Although the first CNC milling machine was invented in 1952, it wasn’t until after 1967 that this technology began to gain traction in the manufacturing industry. And as of now, the global CNC milling machines market is projected to surpass $25 billion by 2028.
But like with every other machining technology, CNC milling has its pros and cons.
This article covers the advantages and disadvantages as well as the applications of CNC milling. But before getting into the specifics, let’s dig deep into the subject of what CNC milling is and how it differs from conventional milling.
What is CNC Milling?
CNC milling is a machining process that uses computerized controls and cutting tools to selectively remove material from a workpiece and produce a custom-designed part. A CNC milling machine features a table that automatically moves (or rotates) the workpiece on different planes so the cutting tool can work on it.
Unlike manual lathes, a CNC milling machine operates by converting a 3D CAD model into a set of computer instructions, which is then used to dictate the tooling’s actions and movements automatically.
What are the Advantages of CNC Milling?
One of the biggest advantages of using CNC milling machines is that they can create parts exactly to specification. Because CNC mills rely on computer instructions to fabricate parts, they eliminate the possibility of human error common in manually operated machines. This means you can accurately create complex parts while achieving tolerances as tight as 0.004mm.
#2 Fast and Efficient
Conventional milling machines often require an operator to manually change cutting tools depending on the cutting operation to be performed. Not only is this time-consuming, but it is also inefficient as end results are based on the operator’s judgment.
CNC mills feature rotating carousels that can hold up to 30 different tools. These tools are automatically exchanged on the spindle during machining operations, allowing cutting operations to be performed quickly and efficiently. With CNC mills, you can have your parts ready in a matter of hours, whereas conventional methods may take days (or weeks) to complete.
#3 Wide Range of Material Options
CNC mills boast compatibility with a wide range of materials, including plastics, metals, and composites. So long as you’ve got blocks of the material, CNC mills will have no problem machining it.
We can talk about precision, speed, and a ton of other advantages all day, but nothing beats affordability, especially for businesses looking to rely on third-party manufacturers. CNC milling is among the most affordable modern-day manufacturing processes. In fact, a CNC milled component would cost you less than a comparable 3D printed part.
What are the Disadvantages of CNC Milling?
#1 Material Wastage is More in CNC Milling
CNC milling is a subtractive manufacturing method-it starts with a block of material and cuts away portions of it to form the finished part. As a result, there is more material wastage in CNC milling than in additive manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing.
#2 There are not Enough Qualified Technicians
Although pretty much the whole milling process is automated, CNC milling still requires highly trained engineers or technicians to program mills, calculate requirements and supervise the mills so that high-quality parts are always produced.
Not so many machine shops can boast of highly qualified CNC mill operators; as a result, there have been many horror stories about low-quality machined parts.
What are the Applications for CNC Milling?
Due to the high precision that CNC technology offers, CNC mills are used in a wide variety of industries, including the aerospace, medical, and electronics industries.
In the aerospace industry, they are used to fabricate manifolds, bushings, and landing gear parts. (Related Post: CNC Machining Aerospace Parts: 5 Things You Need to Know)
The medical industry heavily relies on CNC milling machinery to create prostheses, medical instruments, and other FDA-approved medical devices. Additionally, CNC mills are used to create heat sinks, amplifier housings, and other electronics parts used in the electronics industry.
What’s more, CNC milling machines play a crucial role in the operation of other modern-day manufacturing technologies. For example, the high-precision copper mold patterns and cavities used in the injection molding process are usually created using CNC mills.
CNC Milling with Gensun Precision Machining
Gensun Precision Machining is a well-known manufacturing company that has been providing high-quality rapid prototyping and precision machining services for nearly two decades. Using our advanced 3-, 4- and 5-Axis CNC milling machines, our experienced engineers can help you create the parts you need exactly to specification. Tell us about your project today!