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.

Four Tips for Choosing the Most Stable Wood For Cutting

When left to the elements, wood can become warped and damaged. However, the sun and rain aren’t the only culprits. Choosing wood to use for cutting is dependent on the type of wood and the grain pattern, as well.

Pay Attention to the Grain

The grain pattern is an integral part of determining a piece of wood’s stability. CNC wood machining requires a solid wood that can be manipulated and moved easily. A tight, stable hardwood grain also allows for warping prevention. The straighter and more packed the grain is, the less likely that shrinking will occur.

Choose Redwood, Cedar, or Fir

Redwood is a light wood, making it easy to maneuver while cutting or shaping. Out of all of the types of wood, redwood has the straightest grain. The wood also contains a chemical that fights against moisture and rot. It can be expensive, but it is the most stable of all commercial woods.

Cedar is light, and also one of the strongest types of woods. It works well with CNC wood machining and is typically cheaper than redwood. Cedar is dense, stiff—and like redwood—contains a chemical inside of the wood. This chemical repels insects and prevents the wood from rotting.

Although fir isn’t necessarily a solid wood, it is most useful after seasoning occurs. Seasoning is the process during which wood shrinks and swells on a cellular level before reaching “equilibrium.” It can be a little difficult to manipulate during the cutting process, but once it is seasoned, it usually stops swelling or shrinking.

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.