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Standart What is CNC Machining?

What is CNC Machining?

What is CNC Machining?

The term CNC stands for 'computer numerical control' and the CNC machining definition is that it is a subtractive manufacturing process that typically employs computerized controls and machine tools to remove layers of material from a stock piece—known as the blank or workpiece—and produces a custom-designed part. This process is suitable for a wide range of materials including metals plastics wood glass foam and composites and finds application in a variety of industries such as large CNC machining machining of parts and prototypes for telecommunications and CNC machining aerospace parts which require tighter tolerances than other industries. Note there is a difference between the CNC machining definition and the CNC machine definition- one is a process and the other is a machine. A CNC machine (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a C and C machine) is a programmable machine that is capable of autonomously performing the operations of CNC machining.

Subtractive manufacturing processes such as CNC machining are often presented in contrast to additive manufacturing processes such as 3D printing or formative manufacturing processes such as liquid injection molding. While subtractive processes remove layers of material from the workpiece to produce custom shapes and designs additive processes assemble layers of material to produce the desired form and formative processes deform and displace stock material into the desired shape. The automated nature of CNC machining enables the production of high precision and high accuracy simple parts and cost-effectiveness when fulfilling one-off and medium-volume production runs. However while CNC machining demonstrates certain advantages over other manufacturing processes the degree of complexity and intricacy attainable for part design and the cost-effectiveness of producing complex parts is limited.

Overview of CNC Machining Process

Evolving from the numerical control (NC) machining process which utilized punched tape cards CNC machining is a manufacturing process which utilizes computerized controls to operate and manipulate machine and cutting tools to shape stock material—e.g. metal plastic wood foam composite etc.—into custom parts and designs. While the CNC machining process offers various capabilities and operations the fundamental principles of the process remain largely the same throughout all of them. The basic CNC machining process includes the following stages:

Designing the CAD model

Converting the CAD file to a CNC program

Preparing the CNC machine

Executing the machining operation

CAD Model Design

The CNC machining process begins with the creation of a 2D vector or 3D solid part CAD design either in-house or by a CAD/CAM design service company. Computer-aided design (CAD) software allows designers and manufacturers to produce a model or rendering of their parts and products along with the necessary technical specifications such as dimensions and geometries for producing the part or product.

Designs for CNC machined parts are restricted by the capabilities (or inabilities) of the CNC machine and tooling. For example most CNC machine tooling is cylindrical therefore the part geometries possible via the CNC machining process are limited as the tooling creates curved corner sections. Additionally the properties of the material being machined tooling design and workholding capabilities of the machine further restrict the design possibilities such as the minimum part thicknesses maximum part size and inclusion and complexity of internal cavities and features.

Once the CAD design is completed the designer exports it to a CNC-compatible file format such as STEP or IGES.

CNC Machining Tolerances Tables

When specifying parts to a machine shop it's important to include any necessary tolerances. Though CNC machines are very accurate they still leave some slight variation between duplicates of the same part generally around + or - .005 in (.127 mm) which is roughly twice the width of a human hair. To save on costs buyers should only specify tolerances in areas of the part that will need to be especially accurate because they will come into contact with other parts. While there are standard tolerances for different levels of machining (as shown in the tables below) not all tolerances are equal. If for example a part absolutely cannot be larger than the measurement it might have a specified tolerance of +0.0/-0.5 to show it can be slightly smaller but no larger in that area.

CNC Turning

Turning is a machining process which employs single-point cutting tools to remove material from the rotating workpiece. In CNC turning the machine—typically a CNC lathe machine—feeds the cutting tool in a linear motion along the surface of the rotating workpiece removing material around the circumference until the desired diameter is achieved to produce cylindrical parts with external and internal features such as slots tapers and threads. Operational capabilities of the turning process include boring facing grooving and thread cutting. When it comes down to a CNC mill vs. lathe milling with its rotating cutting tools works better for more complex parts. However lathes with rotating workpieces and stationary cutting tools work best for faster more accurate creation of round parts.

CNC Metal Spinning

Close cousins to lathes CNC spinning lathe machines involve a lathe set with a blank (a metal sheet or tube) that rotates at high speeds while a metal spinning roller shapes the workpiece into a desired shape. As a “cold” process CNC metal spinning forms pre-formed metal—the friction of the spinning lathe contacting the roller creates the force necessary to shape the part.

How Does a Swiss Machine Work?

Swiss machining also known as swiss screw machining uses a specialized type of lathe that allows the workpiece to move back and forth as well as rotate to enable closer tolerances and better stability while cutting. Workpieces are cut right next to the bushing holding them instead of farther away. This allows for less stress on the part being made. Swiss machining is best for small parts in large quantities like watch screws as well as for applications with critical straightness or concentricity tolerances. You can find out more about this topic in our guide on how swiss screw machines work.

What is Sheet Metal Fabrication?

Sheet metal fabrication is an umbrella term for a group of processes that use sheet metal to build machines and structures. It can be a complex process involving many different professionals. Businesses that specialize in sheet metal fabrication are commonly referred to as fabrication shops or fab shops for short.

Metal has been hand-hammered into sheets and used for architectural purposes since ancient times. Water-powered rolling mills replaced hammering in the late 17th century. This method of flattening metal used large rotating iron cylinders to press metal pieces into sheets. The metals used were lead copper iron zinc and later steel. Tin was frequently used to coat iron and steel sheets to prevent rusting. This tin-coated sheet metal was called "tinplate."

Sheet metal became popular in the United States in the 1870s used for shingle roofing stamped ornamental ceilings and exterior fa?ades. With further advances in sheet metal production in the 1890s the promise of being cheap durable easy to install and fireproof gave the middle-class a significant appetite for sheet metal products.

Although we've already covered types of metal fabrication on a broader level this article will focus on the materials processes and tools related to sheet metal fabrication.

Here's what this sheet metal guide will cover:

Types of Sheet Metal Fabrication Metals

Sheet Metal Fabrication Processes

Sheet Metal Fabrication Tools

Industries and Applications

Types of Sheet Metal Fabrication Metals

Sheet metal can come in a wide variety of types and fabrication can adapt the metal to whatever purposes you may need. Types of common metals used in sheet metal fabrication include:


There are a multitude of types of steels for all sorts of purposes such as stainless steel carbon steel and galvanized steel but the metal as a whole is known for its durability and strength. Lower-carbon content steel may be found in railings or fences while medium carbon content steel is used for cars and appliances. The highest carbon content sheet metal is frequently found in steel wires. Stainless steel is used for cookware medical instruments and many other products.


Aluminum is more lightweight while also sharing some of steel's strength. It's good for lower temperatures which partially accounts for its use in aerospace and refrigeration. Aluminum sheet metal is also used for automotive parts electrical devices and cooking vessels.


Magnesium is a structural metal with a very low density excellent for when stiffness is needed. It has been used as a structural metal in the transportation industry since World War II and is used for automotive parts.

How common is mold in buildings?

Molds are very common in buildings and homes. Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture such as around leaks in roofs windows or pipes or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products cardboard ceiling tiles and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust paints wallpaper insulation drywall carpet fabric and upholstery.

The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium Penicillium and Aspergillus. We do not have precise information about how often different molds are found in buildings and homes.

How do molds get in the indoor environment and how do they grow?

Mold is found both indoors and outdoors. Mold can enter your home through open doorways windows vents and heating and air conditioning systems. Mold in the air outside can also attach itself to clothing shoes and pets can and be carried indoors. When mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture such as where leakage may have occurred in roofs pipes walls plant pots or where there has been flooding they will grow. Many building materials provide suitable nutrients that encourage mold to grow. Wet cellulose materials including paper and paper products cardboard ceiling tiles wood and wood products are particularly conducive for the growth of some molds. Other materials such as dust paints wallpaper insulation materials drywall carpet fabric and upholstery commonly support mold growth.

How do you know if you have a mold problem?

Large mold infestations can usually be seen or smelled.

How do molds affect people?

Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects or none at all. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose wheezing and red or itchy eyes or skin. Some people such as those with allergies to molds or with asthma may have more intense reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath.
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What is CNC Machining?

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