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How does a CNC machine work?

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Quick Answer

A computer numerically controlled machine works by using computer impulses to control a manufacturing machine. Software in the machine converts computer code into electrical signals. These signals are what makes the machine perform.

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CNC machines virtually eliminate the need for a person to manually use a manufacturing machine. This cuts down on human error and increases production speed. Most CNC machines commonly have three different types of controllers. Sometimes the machine has an attached control arm. If the control sits on top of the arm, it is referred to as a pedestal controller. Controllers that hang down from the arm are pendant controllers. Sometimes the machine is controlled remotely from a computer in another room. In this case, the controller is a desktop controller.

The software program is what makes the CNC machine do its job. There are four basic types of software used. Large commercial machines use Manual G Code programming or Offline CAM programming. CAM programming can be difficult to learn, and Manual G programming is good for simple machine processes. Two programs that are a bit easier to use are Windows-based programming and conversational programming. Conversational programming can be used for machines that make simple or complex parts. Windows-based programming works with both CAM and CAD data but is easier for users to understand.

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