2021-03-22

Optimizing CNC Machining in 2021


CNC machining remains one of the most versatile manufacturing technologies in the world. In 2020, many industrial manufacturing outlets were closed down due to the Coronavirus pandemic. While 3D printing and additive manufacturing helped many businesses continue product development and innovation, CNC machining remains the most effective panacea for low-volume production and rapid prototyping. 


In the last decade, we witnessed many transformations and improvements in the numerical control process. From digital manufacturing to manufacturing-as-a-service, CNC robotics, critical software updates, and the incorporation of more axes to mills and lathes, 2021 and beyond look exciting for CNC machining. But how exactly can businesses optimize CNC machining this year? Read on to discover how they reap the most benefits for computerized machining in this decade. 


Designing more complex parts 

While traditional CNC machines have three axes, advancements over the years have seen the development of 4 and 5-axis machines for making parts with more complex outputs. With more design variables in the operator's platform, product developers can stretch the possibilities of producing parts with intricate geometries by exploring the additional axes available for machine rotation. 

Although 4 and 5-axis CNC machines have existed before 2021, this year, more and more companies will be able to use these machining features at cost-effective prices. The benefit of this is the actualization of prototypes and designs that have been otherwise elusive over the years. The capabilities are endless – For instance, experts can design products with more strength from less materials using a complex lattice structure in their designs. Even though simplicity on the outside is key, CNC machining can be widely used to actualize internal components that rely on intricate designs and forms to run optimally. 


Cutting down leadtimes 

CNC machines are one of the fastest subtractive manufacturing solutions on the planet. However, with the need for shorter leadtimes comes the demand for increased speed. This is one place where the digital versatility of a machine shop can be an added advantage. 

CNC machines run on G-codes and work with instructions of CAD files. With companies like GE, Haas, and others making more advanced hardware with cost-effective and faster processing capacities, businesses can take advantage of the speed of CNC machining in 2021 to prototype, test, and reach markets faster. Projects that would have to be machined initially with 3 axes and completed on other lathes or mills are now being executed in one-go with 5-axis CNC machines. 

The prices of 4 and 5-axis machines have also moved into an accessible territory. This has made it less of premium service and more of a must-have feature for companies that favor speedy R&D. Tools, spindles, and apparatuses that can cut faster mean better, more accurate tooling and consequently provide the giant leap from prototyping to mass manufacturing. Companies that choose to add more axes to their workflow will tackle more demanding geometries, set

up faster, and reduce overall leadtimes. 


Cost-effective solutions 

With more and more machine shops stocking 5-axis CNC machines, the prices for these once exclusive services will continue to drop to a more affordable range. The higher the supply, the more the competition, and the lesser the prices. Although other tenets like supplier experience, economies of scale, and supplier scorecards come into the play as to what company wins what bids, businesses can take advantage of more machine shops with 5-axis capabilities to augment their bottom lines and find competitive prices across their outsourcing partners. 

Locally, businesses can take advantage of new springing MaaS (manufacturing-as-a-service) solutions that use digital manufacturing advancements to procure CNC machining services on a subscription basis. Platforms like DigiFabster connects machine shops with potential clients that need CNC services. These shops will obtain all the necessary details and use digital collaborations to manufacture desired parts for clients. 


E-commerce augmented supply chains. 

Procuring supplies, replacement parts, and tooling for sophisticated machines like CNCs can be very challenging. With more e-commerce coming into the industry, machine shops can take advantage of the versatility and brevity of numerous vendors that may enlist on popular e-commerce platforms to find direct aftermarket parts, OEM tools, custom fabrication teams, raw materials, and other frequently stocked items. 


Improved quality output 

CNC machining is the industry synonym for perfection. One of the other barriers to the adoption and usability of CNC machines was software. This year, several CAD and CAM applications will receive valuable updates for smoother and better functionalities. These updates are also crucial to help users match the improvements and capabilities of the 4 and 5-axis CNC machines that are slowly becoming an industry staple. Improved software with robust features and optimizations means even more accuracy, precision, and speed. It also enables many operators to unlock the full potential of these machines.

Businesses and product developers should take advantage of the many improvements that become widely available this year to make parts with superior quality, tighter tolerances, and higher repeatability. 


Material adaptability 

CNC machine operations are increasingly versatile. More and more machines can adapt to a range of materials to match the range of materials available through 3D printing. Businesses can take advantage of the material adaptability of CNC machining to make several parts from biocompatible materials, composites, wood, and even more materials. 

This is an excellent opportunity for brands looking to become more eco-friendly or those looking to harness the characteristics of specific materials for ground-breaking innovations. 

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