CNC Machine 101: An Introductory Guide

CNC Machine 101- An Introductory Guide 2021

CNC machines (Computer numerical control) offer a diverse range of products for many different industries. Engineering, automotive, construction, aerospace, and general manufacturers are excellent examples of CNC machine applications. They are found in every industry and every job site. It is important to understand the different types of CNC machines and their capabilities so that you, as a user, can choose the machine best suited to your needs. 

CNC machines help in industries such as automotive, general manufacturing, and woodworking. But before starting with it, you need to make sure you’ve got everything ready; for example, a DXF file for your design. Click on the link to learn more about DXF Files and more related stuff.

CNC Process Overview

In its most basic form, a CNC machine is a computer-controlled cutting tool. The computer directs the cutter to move to a programmed location and cut. The program determines every cut and operation. 

There are different types of CNC machines based on which part they use:

Lathes: Lathes produce parts by rotating the workpiece against fixed cutting tools. The workpiece may be a material such as steel or aluminum, or a machining ball made from plastic. The entire machine works as a single unit. Workpieces are fed into the machine through a “tool holder” that holds the workpiece at a particular angle relative to the cutting tools. 

Machining Balls: Machining balls are manufactured by placing an abrasive material in the center of a plastic sphere and then extruding them through a molding process.

The CNC process is performed in the following sequence:

  1. Reading the CAD/CAM Design Data and DXF file
  2. Machine simulation to optimize cycle time and toolpaths
  3. Generate NC Code to drive the CNC machine according to the DXF file
  4. Run a toolpath with a machine 

The software used to control a CNC machine is CAD/CAM software.

CNC Basic Fundamentals

Shop Safety and Control: 

It is important to educate employees and contractors on the safe and proper use of CNC machines for their safety and the safety of others in the shop; hence proper shop safety and habit control is advisable before beginning any work on the machine. 

CNC Tools: 

Many different tools help CNC machines to achieve various cuts and effects. The most popular cutting tool is the router. The router is available in both fixed and plunge base models. It helps with various tool bits for different uses.

  • Comparative Cutters: Table saws, miter saws, band saws, and circular saws are all excellent comparative cutters to use on a CNC Machine. 
  • End Mills: End mills are a smaller version of a milling bit that helps primarily in milling operations, such as creating a slot or a hole.

CNC Machine Coordinate System And DXF File Toolpaths: 

All CNC Machines need coding in a coordinate system that defines the origin of rotation and the rotational axes. 

Toolpaths are lines that describe the process of cutting or carving the workpiece. They are typically created with computer-aided design (CAD) software and saved under design file formats such as a DXF file. These DXF files are exported to special programs that generate output files called NC code, then converted into machine codes for the CNC machine to use. 

CNC Programming Language: 

It is important to understand how to program a CNC machine. Every manufacturer with control will have its style, but the core of the programming language is the same.

Many different CNC programming software programs are available, but the most popular is Fanucs MDT (Mechanical Data Translation). It allows very precise part programs and exports them to special machines. Then they generate NC code for use by the CNC Machine according to the DXF file. 

CNC Process Planning: 

It is important to plan out the CNC process before beginning the programming. What are you trying to create? Are you creating a simple circle, or are you creating a complicated part with many different shapes and functions that must be referenced during the programming process? Are you dealing with two or three-axis tools or five-axis tools?

Choosing The Right CNC Machine: 

It is important to make the right choice when choosing a CNC machine for your needs. If you are looking for a plug-and-play solution, it is best to contact the manufacturer of your CAD/CAM software for information regarding their compatible hardware.

CNC Machine Maintenance:  

Maintenance is one of the most important processes when dealing with CNC Machines. It is important to keep up with maintenance regularly to ensure reliability; hence regular checkups are advisable.


Throughout history, CNC machines have been helping to produce expensive parts, but the technology is advancing. The use of this technology has extended to home workshops too.

Today’s CNC machines are considered very safe machines, but it is still important for you to inform your employees about their safety when using them. With the right safety protocols in place, you can protect your employees and keep your workspace safe.

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