How Aluminum Is Changing the Automotive Game

The use of aluminum in autos manufacturing is set to increase significantly in the future. In general, the primary metal used in the fabrication of vehicle components is steel. This has been attributed to the strength, durability and low-cost nature of the material. However, the recent advances in research in the auto industry have elevated aluminum as the next game changer. While the idea of using aluminum in autos is not new, there is a better understanding of the potential benefits that can be reaped from the extensive use of this material.

Auto Weight and Fuel Economy

Aluminum is a lightweight material which makes it ideal for manufacturing auto bodies. Typically, the density of aluminum is 2.70 grams per cubic centimeters while steel has a density ranging from 7.75 to 8.05 grams per cubic centimeters. The lower total weight of the aluminum promises lighter vehicles. Consequently, there is potential for higher fuel efficiency for automobiles constructed from this material as compared to the standard steel. In addition, the weight savings mean that the manufactured vehicles will be able to handle greater payloads.


Aluminum is a material with high machinability. This can be attributed to the malleability and ductility of the metal. Malleability can be defined as the ability of a material to undergo compression without rupturing or sustaining cracks. Ductility is the property which allows a material to be deformed using tensile strength without fracture. These are highly beneficial characteristics when using aluminum in autos fabrication. In simple terms, aluminum in autos can be formed into numerous shapes and designs, allowing the production of every form of vehicle structure.

Corrosion Resistance

One of the primary weaknesses of steel auto bodies is their vulnerability to rusting and corrosion. When the metal alloy is exposed to moisture and air, degradation will occur. This means that even a small scratch on the vehicle panels can result in extreme deterioration. Aluminum in autos provides great corrosion resistance in most surroundings, even without extra surface treatment. This ensures longevity of aluminum vehicles.

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.

Core Builders Composites & CMS CNC Technology Propel Oracle to America’s Cup Victory

Core Builders Composites (CBC) specializes in providing tooling solutions for all manner of composite manufacturing. For nearly 15 years, they have worked with customers to develop tooling suitable for a broad spectrum of manufacturing techniques, including vacuum consolidating and vacuum infusion, RTM, wet laminating, and more. CBC provides high-precision 2D and 3D forms, molds, plugs, and more, and provides custom composite manufacturing and metal machining. Among the keys to the company’s success are their two high-precision CNC machining centers from CMS, which have opened up a whole new world of design possibilities for their clients.

From California to New Zealand

Core Builders Composites was founded in Ventura, California, in 2001 to build racing yachts for Oracle Team USA’s entry into the 2003 America’s Cup—and has worked on every Oracle Team USA yacht to compete in the America’s Cup since. The legendary yacht race, first contested in 1851, draws nothing but the best competitors from across the globe.

As the America’s Cup is driven by technology—a boat’s design is as critical as its crew, if not more so—competitors’ vessels require exceptional precision and unwavering adherence to their carefully crafted designs. CBC originally partnered with third parties who could provide the CNC machining capabilities needed to meet those stringent demands. By the time CBC was working on Oracle’s USA 17, the state-of-the-art 90’ by 90’ catamaran that won the 33rd America’s Cup in 2010, they had relocated to Anacortes, Washington, in part to be closer to their preferred CNC machining partners.

Following Oracle Team USA’s 2010 victory, CBC founders Tim Smyth and Mark Turner relocated again, bringing the company to their native New Zealand. Knowing the benefits of CNC machining, but not wanting to rely on outside assistance, the CBC team decided to purchase their own CNC equipment. After much research and review, they wisely turned to CMS.


CMS Delivers

Soon, Core Builders Composites had procured their first CMS machine, an Ares moving bridge CNC router. CBC used their Ares system to create molds for the construction of fifteen identical AC45 catamarans for the inaugural America’s Cup World Series throughout 2010 and 2011. The Ares’ ability to turn CAD drawings and other digital design files into tangible products quickly and efficiently allowed the first of these AC45s to be launched just four and a half months after the design was started; the 14 other yachts were all produced within one year.

Tooling created for the AC45s included graphite and alloy daggerboard tools and foam core sets. Much of the tooling was significantly larger than the Ares’ six-meter-long work envelope, so CBC developed special techniques for indexing, splitting, and rejoining the tools.

A few years later, Core Builders Composites added a CMSNA Poseidon CNC machining center to their toolbox. The high-speed, 5-axis system features an 18 meter by 6.2 meter by 3 meter work envelope, making it the largest machine of its kind in New Zealand. The massive working area allowed CBC to manufacture large composite tooling for Oracle Team USA’s AC72 wing sailed foiling catamaran for the 34th America’s Cup in 2013. Components created for the AC72 included three 40-meter wings, ten dagger foils, eight rudders, four cross beams and fairings, and three centerline spines.

Unbeatable Precision

First and foremost, the America’s Cup is a race; as such, speed is critical. Shipbuilders utilize composite materials because of their excellent strength-to-weight ratio—they minimize weight for better speed, but are strong enough to ensure safety and stability while traversing rough waters. Composites are also immune to harsh environmental conditions that can rust, rot, or warp other materials like wood and steel.

Traditionally a hands-on industry, toolmaking has a long history of highly skilled craftsmen. CBC quickly discovered, however, that CMS’ CNC systems can easily do the work of numerous craftsmen in a fraction of the time, and with far greater precision than handwork could ever achieve. The CAD and digital design compatibility makes it possible to produce components that would be impossible to create by hand, allowing for complete design freedom. Any shape a ship designer may require can be machined with extreme precision and perfect repeatability.

Because of the unique aerodynamic and hydrodynamic requirements of high speed yacht racing, creating components from any material for these vessels requires exceptional accuracy; working with composite materials makes the process more difficult still. The CBC team was more than impressed with the high precision composite machining capabilities of their CMS CNC systems, which allowed them to produce even their largest and most complex part shapes with an overall surface accuracy of 0.2mm.

The static work beds and moving, gantry-mounted, 5-axis workheads of CMS’s machining centers enable CBC to create large-scale parts with superior speed and precision. Running at over 80m/min, they significantly reduced turnaround times for cutting operations.

CMS machining centers also utilize a surface probe system to accurately confirm the position of the workpiece before machining operations begin. The probe creates a 3D map of the part, which is overlaid on the final surface to ensure correct alignment.

Fully enclosed work envelopes with dust management systems allow CBC to machine abrasive materials and those that produce potentially hazardous, electrically-conductive dust—such as carbon fiber and graphite—with ease.


With high speed, high precision CMS North America CNC machining centers in-house, Core Builders Composites has started using the technology not just to create tooling, but also for post-processing operations. To keep up with the ever-increasing amount of CNC work, CBC recently ordered another CMS system. Their new Ares 4814PX5 machining center will be delivered and installed soon.

Core Builders Composites has benefitted greatly from CMS’ advanced CNC technology and exceptional service and support. CMS North America has assembled, installed, and calibrated both of CBC’s current CNC machining centers, and will soon do the same for their new Ares system. CBC also likes knowing that replacement parts and troubleshooting assistance are just a phone call away, although the two parties are located on opposite sides of the globe.

CBC has already made history with the help of CMS’ CNC machining technology. With ever-growing CNC capabilities and know-how, they’re poised to do so again, as they continue work on Oracle Team USA’s yacht for the 35th America’s Cup, scheduled to take place in June 2017.

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CMS Solution for Lockheed Martin – Orion Heat Shield

Lockheed Space Systems – Denver, Colorado facilities include their CDS, or Composite Development Shop where composite structures for a variety of space applications are designed, machined and assembled. Between 2012 and 1013, Lockheed contracted CMS Industries /CMS North America to design and build two Poseidon machines that were subsequently supplied and installed.

Poseidon machine

One of the custom built Poseidon machines in use at Lockheed Space System’s CDS shop.

The larger of the two machines is a CMS Poseidon 38/75 model, which is about 7.5 meters in length by 3.8 meters in width and includes some unique features, including:

1. A moving table system that allows for either a part to be loaded onto the moving table outside of the machining area, and then positioned into the machining area via rails, or a work fixture/work-piece setup that can be positioned into the machining area without using the table. The table is approximately 20’ wide by 20’ deep. When rolled into the machining area (on special rails), the table is positioned directly over six CMS supplied pneumatic lifts that when engaged into the table mounts, slightly lift and position the table so the overall surface flatness and position relative to the machine travels is within .020”.

2. The machine was specially designed to fit into a space constrained room that included concrete walls on each side of the machine. The machine design incorporating modified vertical supporting structures that would still provide the necessary work area travels was created.

3. A modified version of the front door/frame unit that allows for the crane cables to pass through.

The original intended (and still current) use for this machine was for spacecraft hardware. However, after the machine was ordered, Lockheed corporate re-directed the new Orion spacecraft heat shield work to the CDS – Littleton Colorado facility as the newly ordered CMS machine was the only machine large enough to handle the work piece size within Lockheed Space Systems available machine inventory at that time.

The main machining operations were:

1. Surfacing the inside of the composite shell. Approximately 15 – 20% of the inside of composite shell required machining. These surfaces were machined to match the curvature of a mating titanium surface.

2. Drilling operation on the titanium surface. Positioning of the titanium material/work fixture assembly into the machine, utilizing the six pneumatic lifts to accurately position the assembly. Then a drilling and reaming operation began resulting in over 2,800 holes titanium/composite drill stack with the use of a speed reducer mounted to the end of the CMS spindle.

3. Match drill and ream heat shield assembly. The titanium structure and composite shield were then loosely mated, and re-positioned into the machine for a critical match drill and reaming operation to the same + 2,800 hole locations that were previously drilled.

4. Countersinking outer shell hole locations. Finally, a critical countersinking operation was needed for all +2,800 hole locations to ensure a flush mount fit of the fastener to the outer composite shield surface. A specially developed Lockheed Martin “PINC” countersinking head and tool mechanism that mounts directly to the HSK spindle interface was utilized to complete the countersinking operation.

The following pictures illustrate some of these steps.  These are all in the public domain / internet, or authorized for use by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. 

Orion heat shield composite shell

Machining the inside of the Orion heat shield’s composite shell.















CMS' 5-axis technology

CMS’ 5-axis technology allows for precision machining of the composite shell inside concave surface.















Orion heat shield

View of the heat shield components after countersinking outer shell hole locations in the custom-built Poseidon machining center.















***Any reuse of this information must provide such notice to CMSNA.





Daktronics Scores Big with CMS’ CNC Technology

Based in Brookings, South Dakota, Daktronics is famous for building large-scale led video displays, electronic scoreboards, LED digital billboards, and other similar signs and displays. The company has provided giant video boards for Everbank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, and other pro sports arenas, as well as huge video display boards for Los Angeles International (LAX) and other major airports. From high school football scoreboards to LED signs outside community centers to video screens in movie theater lobbies, Daktronics has designed, built, and installed countless state-of-the-art electronic displays all across the United States and the globe.
Daktronics has been in business since 1968, and in that time, the company has grown to be one of the most sought-after manufacturers in their industry. For many years, they used only manually-operated equipment to build the frames for their displays. The lengthy aluminum extrusions that comprise these frames were loaded onto the company’s chop saw line, often by crane, because of the extrusions’ huge size. They were then sawn to length, had their edges trimmed, and were drilled and milled as needed by a system of pedal-actuated equipment.

CNC Maching 45 degree saw operationThough their manual processes were effective, they proved insufficient for Daktronics’ growing needs. When the idea arose to construct a billboard cabinet section in one piece instead of the usual two, the need to reduce costs in parts and labor became apparent. The cabinet in question would require 48’ extrusions that Daktronics’ 33’ mill and saw machines couldn’t accommodate.

CMS Gets the Assist

Looking to increase the size of their frames, Daktronics wisely contacted CMS North America in mid-2012. After discussing their production needs and methods, CMS recommended the Avant-MBB moving gantry CNC machining center.

At the time, the Avant CNC system was available in two configurations: one with a flat worktable for machining flat workpieces and panels, and one with manually-operated crossrails vises for holding the workpiece. The crossrail setup was ideal for Daktronics’ processes, but the manual crossrails and vises left too much room for human error.

To ensure accuracy and repeatability, CMS developed a fully automatic, programmable crossrail system. Like the Avant-MBB’s machine head and other components, the crossrails and vises could now be programmed and operated via CNC.

The programmable crossrail setup enables the MBB to complete the entire machining process for Daktronics’ billboard sign frames: the aluminum extrusions can be cut to the desired length, then separated by the crossrails and vises, which allows the machine head to cut angles at connection points, drill holes and machine in grooves for wiring and connectors and perform finishing processes. At the end of the cycle, fully machined extrusions are ready for use.

The programmable crossrails and vises automatically clamp, unclamp, and maneuver the extrusions, which allows the CNC system to run with little to no operator supervision.

Daktronics’ Avant-MBB CNC Machining Center

CMS can modify several features of the Avant-MBB system to meet customer requirements. To accommodate the size and length of Daktronics’ aluminum extrusions, we built an Avant with 633” (≈1,608 cm) of X-axis travel, 80” (≈203 cm) of Y-axis travel, and 28” (≈72 cm) of Z-axis travel.

Avant-MBB CNC machining centers can be built with as many programmable crossrails as the customer requires. To meet Daktronics’ production needs, their MBB system was equipped with a total of 12 programmable crossrails.

The Avant system is capable of supporting two 5-axis machine heads for continuous, “two up” production. However, following careful evaluation of Daktronics’ throughput requirements, it was determined that a single machine head would best suit their needs.

Pre-Shipment Testing

With every CNC machining center we sell, we recommend that the customer participate in pre-shipment testing, to ensure that the system they’re getting can deliver the levels of precision and performance they need. Daktronics took us up on the offer, and shipped several 36-foot long aluminum extrusions to CMS’ main manufacturing plant in Italy. Mike Hulscher, Roger Koelling, Brad Pick and Matt Kurtenbach of Daktronics made the journey, as well.

The morning after their arrival, the Avant-MBB was prepared for the testing and demonstration to follow. The extrusions were loaded into the preprogrammed machine, and the Avant was set in motion. The entire machining cycle was completed without a hitch, and produced parts machined to Daktronics’ exact specifications. The Daktronics team marveled at the Avant-MBB’s exceptional performance.

After inspecting and measuring the parts, which were found to perfectly match the design requirements, Daktronics requested a secondary check of the machine’s accuracy. Using a setup of purpose-built mirrors and laser measurers, as well as specialized programming built into the MBB, the machining center was put through its paces. The resulting data showed the system to be well within required tolerances. Its performance exceeded the expectations of the Daktronics team.

CNC Machine design exampleDelivery, Setup & Ongoing Production

Daktronics’ Avant-MBB CNC machining center was delivered to their Sioux Falls, South Dakota, facility in summer 2013. We set up and installed the system in their production line immediately—setup and installation are included with nearly every CMS system. Another batch of tests were run to ensure proper calibration. After that, Daktronics took over and were machining their own parts in no time flat.

Daktronics has had incredible success with their Avant-MBB system. They can now produce 48’ long cabinets in a single section instead of two, and scrap has been significantly reduced. Their products benefit from the superior precision and perfect repeatability made possible by this CNC machining center.

The CMS Advantage

CMS North America and Daktronics were able to work together to develop the perfect CNC machining center for Daktronics’ unique and highly specialized production needs. The Avant-MBB (model # MBB 1B/1610 PX5) we provided for them is a prime example of our ability to respond to very specific engineering requests. Whereas most other CNC equipment manufacturers offer standard models with a few interchangeable options, CMS produces truly custom systems.

One Avant-MBB is sufficient for Daktronics’ current needs, but they have expressed interest in adding another CNC system to their production line in the near future—something which CMS would, of course, be more than happy to help them with!

Tree of Life | CNC Technology | CMS NA

Tree of Life Sculpture at Milan Expo 2015

CMS CNC Macines for Timber Frame Processing

If you happen to travel to Milan, Italy, some time before October of this year, you might see a fantastic example of modern engineering. In the Italian Pavilion at EXPO 2015, you’ll see the “Tree of Life,” a 121-foot sculpture made from steel and wood laminate beams that weave around the ‘trunk’ and flare out into a twelve-pointed star at the top. The sculpture is in the center of Lake Arena, where water fountains provide an additional sparkle while colored lights provide a captivating glow.

CMS and the Tree of Life

Fixed Rails CNC Machining

Our CNC machines are capable of cutting wood laminate beams, like the ones that wrap around the trunk and form the branches of the Tree of Life. Take a closer look at the Tree of Life and you’ll see how precisely each beam is cut; CNC technologies are essential for achieving the kind of accu

racy necessary for replicating a design as intricate as this one. CMS is proud to acknowledge that one of our machines was used to craft this beautiful sculpture.

Other Notable Projects Made with CMS Machines

Another well-known example of prime engineering is the Alfa Romeo. Many of the Alfa Romeo’s parts are made on CMS machines. Alfa Romeo relies on our CNC machines for the same reason that the makers of the Tree of Life chose our machines: repeatability and precision. CMS has developed a wide array of CNC machines, which is why we are able to serve so many different industries, and machine so many different materials, including wooden beams, thermoplastics and much more.

CMSNA’s New Balestrini CNC Woodworking Systems

Introducing CMSNA’s New Balestrini CNC Woodworking Systems

If you’re looking for a state-of-the-art, high precision CNC woodworking machining center, look no further than CMS North America’s new Balestrini series. Available in Europe through our parent company, CMS SpA, since 2011, CMSNA is pleased to announce the addition of this line of innovative CNC systems to our product lineup.

Now available to the North American market for the first time, the Balestrini series includes both traditional, precision wood processing machinery and innovative CNC solutions such as 5-axis machining centers, gantry-type systems, compact mortise and tenon machines, and more. Our Balestrini systems are specially engineered for woodworking and wood processing applications of all kinds, from chair making to cabinet doors to musical instruments.

CMS’ Balestrini series provide unparalleled precision for even the most complex woodworking project, and fast, automated machining capabilities that will make short work of high volume production. The Balestrini series is divided into smaller “families” of machines that perform similar processes; the different families are designed to work together to form a complete, start-to-finish woodworking system.

From 1954 Italy to 2015 North America

The original Balestrini woodworking machine company was founded in 1954 by Renzo Balestrini. Mr. Balestrini’s first workshop was dedicated to constructing and repairing special woodworking machines, and in the decades since has grown into a leader in the industry, providing innovative solutions for chair makers and other specialized woodworking applications.

Balestrini became part of CMS SpA in 2011, enhancing our company’s commitment to the production of woodworking CNC systems. In the few years that CMS has been producing machining centers in the Balestrini series, we’ve developed numerous advancements, such as our T-CAS (Tool Collision Avoidance System) software, that further enhance the performance and precision of our CNC machining centers.

From trimming and cutting to milling and drilling to joinery work, there is almost no woodworking process that the Balestrini series can’t perform, bringing unparalleled precision and perfect repeatability to woodworking companies everywhere. For more information on CMS’ Balestrini CNC woodworking systems, click here.

CMS’ CNC Machining & the Alfa Romeo 4C

Legendary Italian automaker Alfa Romeo designed their new 4C sports car to be their “reintroduction” to the American market. This high-performance two-seater was engineered to put the best driving technology available into the most visually striking package possible. To achieve this lofty goal, Alfa Romeo teamed with CMS and other innovative European companies.

The 4C Project

To ensure the finest performance, and to meet the high standards associated with the Alfa Romeo name, every component of the 4C must be crafted with extreme precision. Additionally, Alfa Romeo plans to produce the 4C in higher numbers than a “limited series” automobile or supercar.

The automaker recognized that CNC manufacturing, with its superior accuracy, repeatability, and quick production capabilities, was the best way to achieve these ends. And for the industry’s finest CNC machining technology, they turned to CMS.

Advanced CNC Technology for Advanced Materials Machining

The 4C benefits from a number of unique design features, including a monobloc chassis and the use of composite materials throughout. Its engine crankcase is manufactured from aluminum, which provides the strength needed in a sports car drivetrain at roughly one-third the weight of steel. Similarly, the front and rear chassis frames, which support the nose and tail of the car, are also made from aluminum. A CMS Poseidon CNC machining center is used to machine the complex geometry and precise tolerances these components required.

Alfa Romeo uses carbon fiber materials for the 4C’s main chassis to keep the car’s weight low (just over 2,000 pounds) and to provide the structural stability its high performance capabilities require. Manufactured as a single, sturdy component, this carbon fiber chassis requires numerous complex machining and finishing operations. CMS’ Ares moving bridge CNC system provides the necessary precision and versatility, along with high-speed, 5-axis performance and a large work envelope.

Seat bases and backrests, as well as several other interior components, are also made from carbon fiber. One of our compact Athena CNC systems is used for the machining and finishing of these parts, including intricate detail work. With high-speed, 5-axis capabilities and a versatile worktable setup, the Athena is ideal for fast, efficient production of smaller components.

The seats of the 4C, inspired by ergonomic race car seat designs, are constructed of polyurethane foam. Molds for this foam padding were machined with a CMS Cronus K moving bridge CNC system. Specially designed for working with aluminum, light alloys, and composite materials, the Cronus provides high-speed machining, fast working-head acceleration, and unparalleled accuracy and repeatability.

For more information about CMS and Alfa Romeo’s partnership on the 4C project, click here.