CNC machining is very popular in industrial applications ranging from automobile to plastics manufacturing, woodworking projects, etc. But have you ever thought about how CNC machinery came to be? Do you think years ago people would think about these machines that prototype with little guidance? CNC machines have rapidly advanced and incorporate great features like computer programing. Before we get into the history of CNC machines, let us understand what they are.

What is CNC machining?

CNC machining is an advanced manufacturing process whereby a computer directs a machine through programming codes to make the desired product. The machine is known as a CNC (computer numerical control). The computer controls the machines, for example, drills, lathes, and mills, to continuously chip away at a workpiece like metal, wood, or plastic until the desired product is formed. For instance, a woodworker can use the X-carve CNC machine in woodworking projects to cut, design, shape, and engrave wood without much effort.

The history of CNC machines

CNC machines did not begin as we know them today. Currently, when you see a CNC machine, you think of a computerized process, but that is not how it started. In fact, CNC machines were just recently computerized.

James Parsons created the first CNC machine in 1949. He was a computer pioneer involved in Air Force Research Project on creating better aircraft skin and helicopter blades. He managed to calculate how helicopter airfoil coordinateswith an IBM 602A multiplier and then fed the information into a punchcard to use on a Swiss jig borer. That data led to the manufacture of many helicopter blades and skins. That was considered the first CNC machine.

However, before the development of the first CNC machine, other machines known as Numerical Control would construct other tools through specific instructions. But they lacked computerization. When Parsons developed the first CNC machine, there came an evolution, and they continued to advance.

From 1952 to 1958, the war intensified hence the need to manufacture more guns and machines. Richard Kegg and MIT created the first CNC milling machine in 1952, known as Cincinnati Milacron Hydrogel. From 1967 to 1972, industries worldwide started recognizing CNC machines due to Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Machining. CAM and CAD integration in CNC machines led to the evolution of CNC machining.

1976 to 1989 came the development of 3D CAD and CAM, which were included in CNC machines. In 1989, CNC machines controlled by CAD and CAM aided programs became the industrial standard for CNC machining.

Modern CNC machines

The modern CNC machines have advanced over the years quite rapidly from the simple machine controlled through a punch card to program powered machines. Modern CNC machines are faster, more precise, and accurate compared to the earlier CNC machines. Due to its advantages, CNC machines are used in various industrial applications and manufacturing such as automotive, woodwork, plastic manufacturing, aerospace, military, consumer electronics, prototyping, production, and tooling.

The bottom line

CNC machines are beneficial in industrial and manufacturing processes because they utilize a high precision process, produceparts with total accuracy and support many materials.

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