Computer Numerical Control (CNC) refers to how engineers and operators control and operate production tools using a computer program. These machines use a language known as g-code, which guides the machine on how to mold, cut, shape, grind, or melt different materials such as wood, plastic, or metal. There are various types of CNC machines in the market, with some of them being prominent due to their wide range of uses. Below are some of the available types of CNC machines.
Often, milling machines are retrofitted with CNC technology whereby the process involving removal of all mechanisms built into the machine making it easy to operate. Some of the mechanisms which are removed include Digital Read Out electronics and hand wheels. Also, the old lead screw is replaced with high accuracy ball screws, and new mounts are built to enable mounting of the actuators to the machine.
These machines rapidly rotate the material on a spindle. During the rotation, the material is pressed against a grinding or carving tool which cuts it into the desired shape. Lathes are mostly used to cut symmetrical objects such as spheres, cones, or cylinders.
The CNC router is a very common type of machinery which is built exclusively to be operated using CNC technology. Typically, this machine has no human interface other than the computer. Routers are used in the production of large dimension parts of wood, metal sheets and plastics. They are mostly designed in a three-axis Cartesian coordinate which allows cutting in three dimensions. However, there are routers which designed in 4, 5, or 6-axis which are mostly used to cut prototype models and complex shapes.
CNC Plasma Cutter
Plasma cutters are very similar to the routers both in size and setup. However, CNC plasma cutters don’t require a powerful setup since they fly above the table with a plasma torch rather than dragging a spinning tool in the material. Mostly, the plasma cutters are designed to cut two-dimensional profile shapes into sheet metal.
CNC Laser Cutter
The laser cutters use the same principle as the plasma cutters with the only difference being the fact that a powerful laser is used to do the cutting rather than plasma torch. These cutters are good for cutting metal, plastic, and wood. Depending on the material being cut, a different strength of laser is used since every material has a unique thickness and hardness.
This printer has a similar setup to the CNC router and laser cutter. However, unlike these machines, the printer does additive machining rather than subtractive machining. Instead of beginning with a piece of materials and removing bits to attain the desired shape, the printer starts with a blank canvas and builds the object layer-by-layer. The printer does this either by using a laser which quickly solidifies a liquid or powder or by using an extruder which pushes material out of a tiny nozzle.
Pick and place Machine
This machine has a similar setup as the laser cutter or CNC router. The difference is that instead of cutting material, the machine has many small nozzles which pick up electrical components using a vacuum. Afterwards, the machine places the electrical component on a printed circuit board hence getting the name pick and place. These machines move very fast and can place hundreds or thousands of electrical components. Pick and place machines are used to make devices such as tablets, computer motherboards and other devices which have a printed motherboard.
In a nutshell, there are different types of CNC machines which are designed with the aim of easing the operating process. These machines replace the human interface with a computer program thus all the operations are controlled using a computer.