Just about any kind of material can be formed by CNC machines. Following on from this thought, Computer Numerical Machines (CNC) have the capacity to transform these materials into all sorts of intricately fashioned components. Really, there’s no limit to the detailed shapes that can be created by this automated equipment cabinet. Just input the digital profile, let the axial controls and G-codes talk to one another, and the components appear.

A Roster of CNC Produced Components

To be fair, the components don’t appear out of thin air. Lathes and milling tools combine with turret punches and routers and plasma cutters and water jet cutters to impart the subtractive processing work. For example, where once there were blocky engine parts, which had to be bolted together one at a time, CNC machines process hardened steel blocks or refractory ceramics to create single-piece engine sections that channel combustion energies and engine exhaust more efficiently. That’s an automotive industry application, and there are more. Locomotive parts, aerospace components, motorcycle assemblies and more, the transportation industry wouldn’t be what it is today without the component-finessing strengths that lay within CNC machines.

An R&D Facilitation Engine

That’s right, while CNC equipment is often utilized to expedite mass production work, with the automated machines outputting a plethora of absolutely identical yet incredibly detailed component parts, the gear can also be used to hasten research and development activities. Imagine a software package creating a prototype and testing this sample piece in some kind of simulation module. A dozen iterations are used in the simulation as the model is incrementally altered to accommodate a slightly different function. Each time the engineers think the part is ready for a real-world test, the model is outputted to a CNC machine, where it’s cut to shape. Different alloy strengths and material types can also be configured each time a new prototype is produced, too. That’s a powerful production aid to have on hand.

Scalability issues are no different, not when a Computer Numerical Control system is available. It takes less than a second for a model to be rescaled inside a computer’s virtual workspace, after all. This means small electronic components, bound for some tiny printed circuit board, could be fabricated at the start of the week, then the machinery would be retooled later in the week to create the housings that contain those circuit boards. Up the scalability ladder another rung, complex architectural assemblies, each loaded with mathematically complex geometrical profiles, are next to fall under the routing tools and multi-axis cutters. From the plastic model that sits on an architect’s desk to the structural components on a construction site, it’s all the same for a universally capable CNC machine.