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CNC Machining is a deductive process by which automated cutting tools remove material from a block of raw material or a pre-existing part.
CNC Machining Applications
CNC Machining is ideal for highly accurate parts, very large components and precise form and fit verification fixtures for a variety of industries.
Common applications include:
· Permanent master patterns for molds
· Large functional prototypes
· Large panelling
· Large display models
· Assembly and quality inspection fixtures
· Low volume production parts
Laser machining, or laser beam machining, is a non-contact method of removing metal or refractory materials. Using a powerful beam of light from a computer-controlled laser, surface layers are melted and blown away or vaporized. The beam of the laser is an extremely focused radiation of a wavelength, meaning the beam will not dissipate like conventional light beams.
Some laser beam machining services include drilling, graining and 3-D shaping. Serving industries such as medical, aerospace, telecommunication and micro technology, laser machining applications include thin material processing, thin film patterning, wafer coring and hole drilling. These are just a few of the vast amounts of tools produced by laser cutting machines, since every machine in the manufacturing industry requires such parts.
In laser beam machining, the beam may be shaped in two different ways: either through beam focusing, which uses an optical system to focus the laser beam on a particular size of spot, or through a mask, which utilizes geometric optic properties.
Once the beam is shaped, it is controlled through a stable motion system, which is a combination of CNC and CAD computer systems, to achieve high edge quality during laser-material interaction. Assist gases such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide are then used in conjunction with laser machining to prepare newly cut surfaces for painting or corrosion resistance. Materials that can be laser machined include plastics, ceramics, cast iron, precious metals, glass and titanium.
Laser machining services have distinct advantages over conventional cutting processes such as thermal machining, mechanical machining, arc welding, EDM and flame cutting.
Laser-machined parts have a condition of nearly zero edge deformation, roll-off or edge factor, leaving very little burring on part edges. Because it is often directed by CNC, laser machining rarely makes mistakes and is able to mass produce the same item quickly and efficiently.
Laser machining is faster than conventional tool-making techniques and has a quicker turnaround for parts regardless of complexity because design changes can be easily accommodated. Fewer technicians are required and safety can be assured, unlike arc welding, which requires individual workers and can be very dangerous.
However, laser machining is costly, mostly because it uses a vast amount of energy to run. It is not negotiable for bulk material, nor is it able to operate on a macro scale. That is why CNC machine shops are around, so that individual companies do not need to purchase these machines individually, but can take their designs to professional laser cutters, knowing the quality of their product is insured.
CNC Machining Process
The example below demonstrates the procedure for machining a curved surface component:-
This is the first stage of machining where the object is to quickly remove the bulk of the waste material, normally with the aid of a ripper cutter (see cutters below), this gives the coarse stepped feature seen in the work piece above.
This stage of machining generally uses a smaller cutter than roughing, typically an end mill, although the aim is still to remove the bulk of the waste material.
The next stage, using a relatively large ball nosed cutter, is to start to form the final profile of the work piece, removing the steps generated in the two above procedures.
The final stage, and the longest process of all, is the final cut to the desired size. A small ball nosed cutter traversing across the surface produces the finished shape.
Although this is the final machining stage there is still much work to do in the form of hand polishing and finishing before the article is complete.
A - Ripper Cutter
Used for the rapid removal of large amounts of metal, the serrations along the cutting edge literally rip the material away. This cutter is designed to cut along its sides only.
B - End Mill
Similar to a ripper only without the serrations, used for removing the bulk of the material. The cutting edges, like the ripper, are down the sides of the tool.
C - Slot Drill
Typically this cutter has less cutting surfaces than the two above, and unlike the end mill and ripper can be used to plunge directly into the workpiece. As a result of the reduction in cutting surfaces there is better swarf removal meaning the tool can be used in enclosed pockets and slots.
D - Ball Nosed Slot Drill
This cutter, as its name suggests, has a semi-circular cutting face, with the aid of computer software it is possible to cut tangentially to the work piece enabling curved surfaces to be machined.