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When it comes to manufacturing in the modern day, there’s one term—CNC machining—that seems to dominate the landscape. How has it come to be such a powerful staple within manufacturing, and what makes it so advantageous compared to other methodologies? Those are exactly the types of questions we’ll be taking a look at today, as we delve into a bit of CNC history and explore what makes it so beneficial for manufacturing businesses.

Some Background on CNC Machinery

Would you believe that, in a way, CNC technology goes all the way back to the 1940s? That’s when the first NC (numerical control) machines were being built. It was these early machines that paved the way for the first CNC (computer numerical control) machines, which in turn birthed the very specific CNC equipment we think of in the present day.

Those earlier machines made use of punched tape systems, which were then replaced with the first analog computers, and gradually morphed into what we see today with digital computers. More recent developments have further improved the efficiency of the process.

What CNC Machines Brought To Manufacturing

Because of their ability to be preprogrammed and capacity for automation, CNC machines reduce the need for manpower and traditional machinists. Eliminating some of the need for human labor also allows CNC machines to go well beyond the limitations of human ability, in terms of consistency, and also results in some of the following benefits:

  • Improved Product Quality — Whereas human machining was often prone to errors and costly miscalculations, CNC machines follow their computerized commands so they provide a consistent end product that’s more precise than one created by human hands.
  • Increased Safety — Limiting the human element in the machining process also increases said process’ safety. There are fewer opportunities for mistakes, and since CNC machines don’t require constant supervision, fewer injuries overall.
  • Greater Efficiency — CNC machines don’t need to take breaks in the same way that humans do, nor do they tire out or lose focus. This makes them ideal for rapid, continuous, and uniform product delivery.
  • Enhanced Versatility — Many CNC devices combine several tools into one machine, negating the need for multiple purchases of different types of equipment. 
  • Reduced Waste — In contrast to human machining, which comes with an inherent amount of waste in fashioning different parts, CNC machining is more accurate and allows manufacturers to make more with less.

The advancement of CNC technology has also allowed for varied applications within the manufacturing world. With the use of CNC machining, it’s possible to achieve things which were once considered costly and complicated—like rapid prototyping.

In the past, the prototyping process, while still essential, would rely solely on hand machining and take more time to complete. Now, thanks to the CNC revolution, it’s possible to create prototypes quickly, and just as rapidly make alterations to the designs to correct flaws and continually iterate until you have a product that’s ready for market.

It’s because of improvements like this that CNC machining saw such rapid adoption and continues to remain a force in the manufacturing world today. With even more developments on the horizon, it’s safe to say CNC machining will have continued relevance well into the future.