5 Ways CNC Precision Machining Can Make or Break Quality and Performance

04/13/2021 | Scott Waak

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When it comes to high-quality machining, precision is the key to part quality. And the key to making that process cost-effective is repeatability, so every part can be counted on to perform as expected.

CNC precision machining, or computer numerical control machining, is nearly as common as a hammer and nail (although it is light years more productive). With CNC technology, cutting processes are performed by computer-guided equipment and complex tools.

Just about every industry relying on mechanical parts uses CNC machining services to:

  • create custom machined parts from raw materials
  • fabricate metals into individual components
  • machine cast parts straight from the mold

Before we dive into how quality and performance are driven by CNC machining, let’s explore exactly what “precision quality machining” really is.

Is “CNC machining” the same as “precision machining”?

Not really. Precision machining involves removing material (also called “subtractive manufacturing”) from a workpiece, or blank, to produce a custom-designed part while maintaining tight tolerances. This is typically done by removing layers of material using milling machines, by turning, or using electrical discharge machining.

CNC machining, a type of precision machining, is different because it’s automated, enabling high CNC accuracy and extreme precision. Not only can CNC machining attain a degree of complexity and intricacy that traditional precision machining technology can’t — cutting to 0.001” or about 1/4 the width of a human hair — it’s also cost-effective when producing complex parts.

When it comes to meeting quality and performance demands, there are specific ways that CNC precision machining excels.

1. Best-in-Class Machining Technology

CNC machining equipment is truly state-of-the-art. The days of people working levers, handling products excessively, and pushing buttons are long gone. No matter what type of CNC machine is used, the computer components are now the “live operator,” manipulating the cutting tools and shaping the material, whether that’s metal, plastic, wood, glass, foam, composite, or something else.

Highly trained engineers program machines using M-code and G-code to control every move.

2. Incredible Array of Applications

CNC machining’s flexibility with many materials (aluminum, gray iron, ductile iron, austempered ductile iron, steel, stainless steel, brass, bronze, and more) can help businesses of any size compete when creating custom parts and designs. Plus, highly precise tolerances can be repeatedly achieved, establishing customer confidence.

The range of possible industries that can benefit includes metalworking, automotive, aerospace, agriculture, construction, power generation, marine, transportation, recreation and consumer goods, military/defense, industrial equipment, and more. And, the types of CNC machines vary as much as the industries they benefit.

3. Reduced Cycle Times. Lower Labor Costs.

CNC’s enhanced production manufacturing automation, and the ability to program without interrupting the machine utilization, help meet higher production demands with less reliance on the machinist or operator. CNC machines are built for maximum accuracy and repeatability, whether they’re producing a hundred machined parts or thousands.

Conventional machining requires a machinist that programs the machine and monitors and adjusts optimal running speeds and tooling. CNC machines run a program that is created offline. Often a setup operator changes over a machining center to produce a different part by loading the new program, changing fixtures and tools, and machining the first parts to prove out the process. From here, a machine operator often takes over and runs production.

The operator maintains tooling, loads parts, and does offline operations such as deburring and quality checks. Because operators run production, the setup operator can support multiple CNC machines. This structure allows entry-level operators to be productive and develop their skills over time, which is important as the labor pool of experienced machinists continues to decline.

4. Improved Tool Performance and Reliability

While traditional, conventional machining is acceptable for some industries, others require tolerances as tight as +/- .0005. That level of precision demands CNC accuracy. And often, tens of thousands of identical parts are needed, which is impossible without CNC’s repeatability.

When the production part approval process (PPAP) is complete, everything is in place to produce repeat orders time after time. The fixture is built. Tooling is ready and programs are proven. Quality processes are in place. Now, the machine applies the same cut and maintains the same high quality.

5. Part Quality

Speaking of high quality, CNC quality is unmatched. Variations experienced with traditional machining are gone when using a numerically controlled machine. It can complete 24-hour days, needing only minimal preventive maintenance, and advanced software makes it (relatively) easy to meet design specification revisions on complex parts. Plus, extensive testing of a complex CNC part makes sure high-quality machining and advanced processes are being used to exceed customer expectations.

High production quality.
Reliable consistency.
Superior CNC accuracy.
Increased efficiency.
Reduced labor costs.

It’s no wonder that CNC machine shops boast better part performance and happier workforces. Every type of manufacturing process has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to you to determine whether CNC precision machining is the best solution for your unique manufacturing application.

In addition to advanced machining, consider working with a CNC machine shop that has its own engineering department. In-house design and fixture building enables tooling and initial parts with short lead times. The Stecker Machine Company team includes highly qualified programmers and engineers who specialize in all areas of manufacturing. Plus, we’re committed to purchasing the most state-of-the-art inspection tools, and we reinvest in new technology to remain a leader in the industry.

Ready to explore best-in-class CNC precision machine equipment? See how Stecker has invested in the industry’s finest equipment and technologies. That’s the only way to ensure the quality and performance our customers expect.

Various challenges can inspire you to consider seeking the expertise of CNC precision machining. To take the next step, read our guide: When Do You Know It’s Time to Work With a High-End CNC Machine Shop?New call-to-action

Scott Waak

About the Author

Scott pushes Stecker Machine’s growth. He brings in new work as a Sales Account Manager, is point of contact for a large customer, and recently began spearheading SMC's customer delight initiative in the role of Customer Service Manager, leading the Customer Service team. Scott has been in the CNC machining industry for over 25 years, starting as a Machinist and advancing to his current role. He credits his success to hard work, dedication to manufacturing, and wanting to excel and improve.

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