Numerical controlled (NC) machines have been in use since their invention in the 1940s and 1950s by John T. Parsons. The first computer numerical controlled (CNC) machine was born when John Runyon used computer controls to produce punch tapes, sharply reducing the time required from 8 hours to a mere 15 minutes. In 1957, the United States Air Force and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) collaborated on a project to produce the first NC machine controlled entirely by computer.
Fast forward more than 60 years later and the concept of CNC machining has very few differences compared to its predecessor. Though CNC machining and manufacturing still produces three-dimensional directions of output — X axis, depth and Y axis — the scope of the process reaches far beyond what anyone could ever imagine. In fact, 2018 is sure to bring new strides in this versatile technique including the following trends:
1. Complex Cuts Made Even Easier
Refinements in CNC machining will continue to make complex cuts — such as incline surface holes, contours and more — even more accurate and smooth. The project’s parameters are able to be defined in a number of different planes to generate the results that a customer expects within the timeframe needed.
2. Touchscreen Technology
Today, touchscreen technology is expected in smartphones and is increasingly becoming the norm for laptops and desktop computers too. These aren’t the only products taking advantage of this technology though. Touchscreens are integrated with CNC machines to deliver precise programming that is nimble, quick and intuitive. Built-in features are constantly updated and designed to shave precious time from programming parameters. These allow operators to deftly navigate through a range of content such as complex tables, long lists and expansive programs to find the elements that are required to complete projects.
3. Embrace New Materials, Tools and Processes
A dizzying array of new and innovative materials are developed every year, providing companies with new opportunities to deliver products that meet their target audiences’ needs. CNC machining provides processes and tools that meet the challenges of bringing these new materials to market. With the right features at the ready, CNC manufacturing tackles innovative projects with precision and speed.
4. The Trickle-Down Effect
Some industries, such as the aerospace and automobile sectors, require compliance with rigid tolerances, exceptional surface quality and the ability to endure dynamic loads. These same techniques can also be applied to the production of smaller scale items as well. The result is a workmanship and quality that is unsurpassed.