CNC Machine Applications in the Marine Industry

Applications of CNC machining extend beyond dry land to include boats of all sizes that travel the global waterways. Manufacturing parts to construct high-quality, high-performance boats requires precision and efficiency, two primary characteristics of CNC machining.
Here’s a closer look at the role a CNC machine plays in the manufacturing of marine vessels, from start to finish.

Mold Construction

The hull is the foundation for all marine craft. A boat’s quality, durability and overall look are directly dependent on a hull that’s created from a mold built precisely to specifications.
Hand-crafted molds are time-and labor-intensive, and the human element results in a lack of consistency and accuracy. It’s difficult to create the clean edges, straight lines and identical corners that mark a high-quality hull.
A CNC machine is programmed electronically to produce uniformly precise molds and detect errors before they occur. In addition, CNC machining provides the versatility that enables manufacturers to work with a wide variety of materials.

Hull and Deck Trimming

Forming the hull and deck structures is just the beginning. Once they’re outside of the mold, these structures must be joined properly, without any gaps, uneven lines or shifting.
Determining proper alignment of the joins while these structures are “free” can be a painstaking process. Large-scale 5-axis CNC machines are capable of easily and efficiently trimming excess materials from even the largest structures while perfectly matching all parts.

Ribs and Stringers

Ribs and stringers are lengths of wood that form the “skeleton” of the hull. These parts reinforce the hull’s strength and help it retain its shape.
Stringers and ribs usually require a number of production templates and take up storage space with in-process inventory. CNC machines enable a wood-nesting process that optimizes yield while accommodating movement and placement of non-linear edges.

Interior Furnishings

Furnishings in high-end yachts and sailboats often rival those found in luxury condominiums and apartments. A typical layout might include a gourmet galley kitchen with granite countertops, plush wraparound seating and beautiful wood cabinets.
All of these items and more can be easily created with a CNC machine. The systems can accommodate everything from clean lines to intricate designs in wood, stone and a wide range of materials.
Boat building has a long and proud tradition dating back to prehistoric times. CNC machining brings the marine industry into the 21st century with unmatched levels of efficiency and precision.

7 Essential Machine Operator Safety Tips

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workplace injuries that result in six or more days of lost work cost our country’s businesses more than $1 billion per week. It’s estimated that a single work-related injury averages $38,000 in direct and indirect costs.
Workplace injuries cost time and money and affect overall productivity. Protect your employees and company by instituting these valuable machine operator safety tips:

  1. Wear Appropriate Safety Gear

    • Safety goggles and earplugs are a must.
    • Use safety boots or other suitable footwear.
    • Long hair should be covered or pulled back.
    • Avoid loose clothing and jewelry.
  2. Maintain a Safe Distance

  3. This rule applies to both people and objects. Workers always should stand clear of the machine, taking particular care with placement of hands. Operators should allow at least a six-inch margin for a safe working distance.
    In addition, the floor space around the machine should always be kept free of obstacles. Work materials should be stacked in a convenient location, but away from moving parts.
    One more note of caution: never leave a CNC machine unattended during operation.

  4. Follow Maintenance Schedule

  5. When a machine fails to perform properly, it increases the risk of injury. Wear and tear can’t be avoided, but you can extend the effective life of the machine by following the recommended maintenance schedule.

  6. Make Sure Operators Are Fully Trained

  7. On-the-job training is acceptable for some activities, but for CNC machine operation it’s a recipe for disaster. Make arrangements for employees to receive full training before assuming the operation of a CNC machine.

  8. Clean Up After Each Use

  9. The purpose of this rule is two-fold:

    • Even the smallest particles lodged in the machine can cause damage or malfunction.
    • Saw dust, wood chips and other debris that land on the floor create a hazard for the operator and other workers in the shop.
  10. Double-Check Program Data

  11. CNC machines provide previously unattainable levels of quality and precision with less labor, but what comes out is only as good as what goes in. Always double-check the programmed instructions for accuracy.

  12. Don’t Use the Machine Table as a Workbench

  13. Using the machine for makeshift purposes is one of the easiest ways to cause damage. It can also result in workers becoming more casual, making them a bit lax in observing other safety procedures.
    CNC machines can provide a major return on investment in reduced labor and increased productivity. Maintain that return by setting appropriate standards for machine operator safety.

A Look at Stone Cutting Through the Years

Stone is one of the earliest materials used by man. Natural deposits of granite, marble, slate and other stones have served a wide range of applications, from practical to artistic.
The stone cutting process consists of two broad steps: extracting stone from the earth and then treating and shaping it for its desired purpose. Over time, a number of different tools and methods have been used cut stone.

Early Stone Age

The most primitive method of stone cutting involved simply hitting a soft stone with a harder one. This process dates back to, appropriately enough, the Early Stone Age.
At the time, stone was used primarily as a weapon. Early “tool kits” included hammerstones, which were used to do the work, and core stones, from which smaller flakes were struck to provide cutting edges.

Ancient Egyptians

Ancient Egyptian civilizations constructed pyramids, obelisks and some of the more stunning examples of stonework found in history. The Egyptians’ quarrying technique consisted of digging a trench around a block of stone, then cutting beneath the stone and pushing it out.
Once the stone was extracted, workers cut a series of holes with a hammer and chisel. Water-soaked wooden wedges were inserted into the holes, where they expanded and split the rock. Bronze tools were used with limestone and other softer rocks.

Stone Saws

Saws have long been a traditional tool for woodcutting, so it was inevitable that man tried to use them on stone as well. Unsurprisingly, saws made from the hardest materials available were still of little use on anything but the softest types of stone.

Marble Cutting and the Helical Wire

Marble cutting techniques took a huge step forward in the 19th century with the development of the helical wire. A continuous loop of steel wire was attached to a pulley moving five to six meters per second.
The abrasiveness of the wire cut through marble, allowing a greater degree of precision than had previously been possible. Helical wire cutting was refined in the mid-20th century, when diamond dust was embedded into the wire.

Modern-Day Quarrying

The quarrying process today begins with surface stripping, in which crawler tractors remove material covering the stone to be extracted. Sometimes blasting is done by drilling holes into the earth and packing them with explosives.
With CNC stone cutting machines, there are almost no limits to the objects that can be produced, from flat countertops to intricately-cut architectural pieces.

Safe Glass-Handling Tips From CMS North America

Glass products have long had a high demand, with glass cutting serving a wide range of industries. CMS North America offers CNC machining centers to make your industrial glass-cutting tasks quicker, more accurate and easy to repeat. However, handling large glass sheets for glass cutting on CNC equipment takes special care to ensure the safety of your employees and the materials.

Manual Glass Handling

Lifting and transporting glass always poses the potential for breakage and human harm. The less you handle large pieces of glass or glass lites, the better. When manually lifting and transporting glass, always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment. Also, know exactly how much a piece of glass weighs prior to lifting to ensure you have enough manpower. In a team lift, both people should be on the same side to safely escape should the glass fall.

For safety, use a glass dolly to transport glass sheets from racks to the CNC glass-cutting table when possible. If you must hand-carry sheets, use vacuum cups. Like any heavy object, lift with your legs, not your back, and keep sheets as vertical as possible. When depositing your sheet onto a CNC glass-cutting table, use the table’s edge as both a pivot point and support while you’re maneuvering the piece into place.

Mechanical Glass Handling

Using slings and hoists provides a safer alternative to lift and transport cases of glass. Inspect the mechanical lifting equipment to confirm it’s in good working order and designed to handle the task. Never jerk or swing loads and use guide or tag lines to prevent swinging. Attach slings to cases so there isn’t an angle of more than 45 degrees from horizontal and always avoid angles less than 30 degrees. Never exceed the manufacturer’s safe working load indicated on a hoist. Always check the load balance and position the hoist directly over the load.

Loading And Unloading Glass

When unloading sheets of glass from glass packs, crates or racks, never hold or support multiple sheets while another person retrieves a lite further back. Each sheet dramatically increases the load, which could suddenly tilt and crush you. Instead, move lites you don’t want to a temporary storage location. Ensure crates or racks are on a level surface before unloading and stand aside before loosening straps or ties. Always have an escape path and never attempt to catch falling glass. Always move and allow it to fall.

Every glass machining application is different and requires the right machine. CMS North America offers a full line of state-of-the-art CNC glass-cutting machines for high-speed production. Contact us to find the perfect solution for all your glass machining applications.

Wood Cutting Throughout the Ages

Man has been using wood as a manufacturing material for at least seven to ten thousand years. Egyptians, Chinese and other ancient civilizations used wood to craft furniture, weapons and decorative items.

Throughout the ages, wood-cutting tools have become more sophisticated with the ability to perform increasingly complex maneuvers. Here’s a look at the development of wood-cutting tools from primitive to modern times.

Chisels

The chisel is the most rudimentary cutting tool, dating back at least 5,000 years. It was a single wedge-shaped cutting edge originally made from flint or other hard substances found in nature. Once metalworking began, many chisels were forged from iron.

Saws

Prehistoric man used a crude form of the saw by carving notches in a piece of flint, but the true evolution took place during the Copper and Early Bronze Ages. Men realized that if a single cutting edge was good, several would be even better, and the saw was formally born.

The early Egyptians are credited with creating the first official saws. The tool remained the primary wood-cutting device through the 1400s, when saw mills came into being. Further refinement came in 1777 as Englishman Samuel Miller received the first patent for a circular saw.

Planing Machines

The seeds of an idea for planing machines were sown around the same time the circular saw made its debut, but it wasn’t until the end of the 1700s when Sir Samuel Bentham obtained a patent on “planing machines with cutters to cut on several sides of the wood at once.”

Drill Bits

While drill bits ushered in the age of power tools, they are descendants of augers. These forerunners of bits were attached to handles and used to manually bore holes into wood. Augers date back to early Roman times, while the modern twist bit originated in approximately 1800.

Wood Moulders

In the mid-1800s, Andrew S. Gear of Jamesville, Ohio, invented the moulder, which uses a cutter block fixed on a vertically-revolving spindle. Gear later created a popular version that features two spindles, which closely resembled the moulders that are used today.

Routers

Routers were originally hand-held tools that featured a broad-base plane with a narrow blade protruding beyond the base, giving rise to the nickname “old woman’s tooth.” Power routers with motor-driven spindles are most commonly used today.

CNC routers incorporate modern technology for a level of accuracy and efficiency that was previously unattainable. These routers save time and money by combining several separate tasks in a single machine.

Tips for Efficient Aluminum Machining

CNC routers are frequently used with wood and acrylics, but they’re versatile enough to handle the demands of materials such as aluminum. The key to successful aluminum machining is adapting the process to accommodate its different characteristics.

Incorporate these tips to minimize the challenges and produce high-quality parts.

Calculate Proper Feeds and Speeds

As with most metals, the optimum feeds and speeds combination for aluminum is a more narrow range than that of wood or acrylics. Cutting aluminum requires a higher spindle speed that may push the outside limits of your CNC machine.

  • Feed rates that are too slow can cause rubbing that reduces the lifespan of tools.
  • Feed rates that are too fast can overburden the machine, resulting in breakage.

The old-school method of “playing it by ear” allows too much room for error. A feeds and speeds calculator will help you determine more precise rates.

Use Carbide-Coated Bits with Smaller Diameters

With the higher RPMs involved in cutting aluminum, high-speed steel and cobalt are not likely to be up to the task. Carbide is a more rigid material, making a preferable solution for bits.

Speedier machining rates also call for smaller diameter bits. The rigidity of carbide is another benefit here, as it will protect against potential tool deflection.

Maintain a Stable Temperature

Aluminum is more vulnerable to variations in temperature, causing waste as completed parts are out of tolerance. Use hardware and software that are capable of holding temperatures at an acceptable level.

Clear Chips Thoroughly

Aluminum chips have a certain “stickiness” factor that causes them to become essentially welded to the tool, resulting in poor quality work and excess wear and tear on machines.

  • Don’t rely exclusively on dust collector systems. Check the machine faithfully to ensure chips are cleared out.
  • Run a coolant mist or other lubricant through the machine to reduce the tendency of chips to stick.

Go Slow and Steady

There’s a temptation to save time by making deeper cuts, but this strategy can backfire by making it harder to clear chips. Stick with frequent shallow passes that allow greater control and better access for chip removal.

Reduce the Number of Flutes

Too many flutes can aggravate the chip problem by causing them to get packed in too tightly. Switch to a maximum of three flutes with aluminum machining. Increased space between the cutting edges makes it easier for larger chips to escape.

Our patented stacked aluminum machining process makes it possible to create perfectly finished parts without the cumbersome traditional stacking, drilling and riveting.

What Causes CNC Machine Breakdowns?

CNC machines have revolutionized the manufacturing process for industries ranging from aerospace to transportation. Their versatility, durability and accuracy reduce the need for time-consuming manual work.

Like any tools and equipment, CNC machines require proper care to remain functional. Here are some of the top causes of CNC machine breakdowns.

Poor Maintenance

This is likely the No. 1 reason for CNC machine breakdowns. If filters aren’t changed, fluid levels aren’t checked and chips aren’t cleared, the machine can’t perform at maximum efficiency and its lifespan is drastically shortened.

Heat and Humidity

Heat is one of the more common stress factors on CNC machines. Sources are two-fold, including the machine’s internal temperature and the ambient temperature inside the shop. Excess heat increases wear and tear on machine parts, leading to reduced precision and accuracy.

Lubricants, cutting fluids and other liquids used with CNC machines also are affected by the heat, resulting in high humidity levels. Moisture then condenses on circuit boards and causes corrosion and equipment failure.

Improper Settings

It stands to reason that a machine running at excess speeds will wear out more quickly. On the other hand, slow feed speeds mean that materials remain in the machine longer than necessary, which also has a negative impact. Feeds and speeds should be adjusted based on the job itself and the type of material that will be used.

Poor Programming

Malfunctions caused by incorrect programming are sometimes difficult to solve because they’re initially misdiagnosed as mechanical problems. The issue most often occurs when newer employees don’t know correct codes and best practices.

Chatter

Interaction between the tool, toolholder and spindle creates a natural vibration. Chatter occurs when vibrations leave waves in the finished surface that create a variable load during succeeding cuts. The vibrations then feed upon themselves in a process known as self-excited vibration.

As chatter intensifies, finish accuracy is compromised and spindles can wear out more quickly. It may seem counterintuitive, but the problem often is speeds that are too slow rather than too fast. Chatter also can be reduced with use of a more rigid cutter.

Contamination

Chips from the machining process, along with dust and other particulates, can accumulate in filters, pumps and other parts. As a result, the CNC machine has to work harder, which limits performance and eventually causes a full breakdown.

Tool malfunction affects job performance and reduces profitability. Safeguard your investment and extend equipment life by watching for these causes of CNC machine breakdowns.

Ways to Integrate Smart Devices With CNC Machining

Integration between CNC machines and smart devices has been slow in coming for many machinists. The industry can be conservative, and many people are mentally still in a world that has barely put down the slide rules of old. However, your smart devices can do a lot that will have your CNC machining operation working better than ever.

Maintenance Scheduling

Scheduling maintenance on a CNC machine used to be part marking it on a calendar and part simply checking it over carefully to find any wear on a reasonably regular basis. In the modern world, your smart devices can make the process easier by both automatically pinging you when maintenance should be performed, and even checking subtle changes to the speeds of the motors or flow of power through the device as a diagnostic your eyes cannot see.

Angle Identification

Smart devices can often identify the angles of objects as simply as pointing them at the angle to be measured and essentially taking its picture. By doing this, the smart device can aid you in selecting the angle by which you are going to make a given cut on the materials. The smart device may even be able to aide you by helping determine the cut depth and whether you are using the best possible cutter.

Cut Course Planning

Cut courses can be determined through a variety of calculations CNC machinists are required to know. However, human error does still play a role. Thus, the less direct calculating you do, the better for your CNC machining. Allowing your smart device to suggest the courses of your cuts can reduce your mistakes, as the smart device requires few inputs from fallible human sources.

Durability Research

Have you ever been curious if a given material would be ideal or simply “okay” for a given cutter? With a smart device, you can research the relative merits instantly, and even set up automated warnings to yourself if there is the potential for cutter damage due to an incompatibility between the blade and the material.

Smart devices integrate well with CNC machines. With open-mindedness, the experience is an even better one.

Training Your New CNC Workers

The training of CNC workers is vital to running a shop properly. When your workers are not properly trained, they are not assets but liabilities. With effective training, your operators can get a lot done for you.

The Basic Basics

Often, this involves taking people who have never worked in a shop before. The first part of training comes down to safety in the shop, interpreting tolerances, and using measuring devices. Once those are mastered, you can continue with the reading of blueprints and shop math. After the trainees have gotten the feel for the most basic topics that all CNC workers need to know, you can begin moving on to more specific training related to the machines themselves.

Which Machine They Will Run

What are the various components of the machine that each given CNC operator will be using? The learners need to know about the axes and how these are to be programmed into the machine. They also need to know about the spindle, how to change the tools, how to change the pallet, and every other part the young operator is eventually going to interact with. There should not be a single button or switch with which the learner is unfamiliar by the end of this portion of the training. While it might seem like overkill for the learner to be able to field strip the CNC machine like a soldier can do with their rifle, this level of understanding of how every component in the machine interacts with every other component would be the ideal state.

Compensating Within the Machine

Every part of a CNC machine, as well as every part of a CNC worker’s training, needs to involve compensators, which are also used for the cutter radius. Turning centers intimately involve tool nose radius compensation, offsets for wear, and geometry offsets. The learner must know how to assign program zero, attach the cutting portions of the tools, and determine how much offset is necessary for each given tool length to ensure both an accurate cut and one that will not damage the equipment.

There is a lot to learn in CNC work. Covering every relevant aspect is crucial to an effectively run operation.

CNC Lathes Grow Your Productivity

With a CNC lathe, you can expand your productivity due to solid feed speeds. Further, you can focus on repetition that allows you to produce many of the same piece. Finally, a CNC lathe lets you think a couple of steps ahead for work that may require several pieces to be completed effectively.

Feed Speed

The speed of your feeds is an important part of how a CNC lathe increases your efficiency. Being able to place a piece into the device with a specific orientation and have the speed be precisely known takes away much of the guesswork that is usually associated with traditional manual milling techniques. The less adjustments that you need to make in order for your CNC device to function as it is intended to, the more efficiently you can prepare the next piece while the machine is working on the current piece.

More of the Same

There is a high level of efficiency that you gain when you can produce a virtually unlimited number of the same type of piece. With CNC lathes and their ability to be programmed for repetition, you essentially have a backup person that can handle the lion’s share of the cuts and adjustments. Once you have your axes properly calibrated, the coordinates of your spindle’s movement and the cuts all planned out and you have braced the pieces in a solid and repeatable manner, you and your machine can essentially become a small scale assembly line with relative ease. Being able to produce many pieces of the same type without having to commit many of your mental resources is an extreme measure of efficiency.

Thinking Ahead

Perhaps the most important way that your CNC lathe is able to expand the efficiency of your operation is when you can think beyond the current piece to a few pieces down the line, this expands on your ability to machine different parts that together serve a larger and more complicated whole. Having the ability to think a few steps ahead, and plan what cuts your machine will be making once the current set is done, frees up your mind to make higher level decisions than simply crunching the numbers.