How CNC Machines Build Cars

People don’t often think of the role that automated manufacturing plays in their lives. However, automated manufacturing is now common in nearly every industry – especially the automotive industry. CNC machining is responsible today for nearly every step of the car manufacturing process.

Automation in the Automotive Industry

Since Henry Ford introduced the first Model T in 1908, car manufacturers have been trying to streamline the construction process. Ford’s earliest assembly lines were the first attempts at automation, but construction was still subject to human limitations. With the introduction of CNC machines in recent years, automated machines are now capable of shaping raw materials into formed components, with end mills capable of removing excess materials as needed.

While some metal automotive parts are still mold-cast, many of the non-cast, non-metal elements of modern vehicles are fashioned by automated machines. Today, for example, many starter motors are shaped by automated machines, further increasing their reliability and durability.

Car dashboards are another example of how CNC machining is used to build components for vehicles. Typically, the dashboard is a single, angled piece designed to accommodate at a minimum the car’s steering column. It usually also has several precision cutouts for tools like the odometer, speedometer, gas gauge, and indicator lights. CNC milling machines at automotive component manufacturing plants take blocks or sheets of natural or synthetic raw materials and thermoform, then rout the dashboard frame. Another CNC machine then takes the prepared dashboard frame and attaches it to the chassis.

Customizing CNC Machinery for Vehicles

Modern, customized automated machinery have allowed car manufacturers also to increase the performance capabilities of vehicles too. The modern 2-liter engine averages about 100 greater horsepower than the engines of those that were created before the advent of CNC machines. These parts were designed with reinforced parts to withstand the greater demands of high-performance vehicles.

While automated tasks can be repetitive, with process customization, finished products can vary significantly from model to model. Custom CNC machines can perform the intricate, complicated work as well as the routine precision tasks that both human beings and mass-produced assembly-line machines once performed in concert.

Benefits, Parts, and Overview of CNC Routers

Before computer controlled machines, routers were operated exclusively by hand. Today, routers have evolved for cutting metals, plastics, molds, and much more. Modern CNC machines take advantage of advanced software to create geometric patterns via computer and then output those patterns to a router for completion.

Benefits of CNC Routers

CNC routers are far faster than traditional routers, which must be operated by hand. Secondly, CNC routers offer precision and the ability to replicate the same product with near perfection. This is where the software prevails because it will output the same patterns every time until the operator changes the configuration. CNC machining can be used for projects as simple as hollowing out a door for installing a lock, to projects as complex as trimming the hull of a boat.

How CNC Routers Work

The typical CNC router can make cuts on the X, Y, or Z-axis. With these capabilities, craftspeople can make intricate cuts when working on a design. CNC machining parts also provide a wide variety of part customization. For example, operators can choose between upcut and downcut drills depending on the job. Upcut drills rotate in a direction which pulls the cutting material refuse up from the surface. Downcut drills, conversely, push the cutting materials down during the cutting process, leaving a cleaner surface cut.

Common Parts Explanations

CNC machines are made up of four major parts. First, the CNC portion itself, which contains the computer parts and data, allowing the craftsperson to use the software that will create the end design. Second, the spindle, which is the portion which does the cutting and contains either router or drill bits, depending on the job. Third, the cutting bed is the work surface where the materials sit. Lastly, the linear drive system, which allows for the three axis motion.

CNC machines are high precision instruments, but as detailed as they have become, these tools still require programming and human monitoring to operate. Users must still place materials to be cut in place and monitor the machines for safety. However, once programmed, routers can significantly cut down on project times.

The Relationship Between CNC Machining and Boat Construction

Photo Of A Boat Hull Made With CNC Machining - CMS North AmericaThe boat building process is often associated with precision, hand-made artistry. The process, which once took weeks to complete, can now be accomplished inside of a day with the aid of CNC machines. Learn more about the process and the relationship between these machines and the boat building process.

Speed and Precision

Perhaps the clearest benefit of using CNC machining in the boat building process is efficiency. CAD-reading machining means that boats can theoretically be designed in the morning and cut in the afternoon. Boatyards can take advantage of these machines in the creation of composite hulls and deck components, as well as the creation of large-scale molds that can be assembled on-site.

Creating Design Molds

Another central advantage of using CNC machining is the ability to construct molds, which can then be replicated. Using large-scale models with a moving bridge, like the Poseidon, Poseidon Maxi, or Cronus, boat manufacturers can take advantage of 5-axis machining with over 200 feet of envelopment, 33 feet in width, and 16.5 feet in height.

In conjunction with CNC Machining, contemporary boat manufacturers can utilize newer construction materials, further increasing efficiency. Many of these new materials are more durable, lighter, and cheaper than traditional materials.

Construction and Trimming

Before a boat model can be applied on top of a hull, models must be treated and trimmed of excess materials. Models like CMS’s 5-axis CNC machining use laser scanning and data acquisition technology to check boats for areas that need trimming after the assembly phase. Large-scale machining units, like the Poseidon, are capable of trimming the largest fiberglass hulls and decks with precision.

Special Features and Interiors

Modern boats feature many different types of hatches, fixtures, and metal fasteners. Special computer assisted automating processes can be used to carve these areas. Structures intended for interior design can also be created with the assistance of CNC technology, helping to reduce the time and costs typically associated with specialty manual labor.

From design to creation, manufacturers who take advantage of CNC machining in their construction process can greatly decrease the time and expense associated with traditional boat construction.

What a Job in CNC Machining Looks Like

Photo Of CNC Machine Workers - CMS North AmericaComputer numerical control (CNC) machining uses a computer interface to program data points into a multi-axis tool system that precisely mills material to the desired shape. A job in CNC machining can blossom into a rewarding career of manufacturing the items that make modern living possible.

What Does a CNC Machinist Do?

A CNC machinist monitors and maintains the sophisticated equipment that is used to cut metal, wood, glass, and more. This includes ensuring that the machine is supplied with raw materials, programming the machine for different tasks, checking the finished product while providing quality control, and maintaining or repairing the machine for quality assurance.

Education and Training

In most cases, a high school diploma is sufficient for an entry-level CNC machining job. Students with an early interest in the profession can get a jump-start on their training by familiarizing themselves with tools, drafting techniques, welding, and other shop work. If a student attends a high school that doesn’t offer wood or metal working courses, he or she can still pursue a job in CNC machining. A strong background in math and computer sciences, especially algebra, trigonometry, and geometry will provide a good foundation. After high school, aspiring machinists usually enroll in an apprenticeship program to learn the job from an experienced teacher. Those interested in learning more about the industry can sign up for CMS North America’s newsletter to stay apprised of the latest developments.

Job Prospects and Salary

The history of CNC machining is one of relentless innovation. That innovation has led to an increase in jobs for machinists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for CNC machining professionals will increase by 10%. With a median salary of $43,740, a machinist can provide a stable foundation for starting a family. Experienced CNC machinists can earn more as they progress through their career.

The History of Computer Numerical Control (CNC)

Photo Of A CNC Machine - CMS North AmericaSince the industrial revolution, modern life has depended on advanced machinery to manufacture everything from textiles to steel. The advent of computer numerical control (CNC) machines revolutionized the manufacturing industry by allowing for a programmable design of virtually limitless types of shapes. Tracing the history of computer numerical control demonstrates not only its importance but also the accelerating pace of change in manufacturing.

Precursors to Numerical Controls

Early attempts at automation began with camshafts designed with ridges placed in particular points to control machine tools. The cam would turn, and the pre-arranged grooves would trigger machine controls, similar to the way a player piano operates. While this basic method was successful at repeated and unmanned performance of simple tasks (notably carving out the gun stocks that were used by both sides during World War I), it wasn’t numerical control. CNC machining uses the abstract language of numbers to allow programmable designs that can be refined or completely altered. Cams, by contrast, must be machined and are not easily altered.

The Birth of Numerical Control

John T. Parsons is credited with developing the first numerical control system. While working as a machinist at his father’s company in the 1940s, Parsons begin working on innovative ways to build helicopter rotors for the nascent aerospace industry. Teaming with Frank Stulen, the two developed a method where one machinist would read the coordinates along an x and y-axis to two other machinists who would then make the cut. From there, they teamed with researchers at MIT to develop punch cards that could be programmed with enough points to provide for fully automated machining.

CNC Machining and CAD

Computer Assisted Design (CAD) teamed up with CNC machining to further improve the advances made in the 1940s and early 50s. Again, MIT led the way by developing a programming language that would generate coordinates for machined parts automatically, significantly reducing the time needed to develop the instructions fed into the milling machine. The real advent of CNC machining came in 1959 when the MIT team successfully demonstrated an entirely automated machine that produced aluminum ashtrays. The first CAD program—the electronic drafting machine—allowed designers to ‘draw’ the desired part right on the computer interface, bypassing paper drafting. By the 1970s, CAD programs were widely in use.

In the span of a generation, CNC machining advanced to such a degree that it made possible the widespread automation of virtually any machined part of wood, stone, or metal. This has reduced time and labor costs and allowed goods to spread across the globe for a fraction of what a hand-made equivalent would cost.

4 Essential General Safety Rules for CNC Machining

By law, CNC shops and operators are required to adhere to the safety rules that apply to CNC machining. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers guidelines and regulations for running a CNC shop, and operators who fail to follow them risk getting fines and penalties. Here are some of the general rules that companies must follow.

1. Operators Should Have Proper Training

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining involves a technical process of controlling the motion of parts and tools through a computer software that uses numeric data. Whether a CNC shop has mills or lathes, the operators must be adequately trained to inspect, maintain, and use the machine, brand, and controller type. Being skilled in the programming of CAD and CAM programs is also essential for experienced users.

2. The Area Around the Machine Must Be Free of Obstacles

Before a machining or tooling process is initiated, the machinist must inspect the machine to remove any obstacles that may fly off and hit someone. The user must check the path of the router to ensure that there are no screws that can stay embedded in the project. The floor should be clear of sawdust and scraps to prevent any possible accidents.

3. Conducting a Dry Run Is Important

Before beginning the actual CNC machining process, the operator must conduct a trial run to ensure that all moving parts are set and configured correctly. Most machines have a lock feature that allows users to scan the program for mistakes. During this process, the spindle will run, the control will execute the program, and the turret will index. However, only the axes (X, Y and Z) will stay still.

4. Operators Must Dress Accordingly

Users should never wear gloves while operating the machine. Jewelry should be avoided as some can conduct electrical charges as well as getting caught in machinery. Wearing loose clothing is also prohibited since the operator risks getting pulled into the machinery, and this can be quite fatal.

In any workplace, safety comes first. Operators must understand all the safety features on the machine such as curtain guards, contact mats, guard fencing, soundproof casing, and emergency stop button operation to ensure a safe CNC machining operation.

CAD, CAM, and G-Code: Understanding CNC Software for Effective Use

Running a CNC mill involves the use of technical knowledge and programming skills to ensure optimum precision in the creation of quality parts through CNC machining. A core part of this process is the use of CNC software programs, which are important in drawing diagrams and translating the G-code that is created from the diagram.

CAD Software

This CNC software is essential in drawing part diagrams, managing design files, and editing the models. There are several CAD programs, such as AutoCard, TurboCard, and SolidWorks, that are useful for creating diagrams. These programs offer complete automation that is more than just drawing with circles, lines, and points. Machinists can now enjoy features such as robust simulation, tolerance analysis, design validation, ECAD/MCAD collaboration, reverse engineering, and animation.

The CAD program replaces manual drafting with a fully automated process, and some options support 2D or 3D graphics. 3D programs can either support parametric modeler or direct model editing to create and adjust a 3D model. A parametric modeler applies constraints to determine the relative orientation and dimensions of the modeled parts. This helps to create families of similar products using one model. In direct model editing, the user will need to create a new model for each part from scratch.

CAM Software

The Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software helps to convert the part diagram that was created by the CAD software into G-code. These codes are the ones the machinist feeds into the machine control software to drive the CNC machining equipment. A CAM software can be a stand-alone program, such as Meshcam, OneCNC, and Mastercam, or a feature built into CAD software.

The conversion of the diagram into G-code is an interactive process. The machinist must configure the tools that he or she will use in creating the part. Other important information to include is cutting speed, cutting depth, and spindle speed. Some CNC software programs have the Dynamic Machining Strategies feature, which allows the operator to add different finishing and roughing tool paths to a single CAD feature.

Part Creation

At this point, the operator has G-code instructions that the CNC machining tool can understand to create the part. Most CNC machines feature a controller and a computer that is connected to the machine to simplify the whole process. The operator can use a USB drive to move the G-code instructions to the computer connected to the CNC machine. Depending on the program one is using, there are features and controls for loading and executing the G-code for the part.

Understanding CNC software programs is key to creating a quality, customized part for a particular machine or production process in CNC machining. There are various CAD and CAM programs in the market, and the choice of the user depends on their budget, needs, and preferences.

Artemis Racing, CMS & the America’s Cup

Artemis Racing is a professional sailing team, founded in 2006 by Torbjörn Törnqvist. A successful businessman and passionate sailor, Törnqvist originally named his first racing boat after the Greek goddess of the hunt, before adopting the moniker for his entire racing team.

After early successes in the MedCup circuit, the TP52 World Championship, and RC44 Championship, Törnqvist felt that Artemis Racing was ready to undertake the ultimate challenge in competitive sailing: The America’s Cup. With a victory in the upcoming 35th America’s Cup, scheduled for 2017 in Bermuda, Artemis Racing would bring the oldest trophy in international sport to Sweden, Törnqvist’s home country, for the first time.

Yachting’s most coveted prize, the America’s Cup was first contested in 1851, predating the modern Olympics by nearly half a century. The race was originally organized by Great Britain’s Prince Albert to showcase British technology and excellence during the Great Exhibition. A group of New York businessmen in the America, having sailed the schooner across the Atlantic Ocean, won a race around the Isle of Wight, besting the next closest competitor by over eight minutes. The trophy was then named after the victorious vessel, the race has been called “The America’s Cup” ever since.

In its 160-plus year history, only four countries—the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland—have won the trophy. Only eight cities have previously hosted the event, Bermuda being the ninth. Durations between contests has varied considerably throughout the years: almost two decades separated the first and second runnings, while others have taken place in back-to-back-to-back years.

The America’s Cup has always been a race driven by technology—a boat’s design can play as big a factor in victory as its crew. As such, carbon fiber has become the construction material of choice for modern racing yachts. To ensure that every piece of their boat is perfect, Artemis Racing has started using CMS’ CNC equipment to machine the carbon fiber parts and components they need.

CNC Ares Moving Bridge

Artemis Racing utilizes an Ares moving bridge CNC system to create dagger foils, hull components, wing sails, and more. The Ares’ large work envelope is well-suited to the cutting and machining of these oversized parts, and CMS’ advanced CNC technology guarantees that each piece matches the design specifications exactly.

The nature of America’s Cup competition and the ongoing struggle to be the best boat on the water leads Artemis Racing to constantly revise and refine their designs. CMS’ CNC technology enables Artemis Racing’s engineers to produce newly-redesigned components quickly and easily, so they can be tested in racing scenarios and evaluated for further revisions.

In late March of this year, America’s Cup organizers made a significant rule change for the upcoming competition, throwing a wrench into the plans of Artemis Racing and other competitors. In an effort to reduce costs, and thereby open the field to new teams, the established AC62 boat class (62-foot foiling catamarans) was replaced with the new “America’s Cup Class” of wing-sailed, foiling catamarans measuring between 45 and 50 feet in length.

As Artemis Racing had already done extensive work on their 62-footer, the rule change has them working tirelessly to develop new designs. Thanks to their CMS 5-axis CNC system, the Artemis Racing team can react quickly to their engineers’ design changes, as well as those of their competitors. This gives Artemis Racing a competitive advantage they hope will help them claim the Auld Mug in 2017.

Artemis Boat CNC

In addition to our “genuinely great machines,” Artemis Racing’s Build Manager Mark Allanson says they have also benefitted from CMS North America’s outstanding technical service and support. Our experts on the CMS team are “very helpful, very passionate, and very knowledgeable.” He also praised our fast, efficient customer support team, stating that every question his crew has posed thus far has been answered and that solutions to new problems are found quickly.

CMS North America is proud to be a part of Artemis Racing’s quest for the America’s Cup and a place in international sporting history. We wish them the best of luck in the 2017 event and beyond.

For more information on Artemis Racing, visit http://artemis-racing.americascup.com/en/home.html. To learn more about the America’s Cup, visit http://www.americascup.com/.

Case Study: Teuco

CMS Br5s CNC MachineTeuco is an Italian manufacturer of bathtubs and showers. Teuco’s innovative use of thermoplastic materials touched off a revolution in bathroom design. To meet the demands of the market, Teuco needed a manufacturing solution just as revolutionary. When traditional vacuum thermoforming techniques proved inefficient, Teuco looked for an option that would use less energy and increase output. The answer: the CMS BR5S sheet thermoforming machine.

The BR/5 series is the result of 30 years of technological evolution and development. Our engineers poured thousands of hours into making the BR/5 series mold-change ready, which allowed Teuco to dramatically reduce production change times. We designed the BR5S to be as user-friendly as possible, so that it can be operated by workers of all skill levels. Full process control is possible with just one operator. Continue reading