Winter in a machine shop: how temperature affects CNC performance

How temperature affects CNC machine performance

Depending upon where the shop is located, the ambient temperature can become a huge factor in machine functionality. Knowledgeable shop managers, as well as veteran shop denizens, know that temperature is always a factor in machining operations due to its effects not only on the machinery but also on the machined materials as well. CNC machines work with such tight tolerances that operators must keep one eye on the thermometer when in production.

Adjust your CNC startup routine

Everyone understands that when it’s frigid outside their car doesn’t start up the same way as when it is hot. CNC machinery is just like an automobile; you have to change the startup routine to match the weather conditions. Smart drivers know when it’s really cold out the best idea is to let the motor warm up before taking off. It’s not just the motor that benefits from warming up and the same is true for CNC machines. There’s a lot of value in taking time when performing the startup routine.

Temperature affects CNC tolerances

Here’s a little physics that’s going to make you think for a second. When a 10-inch piece of aluminum bar stock material changes temperature from 78 degrees to 87 degrees Fahrenheit, its length increases by as much as 0.10 mm. If you’re working with high-tolerance dimensional cuts that 0.10 mm can mean the difference between making money and losing money on a production run.

The same factors are true for the tools and equipment used by a CNC machine. Metal, plastic, silicone, vinyl, wood, and pretty much every other material is affected by the ambient temperature in which it is placed. Maintaining the proper temperature inside the shop is one of the conditions to be evaluated before starting a production run.

Cold CNC tools vs hot CNC tools

A machine shop running CNC machines in Alaska in the middle of winter is going to have a different set of concerns than a shop operating in Texas in the dog days of summer. Taking the time to evaluate and determine the best practices for maintaining a CNC machine as well as workpiece materials integrity will pay off in the long run.

Cold, brittle tools cut differently than hot tools, and environments that stress equipment also require additional maintenance and production steps to ensure proper output without mechanical failure or finished workpiece quality being compromised. Lubricants, washes, filters, and many other machine components have to be adjusted to the conditions in which the machine is operated.

Having a specific temperature issue with your CNC machines?

Nobody knows what happens when the temperature changes better than the CNC service technicians in your area. They are a fountain of information, experience, and tips. Maintenance routines must be modified from the manufacturer’s original schedule or warranty coverages may be invalidated. It all ties together for CNC operators and awareness of the operating conditions should be part and parcel in their repertoire of skills and abilities.

Whenever there’s a question or concern it’s always best to get answers from CNC experts before proceeding and no one knows a CNC machine’s performance specifications like the people who design, build, and maintain them every day for a living.

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