3 important Insights About CNC Machining in the Automotive Industry

March 5, 2021

The automotive industry is a major industrial and economic force worldwide. It contributed 2.7% ($545.4 billion) to United States GDP in 2018 alone. Behind this impressive statistic is a years-long advancement in automotive manufacturing technology.

Early automobile and automotive parts assembly were done by hand until Henry Ford introduced the first moving assembly line for mass production in 1913. Since that time, the automotive industry has continually made advances in automation and improved automotive production and design.

CNC machining is a technology that has transformed automotive manufacturing processes. This article covers its applications, advantages, and how it is helping to move auto production into the future.

Insight No. 1: CNC Machining Has Numerous Applications in the Auto Industry

Engine block being CNC machined for the automotive industry

Application: Engine Block, Intake Manifold, and Cylinder

The engine block, intake manifold, and cylinder form the essential components of a car’s internal combustion engine. However, product designers have been plagued with the challenge of finding a suitable machining method to fabricate these parts because they require different cast aluminum alloys.

For example, a product designer will typically choose a 383-aluminum alloy for engine blocks and 319-aluminum alloys for intake manifolds and cylinder heads of gasoline engines.

CNC machining is now heavily relied on for machining these parts due to its compatibility with a wide range of materials. Product designers also rely on CNC machinery for rapid prototyping and the production of other essential automotive parts like starter motors.

Application: Gearboxes

A gearbox is the part of a vehicle’s transmission system that helps alter torque and speed. Its design is quite complex — modern gearboxes are small and require tight tolerances. A slight error during manufacture can cause misalignment, gear wear, and failure.

Many automotive companies are replacing traditional gear-making processes like hobbing with precision CNC machining. This precision machining process allows them to quickly create high-quality gears while eliminating the need for additional post operations.

Application: Interior and Roof Panels

Light-weighting plays a significant role in the performance of modern-day vehicles. Many auto manufacturers now utilize polymers and plastics in place of steel to make interior and roof panels. These panels can be twice as thick as comparable steel panels but much lighter.

CNC machining is often used to fabricate these parts. For example, dashboard frames are fabricated from a block of Polypropylene (PP) with cutouts for the indicator lights, speedometer, and gas gauge, using a CNC milling machine.

Application: Custom Parts

Classic and vintage cars are still very much in vogue. However, getting your hands on one is just the first step; you will often have to restore certain parts like exhaust systems, interior components, and engines. And to complicate matters, most of these parts are no longer in production by the manufacturers.

OEMs rely on reverse engineering and CNC machining to create these custom parts. The process starts with creating 3D CAD models of the obsolete parts, which are then interpreted by the CNC machining system and used to create the custom parts. (Related Post: Custom Machining: Everything You Need to Know)

Insight No. 2: There are Many Advantages to Precision Machining Automotive Parts

Advantage: Speed

CNC machining plays a significant role in the auto industry, primarily because of its speed. Since it relies on computer instructions, machining operations can be performed quickly with little to no human intervention. It eliminates human limitations like fatigue and is perfect for companies looking to produce large volumes of auto parts.

Advantage: Accuracy and Precision

Auto part designs are intricate and require tight tolerances. For example, the piston rings in a car’s internal combustion engine can have tolerances as small as 4 μm. CNC machines are precise and can fabricate the most complex auto part designs. They eliminate the possibility of human error.

Advantage: Repeatability

Since CNC machines rely on 3D CAD models and computer instructions, operations can be repeated, and parts can be fabricated as many times as necessary without any discrepancy. ODMs rely on CNC machines to manufacture large volumes of identical car parts.

Insight No. 3: CNC Machining is Helping to Move Auto Production into the Future

Even with the numerous benefits that CNC machinery offers in the automotive industry, technological advancements continue to evolve. Modern-day CNC machinery now features artificial intelligence (AI) software, which allows the machines to self-diagnose faults and reduce downtime. This innovation has also improved the quality and consistency of machined car parts.

AI-assisted CNC machining is also playing an essential role in the production of self-driving cars. It helps companies manufacture critical electrical technologies, such as radar sensors, adapters, optical instruments, and membrane switches.

What’s more? Recent trends suggest that AI-assisted CNC machines can be used to design components with feedback mechanisms, aiding cars to self-drive.

CNC Machining with Gensun Precision Machining

Gensun Precision Machining is a well-known name in a wide variety of industries, including the automotive industry. Since our establishment in 2006, we have worked with over 800 innovative companies and completed over 100,000 projects.

Using our state-of-the-art CNC machines, our experienced engineers and technicians can create high-quality custom parts for your projects. For more information about our services, contact us today. You can also request a quote if you already have product drawings or 3D model data files.

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