A Quick Guide to CNC Cutting

CNC cutting has evolved by leaps and bounds

Whatever the shape, design, edge, or opening, a CNC Cutting machine can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. It wasn’t always that way. Upon its arrival in the 1950s, CNC Cutting was quite rudimentary when compared with the amazing wizardry that emerges from CNC machines on today’s production floors.

The first CNC machines were two-dimensional and could only make cuts horizontally or vertically. Then the third dimension was added and the whole thing took off like a scalded dog. In the old days, there weren’t many choices available for CNC technology, but now there are more choices than you can shake a stick at!

CNC machines come in all shapes and sizes

The range and variety of technologies available in CNC engineering are greater than a short article can detail. Here, we’re going to stick to the major categories of machine types to give you an idea of where the state-of-the-art lies today. Listed below are a dozen major types of CNC machines:


  1. Lathe – Turns materials while working, unlike other types of CNC equipment. Simple to operate and requires little floor space.
  2. Mill – Very precise tolerances for all types of material removal. Works with 3, 4, 5, and 6 axis technology. Computer training is quite helpful.
  3. Drill – A simpler design in CNC production that accurately places holes and other openings in piecework. Easy operation and small configuration.
  4. Grinder – Removing material using specialized surfactants and lubricants to achieve desired surfaces and contours.
  5. Router – Cutting a channel into material or creating specially designed edge contours on inside and outside corners of workpieces.
  6. Electric Discharge – Similar to a spot welder, this machine accurately places and welds materials together within tight tolerances.
  7. Laser – Extremely accurate cutting of mild materials like wood, plastic, paper, and nylon using light transmitters.
  8. Plasma – Able to cut through tough materials like steel and aluminum with high accuracy and speed.
  9. 3D Printer – As the name implies, this CNC Cutter works like a 3D printer by removing and shaping work materials from all angles.
  10. 3, 4, 5, and 6-Axis – These are the heart and soul of CNC machining working on workpieces from every conceivable angle with all kinds of tools.
  11. Pick and Place – Accuracy down to millionths of a millimeter sets these machines apart from all the others in the CNC world.
  12. Tool Changer – Able to rapidly and accurately remove work tools off of spindles and replace them with other tools to continue production processes.

A whole universe of CNC cutting tools

Understanding the different types of CNC Cutting machines available is one thing; comprehending the scope of each discipline associated with each type of machine is another matter altogether. Within each machine type is a whole other universe of subcategories. Within each subcategory, there are specialties and unique technologies utilized nowhere else on the planet. The number of applications, tools, machines, and industrial uses truly boggles the mind. Add in the fact that CNC Cutting machines are used everywhere industry exists and you begin to get the idea that there is no end to this technology or its applicability in today’s manufacturing environments

Brave new worlds in CNC machining

The technological demands of CNC machine processes keep getting more and more sophisticated as does the capability of CNC machines. No one imagined anything like Artificial Intelligence (AI) being around to help machinery do better jobs, but it’s here and it’s doing more for CNC Cutting than anyone could have imagined. Today’s machinery not only makes decisions on its own, but it also monitors its performance, details maintenance issues, and keeps track of it all for later review and analysis.

We humans can only watch in awe as a mechanical device starts, works, and shuts down all on its own without our interference. And the future holds even more! Training, education, experience, and creativity all contribute to the ongoing evolution of this phenomenal technology and the number of applications for it in today’s world continues to expand worldwide. If this is the kind of challenge you enjoy there’s lots of room for more players in the game. Jump in anywhere and you’ll be amazed at what you discover in CNC Cutting.

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