CNC machines are computer-controlled machines that are able to produce materials by cutting and shaping metal, wood, and plastic. They replaced manual machines of the past, which has increased production in countless industries and lowered costs. In order to pick the right machine for the job, you should be aware of a few of the more common types of CNC machines.

CNC Mills: These types of CNC machines use controls on a computer to cut various materials. They can translate programs composed of particular numbers and letters to move a spindle to different locations and depths. Many of these machines use something called G code, a standard programming language that any CNC machine can interpret. Other machines typically use proprietary languages that are imposed by the manufacturer. While these proprietary languages tend to be simpler than G code, they can’t be transferred to other machines.

CNC Lathes: A lathe is a machine that cuts into metal at rapid speeds. These CNC machines can make quick, precise cuts by using tools and drills with intricate programs to create parts that, under normal circumstances, are unable to be cut with manual lathes. CNC lathes typically include coolant pumps and tool holders that minimize tool wear. These lathes can read proprietary programming language straight from the manufacturer and even G code.

CNC Grinders: A grinder goes through a process that uses a coated wheel to remove metal that ultimately creates a new part. Before CNC technology, people had to use manual grinding machines that were less efficient and more time consuming. To operate the CNC grinder, all you have to do is enter the program that will transcribe the passes of the wheel, press start, and it will create your part. Most CNC grinders contain only a single wheel, making it one of the simplest machines to work with.

CNC Router: This type of CNC machine is one of the most common pieces of CNC machinery you can find. They are built to be operated exclusively with CNC technology, and everything is doing through the computer. Their purpose is to produce larger work and are ideal for cutting wood, sheet metal, plastics, and other materials. Common CNC routers have a 3 axis setup that allows them to basic profiles and 3 dimensional relief machining, although some machines can have more axis.

CNC Plasma and Laser Cutters: Plasma cutters are similar to routers in form, yet they don’t need a powerful set up because they float above the table with a plasma torch rather than moving around a spinning tool. They are meant to cut 2 dimensional shapes into sheet metal. Laser cutters operate the same way plasma cutters do, except they use a laser instead of a plasma torch. They are made to cut wood, metal, and plastic.