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What is CNC Machining? | Six of the Most Common CNC Machines

What is a CNC Machinist? And 6 of the Most Common CNC Machines 

If you are looking for a trade job that pays well and is highly productive, becoming a CNC machinist might be for you. A computer numerical control (CNC) machine is a system managed by a computer that utilizes raw materials and turns them into manufacturing components used in various production industries. A CNC machinist operates these machines and produces various components for multiple businesses. While these machines are fully automated, CNC machinists are responsible for inputting accurate instructions and ensuring the machines are operating properly. CNC machines help increase productivity, increase safety, and reduce the risk of human error.  Here is a list of six of the most common types of CNC machines and how they operate.

CNC Milling Machine  

Arguably the most popular CNC machine, this machine uses tools primarily for drilling and cutting. Milling machines use programs made up of numbers and letters that act as a guide for the computer. These instructions are typically used in a three-axis configuration. After the instructions are entered, the machine transforms the material into the desired result. CNC milling machines are most commonly used to cut and drill through hard metal materials, but can also be used on wood and soft metals.  

CNC Router Machine  

Router machines are very similar to milling machines. However, these machines work with other materials such as wood, foam, and steel. The router machine’s function works with both a three-axis and a six-axis configuration, allowing for more options besides cutting and drilling. Although router machines are commonly used for smaller projects and prototypes, they are great for any design project because they can create various shapes with a wide range of materials.  

CNC Lathe Machine  

CNC lathe machines are perfect for creating materials with conical, cylindrical, or flat shapes. These machines spin material at a high speed while a blade cuts the surface of the product. Lathes are typically used for simpler, faster jobs compared to other machines. These machines only utilize a two-axis configuration, which includes the length and diameter of the material. Lathe machines are ideal for smaller tasks and are more portable than other CNC machines.  

Plasma Cutting Machine  

This machine uses a plasma cutter to cut through various materials. Rather than using a drill or other tool, these machines use a high-powered torch to burn through the material via a stream of hot plasma or ionized gas. The material used in the machine must be electrically conductive, which is one major reason a plasma cutting machine is used. Aside from the tool used to cut materials, this machine functions similarly to CNC milling machines.  

Laser Cutting Machine  

While CNC laser cutting machines are similar to plasma cutting machines, these machines don’t use ionized gas but rather a high-powered laser to cut through materials, primarily plastics, hardwood, and metal. Laser-cutting machines can create many different designs and engrave various machine components rather than cutting straight through them. Lasers are more accurate than plasma machines due to their high precision and strength, but their effectiveness does make them a costlier option.  

CNC Electrical Discharge Machine  

These machines are also known as “spark CNC machines.” As the term implies, these machines use electric sparks to transform materials into various shapes. Through electric-discharge machining (EDM), two electrodes cause a discharge that degrades the material and shapes it into something new. These machines can create precise slots and holes as well as angled features, which is a difficult feature to achieve with other CNC machines.  

How to Become a CNC Machinist  

If you are curious about creating new products and materials with CNC machines, you may be interested in Edge Tech Academy’s CNC machinist training program. As CNC machines are used throughout the country and in several industries. Fortunately, we offer a CNC machinist program in Texas, so you can apply with us to learn how to become a CNC machinist. Our program offers hands-on learning and will cover a wide depth of information. If you have any other questions about CNC machines or Edge Tech Academy’s training program, you are welcome to reach out to us — we’ll be glad to help.