Necessity may indeed be the mother of invention, but that still leaves the inventor, not to mention the designer, the developer, and the manufacturer, in need of a lot of help. More and more, three letters spell out that message and bring the rescue innovators need, but they aren’t SOS as you might have guessed.
And that need is higher than ever. With booming economies all over the world, especially in the United States, people and companies are reinventing, now more than ever. According to a research, patent offices worldwide accepted just over 3 million patent applications during 2016, which was an increase of over 8 percent over the previous year. It also marked a seven-year streak of year-over-year increases in global patent application filings.
But that leaves a significant gap in development, a gap that includes the costly and time-ineffective steps of modeling, prototyping, testing, sometimes repeating the cycle many times before success is finally achieved. Luckily, computer technology has brought time-saving new processes to design and development which are changing the face of almost every industry and opening up new doors to the smallest tinkerer and the most prominent global conglomerate.
CNC Machining and CNC Milling
Computer Numerical Control, or CNC, uses a computer to make a numerical conversation of any design produced by Computer Aided Design software, or CAD. The numbers are like coordinates of a graph which controls the cutter along three axes, X, Y, and Z. The software instructs the computer (in a language called G-code), and the computer controls the cutting.
Unlike 3D printing, instead of adding material to the resulting piece, CNC milling removes material from a block and leaves only the desired piece; like sculpting by computer.
CNC milling is the most common form of CNC machining, as it performs the functions of both drilling and turning. In addition to the three CNC axis, milling adds a fourth axis, Milling Head Z, or more. A fifth or sixth axis provide pivots and angles for greater flexibility.
CNC Plastic and Metal Prototyping
But before you write CNC off as just another technological fad or marketing gimmick, consider this: From aerospace, defense, transportation, medical, industrial, and specialty markets, CNC machining is the most common method of rapid and plastic prototyping and is also popular in manufacturing both metal and plastic parts in unlimited quantities.
CNC machining provides numerous benefits to the inventor or designer at almost every level, from the garage-based neighborhood genius to the most highly paid developers in the biggest companies all over the world.
One benefit of CNC machining is testability. Parts are made instantly so they can be tested for functionality. Even the CNC processing itself includes a stage called cutting air, a trial run which tests the program itself before production begins, eliminating any potential problems.
CNC manufacturing is also more precise than manual machining, as it allows unlimited repetitions with perfect integrity, every piece identical to the others. This is true even with complex shapes that would be beyond most manual machinists’ abilities, especially when produced repetitively.
CNC milling can create a demonstration piece which precisely functions as it would when mass produced, making it a cost-effective method for covering the vital proof-of-concept stage of any product or design development.
CNC fabrication also results in increased productivities in ways manual machines just can’t touch. They can automatically change tools (once loaded a first time). They use high-pressure coolant to reduce heat from the cutting zone and to flush away excess material chips or their debris. CNC machines also use high-speed electronic probing, which finds the tool and part datums/zeros. And because CNC machines do not need manual operators, they can accommodate stiffer, sturdier designs and can, therefore, accommodate bigger motors and handle larger deeper cuts.
But CNC milling isn’t right for every person or every company in every circumstance. CNC plastics reduce a piece of plastic to produce a result, and this can be expensive in labor, cost, and time, depending on the size of the project and the quantity required. And CNC machining process doesn’t automatically mean accuracy or functionality. Old or overworked CNC machines may not perform as well as new manually operated machines. Operator skill is also crucial. So it’s vital to find a rapid manufacturing company with the best and newest CNC machines and most reliable operators.
3D printing may be a viable option for some with particular needs, but it’s not without drawbacks of its own, including limitations on the types of material that can be used. It’s also not the most time- or cost-efficient for mass production. So for a serious inventor, designer, or manufacturer, CNC machining is increasingly the preferred choice.
And while one might fear that all this computer programming eliminates the need for human workers or is otherwise destructive to the American worker, think again. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, there are an estimated half-million machinist and tool and die makers positions in the United States, paying over $44k per year, or over $21 an hour. Statistics estimates that U.S. metal cutting and forming machine tool manufacturing gross output in the U.S. reached an all-time high in 2016.
CNC Machining Services in China
But while CNC prototype machining services are a boon to the American workforce up and down the line, it’s also had a positive effect on another major power on the other side of the world.
China is a leading global economy and a culture known for its precision and efficiency. According to recent studies, the sales ratio of computer numerical control (CNC) high precision machine tools accounted for approximately twenty-four percent of total machine tool sales in China. And a quick look for any one of a growing number of CNC-oriented companies illustrates the point; more and more of them are found in China.
One of the leaders in rapid manufacturing, Wayken is headquartered in China and provides an array of CNC manufacturing and milling services in both plastics and metals for clients all over the world, particularly in the United States. Providing plastic prototype machining, CNC aluminum machining, clear optical prototypes, low-volume manufacturing, functional and working prototypes, and automotive prototyping, Wayken aids their clients with design, presentation, engineering, verification, and more.
Whatever company the inventor, designer, developer or manufacturer chooses, wherever in the world, one thing seems clear: CNC machining technology is the future of product invention, design, development, and manufacturing. Those who refuse to modernize their approach and take advantage of this new and exciting computer technology will be left behind, and no SOS will be good enough. The only three letters that can help the modern inventor, designer, developer, or manufacturer are simple: CNC.