The Evolution Of CNC Machining In The Manufacturing Industry

The Evolution Of CNC Machining In The Manufacturing Industry

There’s little doubt that technologies like CNC machining have become vital to the world of manufacturing, and will remain a mainstay within industries for years to come. In fact, CNC machining is on the cusp of another revolution, and in anticipation for what lies ahead, we’d also like to take a look back at some of the history behind this process as well. Here are some tidbits you might find fascinating about CNC machining’s past, present, and potential future.

How Did CNC Machining Get Its Start?

While it’s possible to trace the progenitors of the machines we recognize today back to the 1700s, a look to the early days of what we might consider “modern” CNC machining would take us to the late 1940s, when John Parsons pioneered the first numerical control concepts. These early machines used a punched tape system to store numerical data, which was then read using specialized equipment that translated the data into instructions.

Later on, a man named Richard Klegg developed this technology into one of the first numerically-controlled milling machines (in collaboration with MIT). From there, CNC machining would receive a number of iterative upgrades that improved their performance:

  • Mid-1950s: The introduction of magnetic tape readers allows for more versatility in machining functions and greater manufacturing capability.
  • 1960s – 1970s: Digital computers and software create CAD (computer aided design). This revolutionizes the direction of CNC machines and their ability to create precision manufactured components, pieces, parts, etc.

And now, in the modern day, CNC machining continues to transform manufacturing while evolving along the way. Next, let’s take a look at what we might expect from the future.

What Lies Ahead For CNC Machining?

As technology pushes forward, one of the clearest evolutionary paths for CNC machining is in the integration of enhanced robotics and artificial intelligence. Combined, these two advancements may be able to even further reduce the likelihood of human error in the manufacturing process while simultaneously accelerating the pace of production.

Combined with other enhancements—like the Internet of Things—this could bring about sweeping changes for what’s standard within the industry in terms of productivity and efficiency. IoT technology  allows for multiple machines to “talk” to one another via wireless networks, then work in concert to create whatever final products are needed.

This, in turn, could reduce the need for traveling to factories, arranging extra meetings to discuss project details, etc. Machining could become as simple as sending along a CAD file with the necessary specifics, then waiting for a quote to get started on a project.

Then there’s the promise of smaller CNC devices, some that may even be compact enough to move around—enabling CNC machining in places never before conceived. Combined with 3D printers in the same spaces, this opens up manufacturing to even more versatile and rapid possibilities (think prototyping, small runs, and jobs of that nature).

Look around, and you’ll see this future already starting to materialize. The horizons for CNC machining look bright, and those within the industry have plenty to look forward to.