CNC machining is a rapid manufacturing process that turns digital 3D designs into plastic or metal parts by selectively cutting away material. Many companies require CNC machining services to make parts, and many industries use versatile technology.
But CNC machining comes in various forms. Although all CNC machining technologies follow a similar workflow — software turns the digital design into machine instructions, which instruct the CNC machine to cut material — the hardware for cutting material can differ greatly between machines.
What is CNC Milling?
CNC milling is one of the most common CNC machining services, and machinists can use it to make a wide variety of CNC machined parts. CNC mills use computer instructions to move a rapidly rotating cutting tool along three or more axes. When the spinning cutting tool makes contact with the workpiece, it removes material in a controlled manner. The cutting tool makes a succession of passes against the surface of the workpiece until the workpiece resembles the desired part.
Most CNC mills keep the workpiece stationary, holding it down on the machine bed with a vice. However, multi-axis CNC mills may rock or rotate the workpiece to create a greater number of cutting angles. This allows the machinist to create more complex parts without having to manually reorient the workpiece.
Advantages of CNC Milling
CNC mills offer numerous advantages to manufacturers. Unlike lathes, mills are versatile machines capable of creating a range of different shapes. Furthermore, a variety of cutting tools can be used to serve different operations such as roughing and end-milling. Although they are manufacturing machines in their own right, mills are also useful for post-machining. For example, they can be used to add details to turned, molded, or 3D printed parts. CNC milling is also fast, repeatable, and inexpensive in low volumes — partly because it does not require tooling. It is therefore found among manufacturing services.