Since the introduction of the first CNC machines in the early 1940s and 50s, technology has continually developed giving rise to more complicated and precise machines that give better results. The first CNC machine was using punched tape technology which later transitioned to analog and to digital in the 1960s. 

Computer Numerical Control machining is a modern manufacturing process where the movement of various factory machinery and tools is controlled by computer software which has been pre-programmed and customized to meet the needs of the user. 

This modern technology is being used in most factories and manufacturing firms to control complex machinery, routers, mills, grinders, lathes, and others. As compared to the manual control, CNC machines are very precise in their operation. Of course, since they are automated to operate on their own, you don’t need live operators operating on the levers, wheels, and buttons to control the manufacturing processes. But how does it work?

How CNC Machines Work

The beauty of using the most recent CNC machines that make them better than their predecessors is the use of automated and programmed software. Basically, the entire process involves a computer-aided design (CAD) software that contains the actual image of what you want as your output and the computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software that executes the design. 

Depending on how complex your output product is, most of the modern machines have other installed machines like cutters that perform other processes. They may also contain robotic hands that transfer the raw material from one stage of manufacturing to another.

Other tools and components that are commonly used with the process include wood routers, foam cutters, glass cutters, cylindrical grinders, embroidery machines, turret punchers, 3D printers, laser cutters, and wire-bending machines among others. All these components are used whenever one needs complex cuts at various angles and levels.

However, no matter the additions, all of them are controlled by a similar program. CNC machining usually ensures that there is consistency in the entire production or manufacturing process. The main use of CNC machines is to make highly precise and detailed cuts from plastics or metals. Most people prefer metals to plastic because of their durability.

For the precision to be reflected on the cuts, the CNC machines must be programmed accordingly. Depending on the design you want to have in your cut, the software must be coded rightly. With automated CNC machines, you can give more accurate cuts compared to manual cutting. Nevertheless, some finishing ups like etching may need the use of your hands. What are some of the types of CNC machines that can help you accomplish this accuracy? Let’s look into that.

Types of CNC Machines

There are basically two broad categories of these machines:

  1. Convectional technology
  2. Novel technology

Convectional Technology

Under conventional machining technology we have three categories: 

  • Drills - these ones usually work by spinning at very high or low speed depending on the design needed and come into contact with your material. So the spinning drill is placed into contact with the material.
  • Lathes - As opposed to the drills, this type of machine usually spin your material against your drill bit. Typically, the spinning material is pushed so as to come into contact with the drill.
  • Milling machines - These are the most commonly used in our age. They usually use a rotary to carry out the process.

Novel Technology

In this category, we have machines like:

  • Electrical machining - when it comes to mass production of certain materials, you will need a specialized CNC machine. Some of the machines in this category include photochemical machining, Electrical Discharge Machining, Ultrasonic machining, and Electrochemical machining among others.
  • Other Mediums - other novel technologies use mediums like oxyfuel, plasma, water-jet, and laser among others. 

Common Materials used in these CNC Machines

Now that you have known the types of machines, you will need to know the commonly used materials that will enable you to get the precision you need. Some of such materials include:

  • Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Titanium
  • Copper
  • Wood
  • Foam
  • Brass
  • Plastics like polypropylene
  • Fiberglass


Both 3D printing and CNC technology can give you the design you are looking for. The output precision and accuracy of these two technologies will highly depend on the material and the complexity of the material. 

When it comes to the application of these machines, diverse companies use them depending on the complexity of their output design and the material they are using. For Novel machines, they are best in manufacturing processes while convectional machines are good in prototype development. That’s why some of the machines in this Novel technology like electrochemical machining work perfectly when dealing with heavy and durable metals. 

2.pngNemi is a freelance writer with over 8 years of experience as a business analyst and technical writer. He has a strong background in technology and finance and loves taking complicated ideas and explaining them in an innovative and easy to understand way.