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A Detailed Guide to the Types and Benefits of CNC Machines

How familiar are you with Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining? This system conducts dimensional tasks with the precision of a robot by giving commands to tools via software programs.

There are numerous types of CNC machines, such as lathe, milling, laser, plasma cutting, drilling, electrical discharge, router, and grinding models. They all function in a similar yet distinctive manner to achieve a universal goal, referring to the manufacturing of high-precision components. 

The benefits of such machinery include the elimination of human errors, reduced risk of workplace accidents, reduced waste, cost, and time savings. 

We hope the following guide helps you gain a better understanding of the types and benefits of computer numerical control machinery.

CNC lathe machines

What makes these lathe machines special is their ability to rotate the materials in the course of operation. The cutting tools remove the necessary amount of material until the required diameter is achieved. While the material is rotated, the cutting tool remains stationary. The low number of axes makes these models more compact and shorter than others. 

CNC lathes generally consist of the following components, machine bed, main spindle, sub-spindle, chuck, guideway, headstock, tailstock, and tool turret. The bed represents the core of the entire machine, which serves as a base for mounting different components. It’s usually made of cast iron to minimize heat distortion and provide remarkable mechanical stability.

The main spindle is comprised of the spindle drive system and spindle assembly, including several moving parts like the motors and gears. Also, there are tool holders installed at a rotating disk, known as the turret disk, where tools get positioned and switched. The operation of the sub-spindle is synchronized with the main spindle so as to improve efficiency.

Additionally, the guideway makes sure the cutting process runs smoothly by assisting the tool in moving horizontally and vertically. Conversely, the headstock contains the main motor and is supposed to handle high torque when working on tough materials. Learn more about the way in which CNC machining works. 

The tailstock, on the other hand, serves as a support in the event of machining long pieces, such as shafts. Unless the tailstock is used to provide firm support, manufacturers cannot hope for high precision. The tool turret is designed to allow cutting tools to be changed during the machining process. Its size depends on the number of tools to be mounted on this part. 

Furthermore, CNC lathe machines are used for the creation of both internal and external features of components, such as bores, reamed holes, drilled holes, tapers, broaches, and threads. The most common components made on such equipment include bolts, screws, poppets, shafts, etc. 

CNC milling machines

CNC milling machines are different than CNC lathes in the way they hold the material. While the material is rotating in the case of latches, it remains stationary when machined by milling machines. Cutting tools are the ones that rotate, not the material. These machines are equipped with both cutting and drilling tools and come in configurations between three and six axes. 

Moreover, the material has to be placed inside the milling machine, after which the computer guides the tools to make the necessary drills and cuts. Regarding dimensional tolerance, the parts produced by this equipment are absolutely precise. It can produce an extensive array of shapes and features, such as workpiece cavities and deep cavities in the form of threads and slots. The shapes of the manufactured components are mainly square and rectangular.

The materials of components include ceramics, composite materials, and plastic, not just metals. The machining process performs smoothly with the help of different technical features, such as coolant systems, tool carousels, tool changers, enclosures, etc. 

There are vertical, horizontal, turret, and bed mills. The cutting tools of vertical mills are long and thin, while the spindle axis is oriented vertically. In contrast, the tools of horizontal mills are thick and short, which makes them less versatile. The spindle of turret mills doesn’t move. These mills are the best choice for detailed work like creating toy parts. Conversely, bed mills are larger and better suited for producing electronic parts of medium size. 

CNC laser machines

CNC laser machines are known for their ability to cut through tough materials with the assistance of a focused laser beam. Such a beam is powerful enough to cut, engrave, or slice materials by heating them to the point of melting or vaporizing. There are numerous reputable companies, such as aeonlaser.ca/, providing customers with CNC lasers of the highest quality. The laser beam makes precise cuts by moving back and forth multiple times over the material. 

Furthermore, the range of designs provided by CNC lasers is much wider than the range of conventional machines. Laser machines create edges and cuts that require no extra finishes. The most frequently used types of lasers include neodymium (Nd), CO2, and YAG. 

CNC laser engravers are mainly used for marking and decoration of components. For instance, they are indeed helpful in the process of engraving company names and logos into components, which isn’t the case with lathe and milling machines. Laser engraving can be added to components following the completion of the machining operations. 

CNC plasma cutting machines

These plasma-cutting machines are designed to cut through materials by using a plasma torch of high power, which follows the directions of a computer. Plasma torches have the power to reach 50,000 ˚F, similar to the capacity of gas-powered, handheld torches. At this temperature, they melt through the components and create cuts. 

Nevertheless, the material that undergoes cutting has to be electrically conductive, as otherwise, the process would fail to deliver the expected results. Materials classified as electrically conductive include stainless steel, steel, copper, aluminum, and brass. The manufacturing environment definitely benefits from such high-precision machining. 

CNC drilling machines

This drilling equipment is usually used for mass production. Workpieces remain static while the cutter makes the necessary moves. The machining center has multiple functions, as it not only mills but also turns. The drilling process commences only if drills of various diameters are pre-mounted. Such machines are effective in the performance of counterboring, tapping holes, and reaming. 

Electrical discharge machines (EDMs)

This sort of equipment is also popular under the name spark CNC machine because of the use of electric sparks when forcing materials to take the desired shape. Some people even call this process spark machining, wire burning, or spark eroding. 

An electrode wire is placed over the component, which is commanded to emit an electrical discharge. Such a discharge has the capacity to produce intensive heat of a maximum of 21,000 ˚F.  When exposed to a high temperature of so many degrees, the material melts until it takes the required shape.  

EDMs are the most popular tools in the creation of micro-holes with high precision, as well as slots and a myriad of other complicated features. Such a procedure is generally applied to hard metals, which would be otherwise difficult to shape. 

Router machines

This form of equipment works almost to the same principle as the rest of the CNC tools. Nevertheless, it is preferred mostly for interior and exterior decorations, door carvings, wood panels, wood frames, furniture, signboards, etc. CNC router machines guarantee surface finishes of remarkable quality, which encourages manufacturers to use them for door design. 


Grinders are another type of CNC equipment, relying on a stationary wheel to make cuts into workpieces.  They use high-pressure coolants for the removal of metal pieces from the components without causing burns to the equipment. The pieces manufactured by grinders are almost always cylindrical. Manufacturers rely on them for surface grinding, flute grinding, and contour grinding. 


A large number of manufacturers find CNC machining of great assistance for meeting their production requirements. This equipment eliminates the risk of human errors, as their accuracy and precision result from the use of sophisticated programs. 

The risk of workplace accidents is minimized as well, which often happens when workers handle plasma-cutting tools. Instead of handling such dangerous tools that produce intense heat, the machine will perform the task on their behalf. 

Another benefit of CNC machining is the reduction of material wastage, as any leftovers can be reused in the process. Business owners stand to gain from investing in such equipment by saving both time and money. Although the initial investment is costly, these machines become cost-effective in the future. Over time, the production times of your company will experience an increase, followed by a boost in profits. You won’t have any trouble meeting the demands on time, which has a positive effect on the reputation of your company. 

Computer numerical control machining is what businesses need to keep up with their competitors. Given automation has taken over manufacturing, any company that fails to join the trend is likely to experience struggles. 

To sum up

Automation is the future of manufacturing businesses. 

Any investment in computer numerical control machines is more than welcome!

Writer and news enthusiast. Enjoy the simple things in life. A coffee on a Sunday morning listening to your favorite tracks. Take the time to love the world around you and enjoy life! Then work on something that you're passionate about.

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