Comparing CNC Machining to Conventional Methods

Posted on: 26 March 2018

In the past, manufacturing processes such as milling, grinding, cutting and polishing relied on skilled workers who would manually control high-tech machines to achieve the desired results in end products. However, due to the increasing demand for speed, accuracy and efficiency in manufacturing processes, CNC machining was developed to automate these critical functions and to reduce costs while boosting accuracy.

CNC machining involves the use of computers with programmable software to replicate and automate the functions that were previously carried out manually. This means that machines can be designed to follow a specific template and to cut, grind, mill or polish with a higher level of accuracy.

There is a lot of debate around CNC and conventional machining. Manufacturers still debate about the benefits of each process in order to determine the best option moving forward.

It all starts with the raw materials

The divide between CNC machining and conventional methods all starts with the raw materials. In most factories, raw materials consist of a chunk of metal or plastic that is to be shaped and designed into a usable part.

With conventional methods, an operator will take the piece of raw material and manually control a machine to cut, shape and polish the part. On the other hand, CNC machining involves the programming of a computer (through a software platform) to provide instructions to the machine so that the process can be automated.

While conventional methods may be effective for low-capacity projects such as highly customized items, CNC machining provides a framework for handling high-volume manufacturing process with higher speed, efficiency and accuracy.

Comparing Conventional and CNC Machines

In manufacturing, there are many different machines that can be controlled both conventionally and via an automated process. Some of these include:

Drills and milling machines

The basic design of a drill includes a sharp tip that curves a material when it makes contact. Conventional methods will have an operator carefully controlling the movement of the drill and how it comes into contact with the raw material being processed.

With CNC machining, the exact movements of the drill are replicated on a 2D or 3D software platform, after which they are loaded onto the computer to provide signals to the final drilling process. While the conventional method takes much less time to set up, CNC machining can carry out high-volume processing following the in-depth programming process.

Electrical/chemical machines

To achieve higher efficiency production processes, machines now use electronic beams to cut with precision and speed. Conventional methods are dependent on the operator's skill and precision, while CNC machining is dependent on the efficiency of the programming process.

Ultimately, the differences between conventional and CNC machining come down to the nature of the process and the desired results. CNC machining provides a channel towards increased speed, efficiency and precision, while lowering costs.

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