Many industries have the need for high-quality, precision machining. From automotive to aerospace, construction to agriculture (and many more), when a workpiece needs to be custom-machined to maintain tight tolerances, precision machining is usually the answer.
However, CNC (computer numerical control) machining is a bit different because it’s automated. Not only can CNC machining achieve extreme precision that cannot be achieved by traditional precision machining technology, it does so repeatedly, with cutting done by computer-guided equipment and complex tools.
Computer programming — a code sequence that tells the CNC machine what to do — makes a CNC machined part incredibly accurate, which is key for most parts.
This article begins to answer basic “why,” “how,” “when,” and even “who” questions of CNC machining services, helping you get started and enjoying its many benefits.
When Do You Need CNC Machining Services?
As a manufacturer, your company values quality and consistency. You likely wouldn’t even be exploring CNC machining if you weren’t already successful.
Yet, how do you know when to commit to a new (and better) way of manufacturing a metal part or component? Here’s a quick checklist:
✔️ Growth — The demand for higher volume drives the need for a more efficient process. Manually creating a part from bar stock may have been your “go to” until now, but demand is now high, and that process simply won’t keep up.
✔️ Repeatability — This is the key to making a part reliable and a process cost-effective. You have to count on every part to perform exactly as it should, and you need 10,000 of them. That’s impossible without CNC’s repeatability.
✔️ Speed — As mentioned, machining from bar stock may be a first option, but it’s a time-consuming process compared to other options. With supply chains pushed like never before, meeting deadlines isn’t a priority, it’s mandatory.
✔️ Tolerance — Conventional machining is fine for some parts, yet many demand tolerances of +/- .001” or tighter. Precision machining meets what many high-quality machined parts require to perform properly.
Why Make The Upfront Commitment?
Machining parts can be done several ways. I mentioned manually machining from bar stock, yet there are other ways, too: laser cutting, water-jetting, and stamping, for instance. Many CNC machined parts start as metal castings, molten metal that is poured into a mold to create one solid piece — there aren’t multiple components and parts that need to be put together.
As much as castings simplify the process of forming a metal into a part, they aren’t perfect; they require additional machining to make them usable. That’s where CNC machining services come in.
Yes, castings involve an upfront cost to design and create the molds, but those exact molds are used again and again, easily paying for the investment many times over.
How Do You Choose the Right CNC Machine Shop?
Not every foundry — the source of castings — is the same. Different metals, different processes, different service levels … foundries vary as much as any other supplier. The same applies to the company you partner with for your CNC machining services.
Since high-quality, precision-machined parts start with the casting, it’s an advantage if your CNC machine shop has a wide supply base of foundries. They help match a part with the exact right processes and materials.
Also, look for a CNC machine shop that fully adheres to design for manufacturability (DFM) guidelines. DFM is the merging of product design and its production method. When implemented early in the design process, this engineering method should streamline the casting process, maintain quality, reduce costs, simplify production, and reduce design rework.
Speaking of engineering, a CNC machine shop with a strong engineering team is priceless! This crew helps ensure parts consistently meet specifications by using their expertise in programming, processing, and tooling, as well as fixture designing, machining, and assembly. Plus, an engineering team helps determine the right foundry fit, reviewing capabilities and conducting a casting print review.
Lastly, don’t overlook industry certifications. Every machining vendor should meet the requirements of ISO 9001-compliant quality management system (QMS) and the IATF 16949 standard — in conjunction with ISO 9001:2015. Stecker Machine Company passed our latest ISO 9001 and IATF 16949 Quality Surveillance Audit with flying colors and zero infractions. Read about it here.
Why Stecker Machine Company?
Imagine you’re an engineer for a manufacturer of agricultural machinery and heavy equipment. Your latest project is nearly fully designed, so it’s sent to a CNC machine shop for a quote.
What you receive back includes a change in the geometry, of the material, and of the casting method. Plus, added (and unexpected) machining is included!
This is not the norm for every project quoted by Stecker Machine Company, but it’s an example of how we may collaborate with a foundry and think deeply to uncover production efficiencies and cost savings.
We’re not afraid to share our expertise if it helps a manufacturer improve, and we welcome complex challenges, often succeeding where other CNC machine shops fail.
Stecker is a champion of CNC machining, knowing that our processes handle customization and achieve tolerances that are untouchable by traditional precision machining. For high quality, trusted repeatability, superior accuracy, and increased efficiency, CNC machining is the answer.