The Future of CNC Machining

CNC machining will enjoy a boom in the foreseeable future as more manufacturers take advantage of modern precision production methods. Set to grow by 5%, the industry is set to achieve a global market value of £100 billion by 2030, according to analysts at Market Research Future.

Image of 2 men working on a machine.

© benixs / Shutterstock

The anticipated growth will be driven by continually evolving technology in the workplace, as CNC machining supersedes the limitations of manual controls to create a flawless finish.

An increased demand for more advanced electric vehicles, medical devices and telecommunications equipment are among the factors cited for the projected boom.


What is CNC machining?

Computer Numerical Control machining removes the need for operators to manually guide the controls of tools via buttons, levers and wheels. The consoles and software programmes required for CNC machining apps may resemble an ordinary computer system, but in reality, they are far more complex.

Fully trained operators programme the required cuts for parts and components into the CNC software before the machine is started up. These requirements are passed to the machinery and corresponding tools, which complete the cutting almost like a robot.

CNC in manufacturing dictates the movement of machinery and tools in the factory including lathes, mills, routers, grinders, drills, lasers and water jets.


Benefits of CNC machining

The computerised system creates precise dimensions and shapes that a person cutting manually would be hard-pressed to match. This high level of accuracy and precision is crucial in industries such as defence, aerospace and medical devices, where even a small variation in shape or size can have major consequences.

In recent years, the cutting apparatus have improved, with the introduction of diamond-tipped tools improving the accuracy and surface finish of parts created by CNC machining. This has proved particularly beneficial when cutting hard materials, such as titanium and stainless steel.

Improvements in coolants and cutting fluid have improved the process by creating less heat and reducing wear on the cutting tools.

Computer software has evolved to optimise the processes, improving efficiency and minimising errors. The latest software can analyse the CNC machine in real time while in use, making automatic adjustments if required. These can include adjusting the cutting speed or feed rate to achieve the optimum finish, or adjusting the path of the cutting tool to extend its life by minimising wear.

Experts predict many developments for CNC machining in the future that will change the face of industry.


Greater automation and integration

Greater automation and integration with other machines and operations is something developers are striving for. Currently, CNC machining is just one action in the whole manufacturing process for many industries.

In future, developers aim to use more integration and automation to coordinate and connect CNC machines with other operating systems. This will improve efficiency by streamlining the whole process.

An example of this is the increase in new technology, such as the Internet of Things, where machines can communicate with other systems and appliances in real time, coordinating actions and sharing data.

Programming CNC machining in the same way could improve the speed and efficiency of the manufacturing process from start to finish.


Using alternative materials

CNC machining has traditionally been used with materials such as steel, aluminium and brass, but there’s a growing trend to use other materials, such as composites and plastics. This is partly due to a demand for high-strength lightweight materials, including fibre-reinforced plastics, in the automotive and aerospace industries.

The demand for more customised and personalised products is another reason why companies increasingly use CNC machining to refine their products.


Rise of additive manufacturing

Another new technology impacting CNC machining is 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, as it requires the building of products or parts in layers using additional material. The production of complex shapes requires a precise technique that traditional manual methods simply can’t achieve.

CNC machining enables manufacturers to produce products and components with detailed internal channels, such as aircraft engines’ fuel nozzles, which require an internal cooling channel.

Additive manufacturing also enables medical specialists to produce advanced products such as dental implants or customised prosthetics that require an exact fit.


Importance of sustainability

The growing need for manufacturing sustainability means businesses are looking to reduce their environmental footprint. Some manufacturers use biodegradable or recycled materials for CNC machining, reducing the amount of waste from the processes.

New energy-saving technologies are in the pipeline for CNC machines, as companies are continually seeking ways of becoming more eco-friendly. Engineers are developing machines with more efficient motors and drives, while others will be able to recycle the coolants, or sharpen cutting tools to reuse instead of having them replaced.


Greater use of robotics

Another technology impacting CNC machining is the increased use of robotics in manufacturing. A demand for greater efficiency and automation is driving the trend, as robotics enable the automation of some tasks to make the processes more efficient.

Robotics can help with loading and unloading CNC machines, or complete finishing and deburring. This can also enable manufacturers to operate more flexibly and customise products, ultimately adapting to meet changing consumer demands.


Mist filtration systems

Employees working in CNC machining require protection from hazardous substances that are released into the air as a result of the manufacturing processes. AirBench mist extraction and filtration systems ensure harmful substances including mist, fumes and dusts are extracted as part of your business’s compliance with COSHH regulations.

Our OMF range of coolant mist filters can support multiple machine tools, solving coolant, mist and oil issues effectively and quickly. The H13 HEPA final filters will recirculate clean, safe air back into the workspace.

We also offer the AOF range of compact machine-mount mist filters with H13 final filtration, including the option of configuring them for oil smoke extraction as well as coolant mists.

A self-contained blowdown station with an integral airline, the AirBench BD model downdraught bench will capture coolant mists and swarf from CNC-machined parts.

When the machined parts are completed, if your business uses manual finishing processes, the AirBench FN will capture dusts such as aluminium, while our wet filtration systems will capture flammable dusts, such as titanium, for a complete all-round solution.

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Why choose AirBench?

AirBench Ltd are the UK’s leading manufacturer of downdraught benches and cross draught extraction systems. We have more than 10,000 extraction systems in service in the UK and overseas. Along with our range of coolant mist filters and air cleaning systems, we are actively helping businesses across many industries solve their workplace dust and fume issues.


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