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.

Ins and Outs of Linear Rail Systems for CNC Machines

When working with CNC machines that require significant movement along the X and Y-axes, the usage of linear rail devices can help to facilitate that movement. Learn more about these vital elements of CNC machining.

How Does a Linear Rail System Work?

While their job may initially appear to be insignificant, linear rails perform an essential role in the performance of automated machining. When combined with a gantry, these tracks make up a support system that can carry computerized cutting devices both horizontally and vertically. One of the most important functions of these slide features is to allow the proper amount of friction for the machine to travel freely. In automated machinery, inertia is controlled by the automated programming. These rails not only provide CNC machines with a measured path to travel but are also vital to supporting secondary functions such as torque or lateral loads.

Components of a Linear System

Depending on the size or complexity of the CNC machine, a linear rail may use either ball bearings or roller slides to move the length of the rail. For larger systems, roller slides are typically preferred for added strength and to reduce the price of a ball bearing system. However, if the slides associated with this form of motion system are not appropriate for the CNC machine, using these systems can be counterproductive.

Why Are Rail Systems Useful?

In short, without the use of a linear rail system, CNC machines would have no path for movement. A properly functioning linear system is firmly affixed in place. If a rail system is improperly installed, it will impair the ability of the machine to travel as directed on the path. Ensuring the proper motion system not only allows a system to perform an ordered task, but it can also save money associated with repair costs for both damaged machines and rail systems.

The increasing reliance of manufacturers on automated technology means that more companies are utilizing these types of machines. Linear movement systems are not only important for smaller projects but are also essential for the construction of larger products such as airplane wings and boat hulls.

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 Importance of Getting Young Students Involved in Engineering

Engineers at a CNC machining company are responsible for designing and constructing complex computer programs that are then used to create all manner of machinery. This is a field that is certain to grow well into the future as new technologies are developed. In order to ensure that the next generation of CNC machines has a talented crop of engineers to design and operate them, it is important to introduce children to the basics of engineering at an early age.

Natural Affinity

Many children naturally gravitate towards engineering without being aware of it. Anyone who has watched children at play knows that they love to build and create. Stacking blocks, assembling train tracks, and designing forts are all activities which help children understand basic principles of engineering. These fun activities can be used to teach basics that may later be used in an exciting career with a CNC machining company.

Improved Math and Science Skills

When children are taught math and science skills in school, the concepts are often presented without context, meaning students can struggle to grasp the real world applications. Teaching children about engineering can help them to better understand how to apply what they learn about these skills. This, in turn, gives them a deeper comprehension of what they are taught in the classroom.

Problem-Solving Skills

Once students understand how to apply their math and science knowledge, engineering can be an excellent vehicle for teaching problem-solving skills. This is a hands-on course of study in which there is not necessarily one right answer and failure is as good a way to learn as a success. Teaching engineering to young students teaches them the importance of experimenting to solve problems with out-of-the-box approaches.

Future Jobs

Besides working with a CNC machining company, the options for engineering careers are nearly endless. Whether a child dreams of building bridges or creating new smartphone technology, engineering is a versatile field that will only continue to grow into the next century. Teaching principles of engineering early creates a foundation which will be invaluable later in life.