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Integrating CNC Machines and Automation for Smarter Manufacturing

Integrating CNC Machines and Automation for Smarter Manufacturing
Issue Time:2017-06-27

The Computer Numerical Controls (CNC) market is set to grow due to the demand of production efficiency. CNC machines have been a staple of manufacturers but they are now being paired with automation systems and simulation software to increase production. The addition of 3D printing machines onto the factory floor has also increased the demand of CNC machines, since they are used for the surface finishing of 3D printed objects. When implementing CNC machines there are some tips and best practices because even automated CNC machines need human supervision.

Background on CNC Machines

CNC machines were first developed and introduced between the 1940s to 1950s. They relied on punched tape or perforated paper tape for common telecommunication data storage technology. This quickly transitioned to analog and then eventually digital computer processing. CNCs rely on digital instructions from computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) or computer-aided design (CAD). The CNC machine then interprets the design from the CAM/CAD instructions.

CNC machines are now benefiting from automation to make more precise parts and are aiding emerging technologies by producing quicker parts.  The video below describes how 3D printing and CNC machines are being used side by side.

Advanced programming rapidly increases shop productivity and automating the processes simplifies the production and reduces the intensity of the labor. Automated cuts improve both speed and accuracy, which is especially helpful when producing prototype parts. Most of the time a single tool will not suffice for part production and CNC machines will be combined into common units or cells where the machines can draw different tools from. Conventional technologies are:

Drills: Work by spinning a drill bit and removing material by passing the bit around stationary block of stock material.

Milling: The most common CNC used today. They use rotary cutting tools to remove material.

Electrical/Chemical Machining: These technologies remove material by using electron beam, lasers, or chemicals. Examples are electron beam machining, electrochemical machining, electrical discharge machining, photochemical machining, and ultrasonic machining.

The Growing Market

The global CNC market is being led by lathe machines and they will be the dominating machine through the forecast period. Transparency Market Research predicts that the U.S. value will increase from $52.6 billion in 2015 to $93.4 billion in 2024 led by lathe machines. Their large application area is why they are leading the market. Milling machines are also estimated to have strong growth. The area of strongest growth is the Asia Pacific market. In 2015, they led the market by 30% and with a market revenue share of $19.04 billion. The biggest industry of growth is the automotive sector for both China and India.