The Origins of CNC Machining

Request A Conversation

Computer numerical control, or CNC, machining, is an important process used throughout manufacturing and production. While CNC machining is a modern manufacturing process used for complicated machinery, its origins can be traced back to the older, basic concept of numerical control. Here we break down the fascinating history and origins of CNC machining. 


What is CNC Machining?

CNC machining facilitates the creation of a physical part from the instructions of a computer design file. As a subtractive process, CNC machining takes the material away from the stock to create the desired design. Aluminum, steel or titanium are typically used as the stock pieces. A CNC machine follows digital instructions (G-code) to automatically control the tools used to cut the stock. 


CNC Machining History and Evolution

Prior to CNC, the machine tools used to cut stock were controlled manually. The principles behind CNC machining are long-standing and evolved as technology grew. Here is a brief timeline of the evolution of CNC machining. 


1751: With the beginning of industrialization came one of the first machines that attempted to execute more precise operations than previous handcrafted techniques. A machining technique that involved turning the machine with the metal frame was invented. 


The 1940s: The first NC machines were built. These early machines relied on concepts of programmable logic, where the code was manually entered into a data card and fed into the system. This method is called “punched tape.” 


1949: John Parsons began research to improve aircraft with stiffened skins. MIT professor J.F. Reintjes and his team began an experimental milling machine.


1952: During the Cold War, automation became important. In 1952, Richard Kegg (and MIT) created the first CNC milling machine called the Cincinnati Milacron Hydrotel. 


1958: Kegg filed for a patent for the Motor Controlled Apparatus for Positioning Machine tool. 


1967: The concept of computer-controlled machining began to gain traction. 


1972: Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Machining began which prompted important developments in CNC machining. 


1976: The first year of 3D Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Machining. 


1989: The rise of modern CNC machines as CAD and CAM software-controlled machines become industry standard.


Modern CNC Technology 

CNC machines evolved over time into the automated powerhouses we know today. They began as simple devices controlled with a punch tape method into the software-powered machines. Modern CNC machines rely on software input and are much faster and more dynamic than their original NC counterparts. 


At Mainstay, we utilize only the most reliable fabrication and machining processes. With our unparalleled CNC Machining Services will deliver unparalleled quality. Learn more about why Mainstay is a leading provider of CNC solutions and how we will help you with all of your CNC machining needs by visiting our website or contacting us.