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The Basics of Computer Numerical Control: What is CNC?

CNC meaning: Computer Numerical Control and has been around

since the early 1970's.
Prior to this, it was called NC, for Numerical Control.
(At the beginning 1970's computers were introduced to these
controls, hence the name change.)
CNC Control reads G Codes and other instructions in a CNC Program
and drives CNC Machine tool.
While people in most walks of life have never heard of this
term, CNC is widely used in almost every form of
manufacturing process in one way or another.
If you'll be working in manufacturing, it's likely that
you'll be dealing with CNC on a regular everyday basis.

Once the CNC Machine Tool is set up and running, a CNC m/c is
quite simple to keep running, and the fact is:
It is an easy job for somebody who previously worked
hard on conventional machines.

These are most used CNC Controls in the world today:

Fanuc, Siemens, Heidenhain, Matsura,
Mitsubishi, Mazak, Fadal, Okuma... It differs from each other,
in way how to use and programm it, but in end of the day
basically it does the same thing.

About CNC Controllers

CNC controllers are devices that control machines and processes. They range in capability
from simple point-to-point linear control to highly complex algorithms that involve multiple
axes of control. CNC controllers can be used to control various types of machine shop
equipment. These include horizontal mills, vertical mills, lathes and turning centers,
grinders, electro discharge machines (EDM), welding machines, and inspection machines.
The number of axes controlled by CNC controllers can range anywhere from one to five,
with some CNC controllers configured to control greater than six axes. Mounting types for
CNC controllers include board, stand alone, desktop, pendant, pedestal, and rack mount.
Some units may have integral displays, touch screen displays, and keypads for control and
Industrial communications options for CNC controllers include ARCNet, CANBus, ControlNET,
Data Highway Plus, DeviceNet, Ethernet 10/100 Base-T, parallel, PROFIBUS, SERCOS,
Universal Serial Bus (USB), serial (RS232, RS422, RS485), and web-enabled.
Communications language choices include bitmap, conversational, DXF file, G/M codes,
Hewlett Packard graphics language, and ladder logic. A bit map (often spelled "bitmap")
defines a display space and the color for each pixel or "bit" in the display space.
Conversational language is a higher level, easy to learn programming tool. It performs the
same functions as the standard G-code commands. Drawing eXchange Format (DXF) file
that was created as a standard to freely exchange 2 and 3 dimensional drawings between
different CAD programs. It basically represents a shape as a wire frame mesh of x, y, z
coordinates. G-code is the programming language for the Computer Numerically
Controlled (CNC) machine tools that can be downloaded to the controller to
operate the machine. M-code is the standard machine tool codes that are normally
used to switch on the spindle, coolant or auxiliary devices. Hewlett Packard Graphical
Language (HPGL) was originally created to send 2 dimensional drawing information to pen
plotters, but has since become a good standard for the exchange of 2 dimensional drawing
information between CAD programs. Ladder logic is a programming language used to
program programmable logic controllers (PLC). This graphical language closely resembles
electrical relay logic diagrams.
CNC controllers have several choices for operation. These include polar
coordinate command, cutter compensation, linear and circular
interpolation, stored pitch error, helical interpolation, canned cycles, rigid
tapping, and auto-scaling. Polar coordinate command is a numerical control system in
which all the coordinates are referred to a certain pole. The position is defined by the polar
radius and polar angle. Cutter compensation is the distance you want the CNC control to
offset for the tool radius away from the programmed path. Linear and circular
interpolation is the programmed path of the machine, which appears to be straight
or curved, but is actually a series of very small steps along that path. Machine precision
can be remarkably improved through such features as stored pitch error compensation,
which corrects for lead screw pitch error and other mechanical positioning errors. Helical
interpolation is a technique used to make large diameter holes in workpieces. It allows for
high metal removal rates with a minimum of tool wear. There are machine routines like
drilling, deep drilling, reaming, tapping, boring, etc. that involve a series of machine
operations but are specified by a single G-code with appropriate parameters. Rigid tapping
is a CNC tapping feature where the tap is fed into the work piece at the precise rate needed
for a perfect tapped hole. It also needs to retract at the same precise rate otherwise it will
shave the hole and create an out of spec tapped hole. Auto scaling translates the
parameters of the CNC program to fit the work piece.
Features common to CNC controllers include alarm and event monitoring, behind
tape reader, diskette floppy storage, tape storage, zip disk storage, multi-program
storage, self diagnostics, simultaneous control, tape reader, and teach mode.

Encoder interface closes the loop on control

The EnDat interface can transmit position values from incremental and absolute encoders as
well as transmitting or updating information stored in the encoder, or saving new
Note: A free brochure or catalogue is available from on the
products in this news release.
Digital drive systems and feedback loops with position encoders for measured value
acquisition require fast data transfer with high transmission reliability from the encoders.
Further data, such as drive-specific parameters, compensation tables, etc must also be
made available. For high system reliability, the encoders must be integrated in routines for
error detection and have diagnostic capabilities.
The EnDat interface from Heidenhain is a digital, bidirectional interface for
It is capable both of transmitting position values from incremental and absolute
encoders as well as transmitting or updating information stored in the encoder, or
saving new information.
Thanks to the serial transmission method only four signal lines are required.
The data are transmitted in synchronism with the clock signal from the subsequent
The type of transmission (position values, parameters, diagnostics etc) is selected by mode
commands that the subsequent electronics send to the encoder.
The EnDat interface provides everything needed to reduce system cost per axis up to 50% -
and at the same time improve the technical standard.
The most significant benefits are: cost optimisation, improved quality and higher

Measurement technology is key to automation

Advances in machine accuracy, on-machine touch probing technology and noncontact tool
setting provide powerful tools for automating and speeding mould machining, says Barry
Note: A free brochure or catalogue is available from on the
products in this news release.
Drives to faster, leaner, more flexible manufacturing are shifting industry focus away from
traditional post-process quality control. The most expensive, non-value-added process in
most shops is part inspection. Inspecting good parts - parts that meet all print specifications
- is a waste of time, money and manpower.
Rather than back-end detection, attention is shifting to front-end prevention.
The aim is to make 100% good parts, right the first time, to ever-tighter tolerances in the
lowest possible total processing time.
Under that mantra, a variety of practices and technologies are being applied to machine
tools to achieve greater process control.
Automated process checks can keep process and parts in control, while minimising
downtime for operator intervention.
These process control improvements can be particularly vital for mouldmaking.
The one-off nature of most mould/die work and the high accumulated value that can go into
a complex mould demand right-the-first time processing.
At the same time, shorter lead times and global competition force the need for faster mould
By minimising need for operator intervention, these process controls give mouldmakers an
'eye on the job' during long machining runs and lightly staffed second and third shifts.
Front-end prevention takes three forms: identifying and maintaining machine capability; in-
process probing; and automated tool monitoring.
A technology leader in all three areas, Renishaw offers single-source expertise and
assistance in creating an integrated programme of mouldmaking process control.
To move from defect prevention, you must be able to document your process capability and
the accuracy of your machine tools.
To do this, inspect them to a nationally recognised and accepted standard, such as ISO230
or ASME B5.54.
Both call for a ballbar and laser interferometer to be used with a recommended procedure
for checking machine tool accuracy.
The purpose of these standards is not to specify an accuracy the machine must meet, but to
find out what accuracy level it can meet - its process capability.
The part print dictates the accuracy your machine must have to make good parts - where to
set the accuracy bar.
Testing tells you how high your machine can jump.
As long as your machine can top the bar, you have process capability.
Test and calibration technology are now available - and affordable - to enable shops to
ensure the accuracy and health of their machine tools.
Plants and large shops increasingly maintain their own laser interferometers and electronic
levels, while rental equipment and diagnostics services are commercially available to small
shops from various sources and competitively priced.
Renishaw's QC10 ballbar system is readily affordable by virtually any shop and provides a
fast, 15-minute check-up for prevention and diagnosis in maintaining machine accuracy.
The ballbar test allows precise assessment of machine geometry, circularity and stick/slip
error, servo gain mismatch, vibration, backlash, repeatability and scale mismatch.
Renishaw's Ballbar5 software provides diagnosis of specific errors in accordance with
ISO230-4 and ASME B5.54 and B5.57 standards, then provides a plain-English list of error
sources rank-ordered according to their overall effect on machine accuracy.
This allows maintenance people to target those factors which most need attention.
Periodic ballbar testing enables trend tracking of machine performance.
Preventive maintenance can be scheduled before a machine drifts out of process capability.
The industry trend is to calibrate the machine on need, not time.
There is no reason for maintenance to pull a perfectly good machine out of production for
Let the ballbar and the accuracy of your parts determine when something has gone awry.
Meantime, run production.
Today's standard machine tools can deliver accuracy and repeatability approaching levels
formerly available only on CMMs.
This enables the machine tool itself to be used for probing checks of workpieces during
critical stages of the machining process.
Once a machine tool's performance as a measuring instrument has been established, the
touch probe becomes the operator's CNC gauge.
Probing routines can be programmed as part of the machining process and automatically
run at various points to check feature dimensions and locations and apply necessary
This saves operators from using dial indicators and shim stock, or eliminates errors in
manually entering fixture, part and tool offsets into the control.
Probing on the machine makes it part of the process - a powerful process improvement tool
for making parts right the first time in the shortest throughput time.
Used to locate the part automatically and establish a work co-ordinate system, probing cuts
setup time, increases spindle availability, lowers fixture costs, and eliminates nonproductive
machining passes.
On complex parts, 45 minutes of fixture alignment can be replaced by 45 seconds of touch
probing - performed automatically by the CNC.
When starting with a casting or forging, probing can determine workpiece shape to avoid
wasted time in air-cutting and help determine best tool approach angle.
In-process control uses touch probing to monitor size and position of machine features
during the cutting process, as well as verify precise dimensional relationships between
various features at each step to avoid problems.
A touch probe can be programmed to check actual machined results at various stages
against the program and automatically apply cutter compensation - particularly after rough
machining or semi-finish machining.
Reference probing - comparing part features to a dimensional master or reference surface of
know location or dimension - enables the CNC to determine positioning discrepancies and
generate an offset to make up the difference.
By probing the artefact before a critical machining pass, the CNC can check its own
positioning against the master's known dimensions and program an offset.
If the dimensional master is mounted on the machine and exposed to the same
environmental conditions, reference probing can used to monitor and compensate for
thermal growth.
What results is a closed-loop process requiring no operator intervention.
Every machine has its own set of numerous small errors in its motions and structure.
As a result, there is always a slight discrepancy between a CNC's programmed position and
the true position of the tool tip, even after laser compensation has brought the two into
closer agreement.
Programmable artefact probing provides a way to further compensate for remaining
machine errors.
It gives process control feedback to enable positioning accuracy that can approach the
machine's repeatability specification.
Such closed-loop process control can allow a machining centre to achieve accuracies
comparable to boring mills and other high-precision machines.
Many probing operations are accomplished through the use of memory- resident macro
Work co-ordinate updates, tool geometry changes, part measurement etc, are automatically
determined by the CNC after the successful completion of a probing cycle.
This eliminates costly errors resulting from miskeyed information or incorrect calculations.
Used to inspect parts after machining, probing can reduce the length and complexity of off-
line inspection, and it some cases eliminate it altogether.
Inspecting on the machine is particularly beneficial with large, expensive workpieces, such
as mould or dies, which can be especially difficult and time-consuming to move.
Here, too, reference probing against a traceable artefact can be used to compare final
dimensions to the known dimensions for a metrology master.
When making this comparison, the CNC can determine if the specific machining tolerances
were actually achieved.
Based on these results, an intelligent decision can be made on corrective actions, while the
workpiece is still on the machine tool.
Laser tool setters provide a fast, automated means to verify tool dimensions, especially
critical in checking for wear during the long machining runs in mouldmaking.
A cost-effective solution to high-speed, high-precision tool setting and broken tool
detection, laser tool setters rapidly measure tool length and diameter on-the-fly, while the
tool is indexing through the laser beam and rotating at normal speeds.
Laser checking at working spindle speeds identifies errors caused by clamping
inconsistencies and radial run-out of the spindle, tool and toolholders - not feasible with
static tool setting systems.
Renishaw's NC family tool setters can perform broken tool detection at maximum traverse
to further minimise out-of-cut time.
As the tool moves through the laser beam, system electronics detect when the beam is
broke and issues and output signal to the controller.
The NC systems can accurately measure tools as small as 0.2mm diameter anywhere in the
The system triggers when the laser beam is broken beyond a 50% threshold by the tool
being checked.
The noncontact tool setting system uses a visible-red diode laser proven reliable in
machining conditions.
Advanced electronics and simplified design makes noncontact tool setting an affordable
alternative to contact systems.
No moving parts make NC systems virtually maintenance free.
The design avoids the brackets and actuators with contact-based systems.
Housed in a rugged stainless steel unit, the NC laser tool setters feature Renishaw's
MicroHoleTM protection system.
This uses a continuous stream of compressed air to keep out contaminants and provide
uninterrupted protection from chips, graphite and coolant ingress, even during measuring
Three different Renishaw NC systems enable installation on nearly any size and
configuration of machine tool without impinging on the work envelope.
These proven, affordable control technologies can allow greater automation of mould
machining with greater process control.
They can make it possible for mouldmakers to produce moulds faster, with greater
geometric and dimensional accuracy, and less operator intervention, rework or manual
finishing. Request a free brochure from
High Speed Milling Machines

High speed machining is characterized by low cutting forces and high metal
removal. High Speed Milling is a technique used in the CNC Machining Industry that
combines high spindle speeds with increased feed rates. This results in a high chip-
forming rate and lower milling forces, producing an improved surface quality finish and
closer tolerances. In high speed milling, the electronics can make all the difference. The
right CNC coupled with other elements of the control system can let a slower machine mill a
given form faster than a machine with a higher top feed rates.
1. High Speed Uses
High-speed CNC milling is used, for example, to machine the titanium rotors of the first
high-pressure compressor stages of the EJ200 engine. High speed CNC milling allows cost-
effective milling of the different airfoil geometry from the solids. By subsequent finishing
operations the planned surface finish is achieved. The CNC milling which caters to high
speed must be structured with an axis movement system that is suitable for CNC
2. Axis Movement
The high-speed CNC milling machines required for the process must be fitted with an axis
movement system suitable for machining blisks, which should be at least 5 axes
simultaneously, depending on the milling task involved and an efficiently high-speed control
3. 3D Surfaces
High Speed CNC milling machines working on 3D surfaces in any materials
produce a finer surface finish and higher accuracy in less time that the traditional
milling machine. Acceleration is the most critical factor that affects the high speed
machining. Since one or more axis are always increasing or decreasing velocity in a 3-D cut,
ultimate feed rate is directly related to acceleration
4. What Can A High Speed Control Possibly Do?
A CNC milling machine which possesses a higher structural stiffness has a greater
potential acceleration rate. Box shaped high speed CNC milling machine, like Bridge and
Gantry is the mostly widely used types of High speed CNC milling tools. The overhead type
Gantry exudes the highest stiffness, acceleration and accuracy among other high speed CNC
milling tools. Due to its scalability, this machine type is available in sizes to match the work
piece, from small to large.
In usual terms, it simply gives you the ability to finish one task faster and move along to
the next sooner, making work output higher. In drilling and tapping, this can result in faster
hole-to-hole times, quicker spindle reversals for tapping, and substantial cycle-time
reductions. The most dramatic benefits, though, come in 3D designs machining. Few,
drilling and tapping jobs require a million lines of machine codes. In molds, dies, patterns,
and prototypes, complex surfaces comprising a million or more line segments are not at all
uncommon. Saving just a fraction of a second per move can result in substantial cycle-time
5. Downsides - When Is Fast Too Fast?
But despite all these benefits, in high milling, the tool path segments can be so short that a
machining center moving at a high feed rate can't accelerate or decelerate fast enough to
make direction changes accurately. Corners may be rounded off and the work piece surface
may be gouged. Look-ahead is one answer. Look-ahead capability can let the CNC read
ahead a certain number of blocks in the program, to anticipate sudden direction changes
and slow the feed rate accordingly.
6. Additional Benefits:
- Improved accuracy - Better fit - Superior finish - Better life - Produce more work
in less time - Improving the accuracy and finish - Reducing polishing and fitting
time - Tools simply last longer because their chip load is more consistent

Programming feed rate in degrees per minute - CNC Tech Talk

Feed rate for all linear axes can be specified in per-minute fashion (either inches or millimeters
per minute). For many machines, feed rate can also be specified in per-revolution fashion (either
inches or millimeters per revolution). This makes feed rate specification easy. But one constant
headache for programmers is that feed rate for most rotary axes must be specified in degrees per
Determining degrees per minute feed rate is cumbersome. This feed rate is based upon the
amount of rotary axis departure, the cutting tool's position relative to the center of rotation and
the desired per-minute feed rate in either inches or millimeters per minute.
And the actual value of the feed rate word in degrees per minute can be misleading. For a motion
that requires a large rotary axis departure with the tool close to the center of rotation, the feed
rate word's value may exceed a value of 300 degrees per minute (F300.0)!
For these reasons, CNC setup people and operators may be reluctant to modify feed rate for
rotary axis motions. Again, a cumbersome calculation must be made, and they may not believe
the results of their calculations. If a mistake is made, the results could be disastrous.
If your machine has custom macro B (or any version of parametric programming), you can create
an arithmetic function within the control that determines feed rate in degrees per minute.
The function will accept input (arguments) in the form of desired per minute feed rate, the tool's
position relative to the center of rotation, the amount of angular departure and the variable
number in which the calculated degrees per minute feed rate will be stored.
The function will calculate the degrees per minute feed rate based on the input data and store the
results in the specified variable. This variable will be used to specify the feed rate in the rotary
axis command.
Our example is shown in the inch mode, but it would be easy to modify this example for Metric.
Here is an example call statement to invoke the custom macro that calculates degrees per minute
feed rate. It will be placed in the program just prior to the rotary axis command.
N055 G65 P1000 F4.5 D2.25 B30.0 R101.0 (Invoke custom macro to calculate dpm feed rate)
N060 G91 G01B30.0 F#101 (Make rotary axis motion at calculated feed rate.)
In line N055, we're calling program O1000 and passing the desired ipm feed rate with F, the
distance from the tool tip to center of rotation with D, the incremental angular departure of the
rotary axis with B, and the return variable number with R. In line N060, we're using the feed rate
calculated by the custom macro (variable #10l). Note that this example uses the incremental
mode to rotate the axes, but you could program this motion in the absolute mode as well. Just
remember that in line N055, B must specify an incremental rotary axis departure amount.
Now here's the short custom macro:
O1000 (Calculate degrees per minute feed rate)
#[#18] = #2/[[3.1416 * 2 * #7] * #2 /360] / #9 (Store dpm feed rate in variable)
M99 (End of custom macro)
The calculation being done in this custom macro is based upon the formula: DPM = Angular
departure distance / time required for motion.
Time is equal to motion distance divided by the desired inches per minute feed rate. We calculate
motion distance by determining the circumference of the tool tip circle (pi times 2 times the
radius) and multiplying it times the portion of a full circle being machined (angular departure
divided by 360).
You may be thinking that the programmer should be doing this calculation while programming
the job. But remember, one of the goals of this technique is to help setup people and operators
easily modify the feed rate for motions involving the rotary axis. In this example, if the operator
wants to change the feed rate for this motion, he or she simply specifies a new inches per minute
feed rate in line N055 with the F word.
While this specific technique may not be important to you (maybe you don't even have a rotary
axis), be thinking of times when your setup people and operators must perform calculations prior
to editing a program.
Truly, any time you see employees using a calculator prior to modifying a program, it should be
taken as a signal that this technique can simplify their efforts.
CNC-ACADEMY.COM TIPS: CNC Programming Spindle control (S-Function)
The spindle speed can be easily specified and the spindle
can be turned on in a forward or reverse direction. It can
also, of course, be turned off.
An "S" word is used to specify the spindle speed (in RPM
for machining centres). An M03 is used to turn the spindle
on in a clockwise (CW, forward) manner. M04 turns the
spindle on in a counter clockwise (CCW) manner.
M05 turns the spindle off. Note that turning centres also
have a feature called constant surface speed which allows
spindle speed to also be specified in surface feet per
minute (or meters per minute).
It calculates spindle speed so the surface speed is kept as
specified with a tool position change. It then supplies a
voltage, corresponding to the calculated spindle speed, to
the spindle control to rotate the spindle at the correct
surface speed when the surface speed is specified after S

Machine controller
The part of the machine which stores and processes coded information when operating the
machine tool.

Manufactured board
Boards that are built up or composed of wood products. They vary in structure, density, weight
and size. The most common types are Plywood, MDF, Particleboard, Hardboard, Solid Acrylic
Panels (Corian, Azteque), Low Density Fibreboard (Caneite) and Plastic Laminate.

M codes
Miscellaneous or machine functions on a CNC machine. M codes are used to direct the action of
any mechanical part of the machine.

Medium Density Fibreboard. A type of compressed solid timber substitute board that does not
have any grain direction.

A word that describes each and all materials used to produce a drawing. This may be pencils,
inks, rulers, paper types, drawing board and set squares.

Interchangeable components that are designed for easy assembly or flexible use. For example:
rubber seals; suction cups.

The process of producing a decorative finish on the surface or edge of material.

Timber in a frame which runs parallel with the stiles and between the rails.