Computer Numerical Control (CNC) is a control system used in manufacturing processes to automate machine movements and functions through electronic instructions expressed as a series of numbers. With an internal computer, CNC enables program storage, editing, diagnostics, and more. It is widely applied to turning, milling, and drilling in the machine-shop engineering field, offering high productivity rates, uniformity, reduced rejection, tooling costs, and operator involvement.
Moreover, CNC enables the machining of complex contours. As conventional machines are replaced by modern CNC technology, fewer machine operators are required, but those remaining need to be high-caliber technicians with extensive knowledge of metal-cutting methods, cutting speeds and feeds, work-holding, and tool-setting techniques, as well as familiarity with control systems and programming.
Definition of Numerical Control
Numerical control (NC) is the term used to describe the control of machine movements and various other functions by instructions expressed as a series of numbers and initiated via an electronic control system.
Computerized numerical control (CNC) is the term used when the control system utilizes an internal computer. The internal computer allows for the following: storage of additional programs, program editing, running of programs from memory, machine and control diagnostics, special routines, and inch/metric-incremental/absolute switchability.
The Application of Computer Numerical Control
Computer numerical control is applied to a wide range of manufacturing processes such as metal cutting, woodworking, welding, flame cutting, sheet metal forming, sheet metal punching, waterjet cutting, electrical discharge machining and laser cutting. The text that follows is restricted to its application to common machine-shop engineering processes, namely, turning, milling, and drilling, where it has been particularly successful.
The Advantages of Computer Numerical Controlover Conventional Machining
Computer numerical control is economical for mass, batch, and, in many cases, singleitem production. Many factors contribute to this economic viability, the most important of these being as follows:
- high productivity rates
- uniformity of the product
- reduced component rejection
- reduced tooling costs
- less operator involvement
- machining of complex contours can now be produced.
It is also found in most cases that fewer machine operators will be required as conventional machines are replaced by modem CNC technology, but those employees that remain will of necessity be high caliber technicians with considerable knowledge of metal-cutting methods, cutting speeds and feeds, work-holding, and tool-setting techniques and who are familiar with the control systems and programming for computer numerical control.