The trend in precision machining over the last several decades has been to use computers to aid in the work, just like in many other industries. Computer controlled equipment can operate at a higher level of precision and allows the machine shop to produce less waste. This also allows the operator to produce machined parts at much more defined specifications that could have been accomplished by older, manual machining techniques.
This computer aided machining is called CNC, or computer number control, which literally means that a human operator enters the numbers related to the specification of the required operation, whether it be milling, grinding or billeting, and the computer converts that information into a set of instructions to be performed by the machining tools.
One of the more common machining operations is called turning. Like its name implies, a piece of material is turned on an axis as the machining tool cuts away at the surface of the item until it accomplishes the desired shape or cut. Think of it like a pottery wheel, except that instead of human hands shaping clay, you have a cutting machine shaping metal.
When performing CNC turning, the cutting tool can work in one or two axes, moving side to side as well as in and out. The process is used to shape the outer edge of a round object such as a pipe down to a required diameter. Turning can also be used to bore holes into the interior of an object. This boring can be done all the way through the material or just down to certain depths.
One of the great things about CNC turning that gives it an advantage over traditional machining techniques is that the entire process can be simulated in the computer before a machining tool every touches the material. This way any mistakes in the process can be worked out before expensive errors are made. If the process does not work out right in the simulation, the operator knows that he has to make adjustments in the numbers he punched into the computer. This process of checking continues until the computer simulation matches the requirements of the job.
The use of computers in CNC turning allows shops to produce work more quickly at a higher volume. This also means that a shop can usually accept a job on short notice and thus provide better support for emergency situations. The ability to quickly provide repairs or replacements for damaged parts can mean the difference in millions of dollars in some industries. Machine shops are rarely without work, especially in areas where steady machining is constantly in demand. The oil and gas, automotive and aircraft manufacturing industries all require a steady supply of machined parts.
CNC machining offers a high tech solution to an age old solution with the manufacturing industries. This greater level of control has allowed for innovations that would have been unthinkable during a time when machining was done by hand. As the technology develops, the sky is the limit for what advances are in store for the future.
Article written by Jet Russell. Jet is a full time Internet marketer and blogger. In his spare time he writes articles on a plethora of different topics.