around the raw material cuts away any unwanted material to leave the manufactured part.

The machine featured below is a Proxxon FF 500 CNC MICRO Mill.

Proxxon FF 500 CNC MICRO Mill, ideal for all sizes of CNC machine shops.

This is a small but professional CNC machine and can be used to machine woods, plastics and aluminium. Although this one very much at the smaller end of the market, in industry, CNC machines can be extremely large. On these types machine the more larger parts can be made in one hit.

Such as, whole truck engine blocks can be honed out from a single block of material all on one machine. The obvious advantages to this are good tolerances, no risk of damage without stage transfers, eliminates human error (setting/program selection etc)

Many types of machines can have a CNC variant:

- Lathes

- Milling machines

- Grinding wheels

- Drills

This means all these types of machines are available with normal manual controlled operation, but also can be obtained (or converted) to semi or fully automated CNC control.

In an actual fully automated CNC production machine, more commonly, some or all of these functions may well be combined in one machine station allowing the continuous creation of a part by performing several machining operations sequentially.

The CNC machine is driven with dedicated program(s) specific to the part it is making. Each part made on a CNC machine would have its own program or set of programs to guide each making stage.

CNC machining, CNC machine shops and CNC milling machines could very well be made for Machine Information Systems. They produce batches of components according to the job program load into them.

Why well suited to Machine Information Systems?

Because CNC cutting machines; such as a CNC plasma cutting machine, a CNC router table and CNC lathe machine, all perform repetitive tasks.
Yes ok so do other machines, but this particular breed of machines excel at doing this at frightening speeds.

CNC machine milling, cutting, drilling, grinding and lathing (can I actually say lathing? :-@) is done super fast under fully automatic computer controlled conditions.

If you have ever watched CNC machine milling it's quite fascinating, swarf cuttings flying in all directions with cutting fluid spray. It makes you wonder how the part its making ever makes it out alive. Well that's what I thought when I first saw CNC machine milling in operation, I was quite impressed, anyway I digress.

CNC machines are nowadays driven directly from files created by CAD (Computer Aided Design) packages, so an assembly or part can go from design to production without any intermediate drawing work being required.

Ok ok, I know you knew that, I was just saying for the other people looking around this site. :-)

CNC machine milling is dedicated to batch manufacturing of a component in a continuous process. A lot of these are automotive machine tools for car parts. Have you ever wondered about the circular cut type marks seen on some car parts?

Even a CNC plasma cutting machine continuously cuts out parts until the very large sheets it cuts from is systematically covered. The arrangement of how the puzzle of parts covers the sheet is planned out to maximum efficiency within the CAD/CNC program.

Before starting, on a CNC plasma cutting machine, the CNC operator has to set the sheet to a datum point where the process starts from. Otherwise if this was not done the CNC plasma cutting machine may try to plasma cutting thin air off the edge of the sheet!!

CNC machine shops normally have quite a few variations of these machines in and to look around you probably think the operators aren't doing anything. The CNC machine would first be loaded up with the raw materials, the program downloaded to its memory (if it's not already there) and then all the covers closed. That's important, remember the swarf and spray!

The machine would then run until the raw material runs out, then it would be re-stocked and started up again. They are normally fully covered in because the cutting process uses loads of cutting fluid. Without covers it would be sprayed everywhere. (Believe me I know, whoops). But the covers aren't there just to stop making a mess though, they contain the cutting fluid within the machine. It drains to a sump, gets filtered and then get sprayed out again.

If you have read the machines page I'd imagine you'll have a good idea that this type of machine is well suited to machine information system. Hopefully this is more apparent now.

Also you would realize a collection of these machines would be quite noisy when running, ah ha another bonus. You wont have to go out into the machine shop to find out what they're doing production wise, with a machine information system installed.

Because it all happens under the cover guard doors with cutting fluid, it would be difficult to see how many parts have been made. Couple this up to their fast running speed and bingo, an ideal situation for a machine information system.

So, once installed within a CNC machine shop a machine information system could be quietly and accurately clocking up all the parts produced. At what rate and how efficiently without the need to even go near that noisy environment. That would be a bonus to me in my working day.

CNC machine shops do not generally form what you would deem a production line. More often than not, you would find each machine in a CNC machine shop doing a different unrelated task to all the rest of them.

This would be quite a usual scenario in such a CNC machine shop, because of the setup time involved for each CNC machine. This is because each CNC machine has to be programmed and set up with the tooling required for every single job it is made to do.

Therefore I'm sure you can see if we were talking about one of your CNC machine shops you wouldn't want to change 'em around too much, would you? To this ends, a CNC machine once set-up, will stay on that job until it's finished. Quite often, in the automotive machine tools scenario, a CNC machine milling car parts will spend it's life within a company just doing that.

As for fitting machine information systems within CNC machine shops, a retrofit of a system should also be fairly easy to do because of all the sensors a CNC machine uses to operate. You shouldn't have too much trouble finding signals to tap off for gathering data from. Just another bonus presented by these types of machines.

I think that just about covers CNC machine shops and CNC machines, unless you can tell me otherwise of course. I hope I've not missed anything out.

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