Computer Numerical Control, or CNC, machining is an umbrella term to describe various machining processes that are conducted by inputting data into a computer that controls the actual machining equipment. The computer uses software – often designed specifically for a certain object or task – to control the tool’s operation and track the raw material’s attributes. The computer controls and tracks things like feed rate, tool positioning, and orientation of the material while also precisely controlling how the tool manipulates the material.
Numerically controlled tools were in use before contemporary computing existed, but the technology has exploded with advances in computing. CNC machining has allowed production facilities in many industries to streamline their fabrication and manufacturing processes and produce exact match components. The speed and precision of CNC machining is unmatched, making it a huge advantage for efficiency and productivity. Though there is still room for error on the part of the user inputting the data, CNC machining helps reduce the number of components that need to be reworked or scrapped. Overall, CNC machining allows for quicker production of more complex components that more exactly fit specifications than traditional machining techniques.
The first laser cutters were used in the mid-1960s. Now, the majority of laser cutting happens in industrial metal fabrication environments, though laser cutters have been developed for non-metallic applications and even for non-industrial applications. The laser is guided by CNC mechanisms and cuts through the metal or other material by burning, melting, or vaporizing it. The huge advantage of laser cutting is that it produces an extremely clean edge so less finishing is required for each component compared to traditional sawing. Lasers also can have a smaller kerf compared to traditional saw blades, meaning there is potentially less scrapped material from a single piece and that more components can be cut from a single piece. Like other CNC machining processes, laser cutting ensures that components are cut to exact specifications, within small fractions of an inch, and is particularly suited for productions that require components to be produced with high repetition and replication rates.
BHS uses CNC for several fabrication and manufacturing processes including planing, drilling, and counter-sinking, among others. Almost all of our fabricated items require laser cutting and CNC machining processes. Both have been important technologies for our production, and we’ve been using them for over a decade. Since adopting these techniques, we have been able to significantly shorten the lead time on many of our products. CNC machining and laser cutting have ensured that we are able to precisely and efficiently produce items with consistent quality and durability.