Posts Categorized: CNC Machining


How Has CNC Machining Changed the Manufacturing Industry?

Machine ShopComputer Numeric Control (CNC) machining has been around since the 1940s. These days, with the help of computer aid design (CAD), high-speed automation and advanced production capabilities, CNC machining is a fully-integrated manufacturing technology. Since its introduction nearly 80 years ago, CNC machining has become a critical part of technology development. Let’s look at the ways CNC machining has empowered the manufacturing industry since its inception.

Speed

Before the advent of CNC machining, mills, lathes, drills and routers were run by operators. They would read a drawing and determine the best way to create the necessary features on the parts. A complex part might need to be remounted and reoriented by hand, and engineers had to include orienting features to ensure these operations maintained critical dimensions. This could be time consuming for both design and manufacturing.

Now, 3D modeling CAD files are read directly by CNC machines and a computer can automatically plan machining operations. An engineering design can include dimensional dependencies to maintain critical dimensions. Furthermore, advanced automated CNCs have articulating tables and heads to reorient parts and tools without ever unmounting a part. Rather than manually controlling each step in the process, operators can simply program CNC machines to interpret CAD files.

As result of computer integration and automation, more complex components are made faster than ever.

Repeatability

In addition to making components faster, CNC machining has enabled greater precision and accuracy as well. Since parts are not remounted and operations are carried out by a high-precision machine, errors are less likely to occur. The accuracy of the first part is largely dependent on the accuracy of the CNC machine itself. The precision from part to part is largely dependent on how constantly each part is initially mounted in the machine.

Better accuracy and precision allow higher-quality components to be made with less waste.

Scalability

CNCs also have advantages for scalability over traditional machining. Some machines can complete more than one operation at a time. And, they can run almost continuously, 24 hours a day.

Faster, more repeatable continuous operations mean greater quantities of parts can be made in a shorter period of time.

Turning Ideas Into Products

Probably the greatest impact CNC machining has had on manufacturing is its ability to take and idea and turn it into a product quickly. This has made CNC machining ideal for prototyping and testing early in the design process. Engineers and designers can come up with a new product concept, mock it up in CAD and have machined prototypes within days. This makes it possible to modify concepts or try alternatives with little risk, allowing them to fine tune a design before releasing it for production.

More prototyping contributes to the production of robust, well-tested and innovative designs throughout the manufacturing industry.

Interested in learning more about how a CNC machine can benefit your unique operation? Give us a call or contact us online to speak with the team at CNC Masters today!


Notable Differences Between CNC Turning and CNC Milling

CNC MillMilling and turning are everyday operations in a machine shop. Both techniques use a cutting tool to remove material from a solid block to make 3D parts. Removing material is what classifies them as subtractive manufacturing processes, but there are key differences to these operations.

Turning is an operation for a lathe.

The name ‘turning’ refers to the workpiece because it rotates about a central axis. The cutting tool remains stationary and is moved in and out of the workpiece to make cuts. Turning is used to create cylindrical parts and derivatives of cylinders; think of parts shaped like baseball bats, shafts, balusters and columns, for example.

A chuck holds the workpiece centered on a rotating spindle. A base secures the cutting tool so it can move along the axis of the workpiece and in or out radially. Feeds and speeds come from the rate of rotation of the part, the radial depth of cut and the rate the tool moves along the axis of the piece.

Turning operations include OD and ID cutting and grooving, boring, treading and drilling. Since the cutting tool exerts a force on the workpiece perpendicular to its axis, it is crucial to support the piece to reduce deflection.

In milling operations, on the other hand, the cutting tool rotates while the workpiece is fastened securely to a worktable.

The cutting tool or the table can move orthogonally in the X, Y or Z direction for cutting. Milling can create more complex shapes than turning. It can even produce cylindrical shapes, but for cost effectiveness, those shapes are best left to a lathe.

In a CNC mill, a chuck holds the tool in a rotating spindle. The tool is moved relative to the workpiece to create patterns on the surface of the workpiece. Feeds and speeds are calculated based on the rate of rotation of the cutting tool, the cutting tool diameter and number of flutes, the depth of the cut and the rate the cutting tool moves across the part.

The limitation of milling pertains to whether or not a tool can access a cutting surface. Using longer and thinner tools can improve access, but these tools can deflect, causing poor machining tolerances, bad surface finishes and more wear and tear on the tool. Some advanced milling machines have articulating heads to allow for angular cuts and improved access.

Both turning and milling operations are useful for creating complex parts. The primary difference will be in the shape of the final part. For cylindrical parts, go with turning. For most other parts, milling works best.


Unique Advantages of Subtractive Manufacturing

Subtractive ManufacturingAdditive manufacturing, better known as 3D Printing, first started in the 1980s. Back then, it was a novelty concept reserved for advanced engineering research laboratories. In the 1990s, 3D printing made waves in the medical arena thanks to its ability to create custom medical devices. By the early 2000s, the open-source movement brought 3D printing into the homes of hobbyists and entrepreneurs During this time, people hailed it as the future of all manufacturing. It remains a promising technology, but subtractive manufacturing still offers many advantages over 3D printing.

Subtractive manufacturing techniques are those that remove material from a block to make a 3D part.

They are what we might call traditional manufacturing processes like milling, turning and even injection molding. Additive manufacturing processes, on the other hand, build up 3D parts by successively adding layers of material.

Although the cost for 3D printers continues to decrease, it’s still more expensive to 3D print many parts than it is to machine them. The printers themselves can be cost competitive, but the materials used in 3D printers are costly – especially if metals are involved.

Printing a part is a little bit like making pancakes – the first one usually gets tossed in the trash. This constitutes a waste of high-cost materials. Furthermore, 3D printers are more finicky and require frequent calibration and re-calibration when they’ve sat unused or when operators are swapping materials.

3D printed parts also require additional post-processing to achieve attractive surface finishes.

The additive component of the manufacturing process means pieces right out of a 3D printer have striations and stepped edges around radiuses. These surfaces require a subtractive manufacturing process to finish. Most subtractive manufacturing processes can produce finished surfaces.

Even if the striated surfaces of additive manufacturing is acceptable, 3D printer technology remains less reliable than subtractive manufacturing. High-reliability machines with good repeatability are expensive and require frequent maintenance while low-end devices typically cannot produce parts with consistent quality.

3D printing can be appealing for prototypes, but it is often limited to fit-and-feel prototypes. Because there are limited 3D printing materials available and the final mechanical properties are not always as good as those for machined parts, 3D-printed parts may not be robust or accurate enough for testing purposes. So, it sometimes makes sense to prototype with subtractive manufacturing processes and production materials instead.

Generally, subtractive manufacturing techniques are more familiar to designers.

Many designers even rely on certain functions that are common in CNC mills and lathes. For these folks, 3D printing can add cost for no discernible benefit. And with many machine shops capable of producing parts overnight using traditional techniques, the relative speed of 3D printing is rendered moot.

While additive manufacturing is attractive in some applications, good old milling, turning and molding are often better suited for the job at hand.


Up in Flames: Fire Precautions for Milling Combustible Materials

CNC SparksFlint on steel coupled with some easily-combustible kindling makes for a cozy fire. That combination is just one of the tricks up a scout’s sleeve for survival. However, that same formula can spell trouble when milling woods, plywood, or even plastics. Fast-moving metal tools cutting against combustible materials can result in a not-so-cozy fire on a workpiece, in piles of cuttings and shavings, or in a dust collector.

CNC fires are not only costly, they are dangerous and potentially deadly. To mitigate the potential risks associated with machining combustible materials, here are four tips to help you prevent machining fires.

Know Combustible Materials

For a fire to start, there needs to be a spark and an oxygen source. For it to catch, it needs fuel. In the context of CNC machining, that fuel is a combustible or flammable material. Wood, plywood, and paper materials are common sources of fuel. Plastics are also excellent fuel sources – after all, they are made of petroleum. However, as outlined by OSHA, dust is also a common source of combustible fuel, including metal dust. With this in mind, it’s wise to adhere to fire prevention procedures no matter what material is being machined.

Check Feeds and Speeds

Maintaining proper feeds and speeds is important for addressing all sorts of machining concerns, from poor surface finishes to improper tool wear. So, it should be no surprise that using proper feeds and speeds is a beneficial for fire prevention as well. Incorrect feeds and speeds can increase friction, which in turn generates heat. With materials like wood, it’s also essential to adjust the cutting depth so you’re not cutting into the spillboard to prevent heat buildup.

Don’t Dwell

A spinning tool sitting and dwelling can generate a great deal of heat in a short amount of time. That heat buildup can quickly reach the point of combustion and spark a fire. In addition to potentially burning a workpiece, that hot spot can easily ignite chips or dust. Smoldering dust and chips can carry flames into collections systems, causing a fire to spread.

Have a Fire Safety Plan

Any shop’s safety plan should include fire response procedures. Fire extinguishers should be readily available, in an accessible location, and in proper working condition. Some operations, especially those handling a large number of flammables or generating a significant amount of dust, should consider a fire suppression system, facility alarms, automated emergency call systems, and evacuation procedures. Even for small or single-person facilities, a fire response plan is critical.

The good news is, machining combustible and flammable materials can be safe and easy as long as the risks are mitigated with proper precautions.


Prolong the Life of Your CNC Machine With These Maintenance Tips

CNC TechnicianNo business owner likes losing production time or output due to machinery failures. That’s why we’ve compiled a few tips to help prolong the life of your CNC machine and keep your operation running smoothly.

Implement an Employee Check

The technicians who use these machines day in and day out typically know more about their quirks than anyone. These employees can be critical in identifying signs of mechanical trouble. Make sure the proper employees know what channels to proceed through should they notice any machine issues.

Keep Spare Parts on Hand

In the event of a mechanical failure, waiting for spare parts to come in the mail can set your production back quite a bit. By keeping a range of spare parts on hand—particularly those that are prone to failure—you can eliminate unnecessary down time and get your CNC machine back up and running as soon as possible.

Adhere to a Regular Maintenance Schedule

Establishing a routine schedule of maintenance will make it easier to spot potential issues before they cause full-blown breakdowns. This, in turn, can prevent production down time and increase your business’ productivity.

Keep Maintenance Records

This might seem like a no-brainer, but keeping a record of your equipment’s maintenance history can help you identify recurring problems and keep track of the money you spend on repairs. Having thorough maintenance records can also make it easier to diagnose mechanical issues in the future.

To learn more about how you can make the most of your CNC equipment, feel free to give us a call or contact us online today!


Take Control of Your CNC Mill With a Touch Screen Computer

Touch Screen ComputerCNC machines have come a long way since the advent of the personal computer. Many modern CNC mills and turning stations can interface seamlessly with PC software that offers operators unprecedented control over these powerful tools. That’s why we offer a dedicated all-in-one touch screen computer that can be mounted directly to your CNC machine with a flexible VESA arm.

These computers are manufactured by Dell, run the latest version of Windows 10 and come with our own Master MX Software preinstalled. This CNC software offers an intuitive graphical user interface that makes it easy to write complex commands and make fine adjustments to your machine’s cutting tools. Operators can choose simple commands from the software’s menu options, or dial in precise coordinates using the computer’s on-screen keyboard.

The computer’s VESA mount arm offers operators an extra measure of convenience, allowing them to quickly enter commands and then move the computer safely out of the way during the machining process. The computer also includes a dust cover to prevent damage from flying debris.

To see our all-in-one touch screen computer in action, check out the video below! These computers can be purchased on their own, or they can be included with your order of a new CNC machine from CNC Masters. We’ll even mount it to the side of the machine for you so you’ll be ready to start working as soon as your order arrives. To learn more, feel free to give us a call or contact us online today.


Complete Complex Projects With a Quick Tool Change System

When you first start learning to use your CNC mill and CAD software, it’s a good idea to take on some relatively simple projects that use just one or two different cutting tools. This can help you hone your technique and get a better feel for the strengths and limitations of each tool.

But once you master these simple projects, you’ll probably want to tackle something a little more advanced. These projects may require more advanced CAD programming knowledge and the use of multiple cutting tools. Once you start working on these more complex projects, it won’t take you long to realize that cutting tool changes constitute the most tedious and inefficient part of your workflow.

Fortunately, quick tool change attachments offer an elegant solution to this issue.

We offer a quick tool change system from Royal Products that makes it easy to swap tools in a matter of seconds. Using our MASTER software, the quick-change system can be programmed with up to 10 different tools at a time. The software also automatically adjusts the Z axis during each tool change to compensate for variations in tool height. Because the body of the quick-change system can be left in the spindle, it can even reduce spindle wear from repeated tool changes.

This quick tool change system offers a great way to start undertaking more complex CNC projects with ease. To learn more about this or any of the other CNC machines and accessories we offer at CNC Masters, feel free to give us a call or contact us online today.


5 Tips for Engraving and Cutting With a CNC Machine

CNC EngravingIf you’re a hobbyist or business owner who does a lot of engraving or cutting, you may already be familiar with the immense potential of CNC machining. Jewelers, gun shops, collectible figurine makers and even engine designers often use CNC mills to perform complex engraving and cutting tasks. But if you’re used to doing this type of work by hand, you may have a few questions about how to get the most out of an automated CNC machine.

Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Choose the Right Cutting Tool

When engraving a thin text pattern, small cutting tools will provide the most accurate results. Cutting tools with wider angles are better suited for engraving larger text patterns. Just like with manual work, it’s important to use the right-size tools to get the best possible results. When carving hard materials, you should typically use the largest cutting angle and tip you can to maximize efficiency.

Be Mindful of Your Spindle Speed

For optimal results, Small shank tools (3.175 mm, 4.0 mm) should be used with low-power spindle motors, and the cutting speed shouldn’t be set too fast to minimize resistance in high-speed milling. To increase speed, high-power motors can use large shank diameter engraving tools.

The Length of Your Cutting Tool Matters, Too

When selecting the appropriate blade length for carving knives, it’s recommended that you add 2-3mm to the measured processing sheet thickness. When cutting acrylic, or when the motor speed is between 18000-24000 RPM, opt for a shorter blade length instead.

A Note on Broken Tools

Assuming there are no problems with the quality of your tools, if your tools are breaking frequently there is probably an issue with the carving settings, such as the rail and motor precision, plate material hardness or fixture issues.

Consider an Engraving Attachment

The optional engraving attachment combined with the 3D machining capabilities of the CNC Jr, Baron or Supra, offers engravers even more creative opportunities. For example, you could scan the autograph of your favorite baseball player and engrave it on a bat, or you could have a pool cue engraved with your own unique design.

To learn more, contact us at CNC Masters today!


Essential Maintenance Tips for Your CNC Machine

CNC Machine MaintenanceCNC machines are very sophisticated machines that are capable of making even the most complicated machining tasks look easy. To maintain this high level of performance, however, they must be properly maintained by their human operators. Otherwise, components can wear out prematurely and necessitate expensive repairs. Today we’ll look at few straightforward maintenance tasks you can perform you keep your CNC machine in good condition.

Monitor Your Machine’s Fluids

Most CNC machines rely on fluids such as lubricants and hydraulic fluid that need to be replaced or replenished from time to time. Each CNC machine requires lubrication at slightly different intervals, so refer to your machine’s user manual to find out exactly what it needs, and when. You should also monitor your machine to make sure it isn’t using fluids faster than it should be, as this can be a sign of other underlying issues.

Grease Moving Parts

The moving parts in your CNC machine will need to be greased regularly to prevent them from experiencing excessive wear. While you don’t necessarily need to grease them every time you use your CNC machine, you should inspect them periodically to identify any dry spots. A little extra grease can prevent unwanted wear from causing costly damage to your machine’s components

Wipe Down Your Machine

If you use your CNC machine on a regular basis, grime and scrap material is inevitably going to build up on its exterior. You can keep your CNC machine looking new by simply taking a rag and wiping it down once daily. In addition to making your CNC machine look more presentable, it will also remove any debris or residue that could cause mechanical issues later on.


Accessories Available for Your CNC Milling Machine

Accessories Available for Your CNC Milling MachineThese days, CNC mills aren’t only found in industrial machine shops. They’re available to craftspeople and other non-professionals as well. Entry-level models are affordable, easy to learn and remarkably user-friendly. They can also be augmented with a number of useful accessories.

Many CNC operators invest in handheld remote controls, for example.

These tools allow operators to manually drive their CNC machines while keeping an eye on the cutter. A handheld remote control offers precise, convenient control over the machine’s speed, feed, zeroing and more.

Engraving attachments are another type of popular accessory widely used by jewelers and other artisans. These attachments can eliminate the need for a devoted engraving machine by turning CNC mills into engravers. You can see a few sample pieces made with an engraving attachment here.

For operators who want to avoid making a mess around their workstations, a splash guard kit can be a valuable accessory as well. These simple attachments can effectively prevent waste material and coolant from getting sprayed around your shop. Bear in mind that even with a splash guard, you should still wear protective safety glasses at all times when operating a CNC machine.

Other common CNC machine accessories include variable spindle inverter kits, digital probes, and quick tool change attachments. You can find all these handy accessories and more right here at CNC masters. We can even work with you to help you find the best CNC accessories for your unique needs. Just give us a call or contact us online today to get started!