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The CNC Milling Process Explained

CNC machining is a highly automated manufacturing process that uses a computer to control machinery. The desired geometry and requirements of the final product are entered into a special software called CAD (Computer Aided Design). Then, the software is used to control machinery operating conditions such as speed and location. The computer directs the CNC machine to execute the desired cuts with the machine operating like a robot.

CNC precision machining is a cost-effective solution that enables the fabrication of high-quality, complex parts that would not be feasible with conventional machining methods. The remainder of this article will focus on one of the most common CNC machining operations: milling.

The CNC Milling Process Explained

A CNC milling machine is a form of subtractive manufacturing that begins with a block of raw material – typically metal, wood, or plastic – and the material is cut and carved as necessary to achieve the desired geometry. CNC milling is a highly versatile machining method that is known for its precision and ability to achieve complex designs with tight tolerances.

There are various CNC milling machines on the market but nearly all are comprised of the same key pieces of equipment: a work table, cutting tool, and spindle. The block of raw material is typically fastened to the work table. The cutting tool is held in place by a spindle which, for most CNC milling machines, is rotated by an electric motor during cutting operations. The cutting tool, or cutter as it is often called, is used to mechanically perform the carving. One of the most common tools is a milling cutter, which is similar to a drill bit but has “teeth” that are designed to remove material in a specific way. Cutters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and arrangement of teeth, each providing a unique cut. State-of-the-art CNC milling machines may also include advanced equipment such as remote tool changers, tool carousels, and robust coolant systems to improve operations efficiency.

Proper tool selection is a key aspect of successful CNC milling. Tools are typically designed to provide a unique cut and for use with a certain raw material. Choose the wrong tool and you may damage the work piece or even the tool and CNC machine. In general, smaller cutting tools take longer to complete the desired cut but are able to deliver more complex and intricate designs. Ideally, each milling job would only require a single tool, however, most parts require multiple tools to achieve the desired design. Another component of tool selection is balancing – and in most cases minimizing – machine time in order to complete the part as fast as possible without sacrificing quality. For these reasons, it is crucial to select the right tools for each job and rely on the expertise of a trusted machining partner, like Stanley Machining, that guides customers through the design process and offers a wide array of CNC machining solutions.

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There are two main types of CNC milling machines: vertical and horizontal. As the name implies, vertical machines are oriented to perform cutting “up and down” in a vertical motion whereas horizontal machines perform cutting horizontally. There is variety within both types of milling machines; for example, spindles and work tables can either be stationary or move along a number of axes, depending on the specific CNC milling machine being used. In general, vertical mills are often considered more versatile while horizontal mills are typically used for heavier or longer parts that require deeper cuts. Some key factors to consider when deciding between a vertical or horizontal milling machine include the size and geometry of the part as well as the number of surfaces that require cutting.

One feature that sets CNC milling machines apart from traditional methods is its ability to move along a number of axes, ranging from 2 to 5 axes. Most traditional CNC milling machines are able to move along 3 axes: the X-, Y- , and Z-axes at the same time. 5-axis CNC milling machines are able to operate along these 3 axes as well as 2 additional rotational axes, A- and B-, for a total of 5-axes working simultaneously. In general, the more axes a CNC machine can operate on, the more intricate geometries it can fabricate. Thus, 5-axis CNC milling machines have a huge advantage over traditional CNC machines and are able to manufacture complex parts that may not be possible with conventional machines.

About Stanley Machining

Since 1966 Stanley Machining has been proudly providing unsurpassed, multi-industry contract manufacturing solutions to world renowned OEM's and government entities. As a global leader in precision CNC machining, we continue to provide unsurpassed expertise and value as a true partner with our customers. OEMs rely on our superior expertise and machining processes to enable them to maintain a competitive edge. We serve commercial and industrial sectors across a range of markets including defense, power, aerospace, and oil & gas.

We take pride in our quality assurance program and we are ISO 9001:2015 certified. We continuously re-invest in state-of-the-art equipment and highest caliber quality professionals. Stanley is a women-owned small business with over 125 employees and 200 pieces of CNC equipment under 400,000 sq. ft. in two locations.

Stanley Machining offers a wide array of machining centers to meet our customer needs. Our size and breadth allow us to offer a wide range of capabilities from small to large format production components. Stanley's wide range of equipment produces the most high-quality and close tolerance cutting edge components, including non-symmetric work pieces.

Contact us today to see how we can help with your next CNC precision machining project, or give us a call at 847-426-4560.

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