CNC Machines: All You Have to Know About Them

CNC is an acronym that means Computer Numerical Control. These machines are very important in the industry of manufacturing. They are quite complex and are computer-controlled. They provide a very high level of accuracy, consistency, and efficiency that would otherwise be unachievable if a manual manufacturing process is used.

With CNC machines, operations that years ago were thought to be impossible are made very easy. Just like CNC machines make several parts, so also there are different types of this kind of machines that are used to achieve these several productions.

Therefore, this article will discuss everything that you have to know about CNC machines from the definitions to the various types to the unique functions of these types. But first, let us start from the very beginning, what does CNC machining mean.

CNC Machining – Definition

CNC machining is a type of manufacturing process that uses computer software to dictate factory tools and machinery’s movements. This results in faster production while also reducing waste and eliminating risks associated with human error.

Any machine that is capable of manufacturing in this manner is a CNC machine. That is to say, these types of machines are mechanical devices that control factory tools and machinery using preprogrammed computer inputs. They can be used to process and mill different materials like metals, plastics, and wood.

Brief History

CNC machines were first developed during the 1940s. The technology used at this time was known as “
perforated paper tape”, or “punched tape”. Visit  to learn more about punched tape technology. This technology has however been obsolete for a very long time and newer technologies keep coming up.

With the advent of even better technology, CNC machines’ efficiency keeps improving in every way. Read on to find out the 6 common types of Computer Numerical Control machines.

Common Types of CNC Machines

The following are the 6 of the types of Computer Numerical Control machines you can commonly find…

1. Router

This is a lot similar to the common manual router that is used to cut several materials. They increase productivity because of how faster they are than other machinery to produce various items. They also ensure that waste is reduced to the barest minimum.

The majority of routers are capable of operating on one piece of work in three dimensions. They are also an excellent choice for small projects and creating complex designs and prototype models.

2. Plasma Cutter

This type of Computer Numerical Control machine makes use of plasma torches to cut through materials. They are mostly used for cutting heavy materials like steel and generally any other type of metal.

CNC plasma cutters blow gas out of a nozzle at such high speed. As this is happening, an arc is formed electrically by the gas from the nozzle onto the material being cut. The gas is then converted into plasma.

The temperature of the plasma often ranges between ten thousand to fifty thousand degrees, making the plasma hot to the point of melting the material being cut. It also blows off molten metal that is found on the cut’s site.

When it comes to size and shape, these machines are a lot like routers. Finally, they only operate with shapes that are two-dimensional.

CNC Machines: All You Have to Know About Them

3. Electric Discharge Machine

The manufacturing process that involves making certain shapes on material by the use of electrical sparks and discharges is known as Electric discharge machining. Any machinery used for this process is known as an Electric discharge machine.

During the procedure, the material then is taken out of a particular work piece using series of electrical discharges or sparks between 2 electrodes. The electrodes are divided with a dielectric liquid that receives electric voltage often.

To effect this process, the work piece is put in between the 2 electrodes, the machine will then calculate the number of electric sparks or discharge that the electrodes have to produce.

4. Milling Machine

This happens to be the most common type of Computer Numerical Control machine. They are used to cut several types of materials. They are built to translate specific computer programs and codes so they can manipulate their spindle in several ways.

A lot of CNC mills use a programming language that most CNC machines recognize. This language is known as G-Code. This article talks more about G-Code. Mills can have a very wide range of functions like shoulder milling, drilling, tapping, turning, and face milling.

They can be very large when placed in comparison with other tools and are also quite expensive.

5. Lathe

A lathe is built to rotate and then cut work materials. They work quickly to cut tools in a very precise manner. There is a clear precision that is achieved with Computer Numerical Control lathes that can never be gotten with manual lathes.

They usually have fewer axes when compared with mills and so they are much smaller and compact.

6. Laser Cutter

These are a lot like plasma cutters, with the one difference being that laser cutters are used for cutting various materials like hardwood and plastic. The laser’s intensity can also be adjusted based on the strength and density of the work piece being cut.

Categories of CNC Machines

We have already mentioned the most common types of Computer Numerical Control machines; however, it is worthy to note that these types fall under two broad categories. These categories are conventional and novel machining technologies.

While these technologies are quite similar, they are also quite different. The following are some of these similarities and dissimilarities between them…


They are both:

  • Computer operated.
  • More accurate than manual manufacturing tools.
  • Produce mass prototypes of machine parts.


Novel CNC machines:

  • Use more specialized processes.
  • Can cut using different mediums.
  • Are used for certain parts and special cases.

Some of the equipment that falls under conventional technologies includes lathes, mills, and drills. And under novel technologies, we have electric discharge machines, laser cutters, and plasma cutters.


Computer Numerical Control machining has greatly revolutionized the manufacturing industry. This article discusses some of the common equipment that uses this technological process.