CNC machining has become one of the most important and efficient means of handling metal fabrication tasks in modern American industry. This is because the technology itself is a combination of sophisticated software programming married to advanced mechanical engineering to produce a system known as “computer numerical control,” or CNC.
However, as efficient and essential as this technology may be to modern metal fabrication, like any tool, trade, or person, there are limits to what CNC can do. And while there are still problems with CNC machining that may crop up in certain situations, these challenges can be overcome with the right strategy.
1 - Complex Geometry
It’s generally true that what a skilled tradesman may excel at, CNC machining may have trouble with, and vice versa. Whereas it’s a true show of skill for a tradesmen to work metal with precision, such as cutting in straight lines, or circular patterns, a CNC controlled machine can do this easily.
But with more asymmetrical or unique geometric patterns, CNC machining may struggle where an experienced artisan can get the job done. This challenge, however, is mostly a technical limitation. Older CNC machines operated only two or three axes. Newer machines have a much greater range of movement.
2 - Data Processing
CNC machining, because of its mechanical nature, can operate well within the boundaries of the hardware. But the performance may be affected by the software that runs the machine. In some cases, the bottleneck for just how fast CNC machining works is the speed at which the computer sends instructions to the device under control.
This is easily overcome with an upgrade. The computer that runs the software may require an update to faster, more powerful hardware. Or, the controlling software itself may be due for retirement to make way for a newer, more versatile and powerful piece of software that can fully utilize a machine’s inherent strengths.
3 - Sizable Cost
There is no getting around the fact that the initial financial outlay required to purchase CNC machining equipment is not cheap. That’s especially true for people who are coming in fresh and have no existing equipment to upgrade from.
However, the inherent challenge of starting up with CNC machining is offset by the return. This is not a simple purchase of a consumable. This is an investment that will yield profits in the long term through many indirect benefits, such as faster results, longer operation, and the ability to take on more work.
4 - Expensive Repairs
It should come as no surprise that one of the problems with CNC machining is that when things break down, the repairs can be costly. CNC machining requires a complex mix of hardware and software in order to work efficiently. Any breakdown in these systems may require a combination of mechanical and programming expertise to get it up and running again.
But catastrophic breakdowns can be easily avoided with good, preventive maintenance. Regular inspections of both hardware and software with a bit of proper maintenance are often the key to avoiding serious problems that can actually put a stop to operations.
5 - Loss of Expertise
In the past, the requirements to perform more complex machining tasks required artisans or engineers with a solid understanding of metallurgy or other subjects. This often had an indirect benefit on a company as this knowledge educated many of the people in a business. CNC machining vastly simplifies things, meaning that because the machine knows what to do, workers no longer require the knowledge behind these results.
On the other hand, fewer people are required to get a job done now that CNC machining has taken over. The loss in specialized knowledge is offset by the lower operating costs of having fewer staff that do not require expensive schooling and training in order to get the job done.
CNC machining is obviously not perfect, and is not being an ideal solution for every single engineering or fabrication problem. But for the tasks CNC machining has been built for, it is a safe, efficient, cost effective solution when properly deployed for a job.
CAMM Metals | CNC Machining Projects in CT
It's crucial to do your research when choosing a metal fabrication, as not all companies are capable of completing the same quality of work. CAMM Metals has years of experience, honing our skills across the board to deliver a quality product and measurable bottom line value to our customers.