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CNC Machining: Advantages and Disadvantages

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Half a century ago, machinists were always responsible for crafting every single piece to perfection. These skills are still needed, but when it comes producing the same piece at high volume and high precision, computerized machines are vastly superior. That’s where Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machining comes in. 

CNC machining is a manufacturing method that uses pre-programmed computer software to control machining tools. This technology can be used to perform a range of complex processes, including grinding, routing, milling, punching, turning and lathing. CNC machining revolutionized the industry in the 1960’s and is the dominant method of machining today. It is important to understand the various advantages and disadvantages of utilizing this technology in your manufacturing operations.

Advantages

  • Continuous Use: Unlike manual labor, CNC machinery (barring any malfunction or maintenance issue) can work continuously over any period of time without a break. This greatly increases productivity and efficiency.
  • Consistency, Precision and Redundancy: With computer software, the design of any given product only needs to be programmed once. The CNC machine can then perfectly replicate that design, for any order quantity.
  • Low Skill Requirement: CNC machine operators require little training and skill when compared to manual machine operators.
  • Fewer Personnel: Because computer software controls the machinery, fewer technicians are needed for operation and oversight, cutting overall expenses.
  • Flexibility: The software can be reprogrammed quickly and easily to produce different parts, allowing operations to keep up with shifting customer demands.
  • Capability: This technology uses computer precision to go beyond the limitations of manual capabilities. More complex and intricate operations are possible with CNC machining.

Disadvantages

  • Cost: CNC machines are more expensive and require a greater initial investment than machines that can be operated manually. However, as this technology becomes the standard, supply is increasing resulting in costs gradually decreasing.
  • Skills Loss: As the demand for manual machine operators decreases, fewer and fewer new students adopt those skills. This could eventually lead to the complete loss of long-preserved skills.
  • Unemployment: Automation decreases the need for manpower, and fewer laborers are hired. That said, the need is now shifting to software engineers and mechanical engineers, and education and training will have to adjust to meet that need. For more information on the skills gap in the manufacturing industry, reference this blog post.

Overall, the advantages of CNC machining far outweigh the disadvantages. As with the advent of any new technology, we must anticipate shifts and adjustments to meet new challenges. This has never been more true in the manufacturing industry, as automation and 3D printing continue to advance.

Mainstay Manufacturing boasts a wide range of CNC machining capabilities, including punching, forming, turning and milling. For more information about our specific equipment and software, click here. We have the capability, capacity, efficiency and expertise to meet high demands. Contact us today concerning your CNC machining needs.