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What are CNC G-codes?

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Manufacturers use G-code, or G programming language, to control the motion of computer numerical control, or CNC, machines. Each G-code in a CNC program begins with the letter G. When executed in sequence, these G-codes provide step-by-step instructions to a programmable machine, telling it how to move in order to make a product or part. Typical machines that use G-code are mills, drills, lathes, routers and cutting machines.

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G-codes trigger motion, such as rapid movement, controlled feed in a straight line or arc, constant surface speed, dwelling, or a return to home position. "G02," for example, is the G-code for "clockwise circular arc at feedrate," while "G28" means "return to home position." G-codes are numbered from "G00" to "G99," although some G-codes include decimals, such as "G92.1," "G92.2" and "G92.3."

The term "G-code" can be a bit confusing since it denotes both individual codes that begin with the letter G, as well as the programming language itself, which uses codes beginning with all 26 letters of the alphabet. Codes beginning with "A," "B" and "C," for example, refer to the absolute or incremental position of the A-axis, B-axis and C-axis respectively, while "M" is reserved for miscellaneous machine control codes.

Some CNC machines use conversational programming software or editors to hide the G-code from the user and make the machine easier to program.

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