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CNC machines can produce complex parts and can produce simple pieces very rapidly. These machines can also produce pieces to very stringent tolerances resulting in more accurate products than traditional machining. Tolerances can be as much as an order of magnitude higher due to precision of the servomotors controling the production. CNC machines usually manufacture repetitive parts at a lower cost than traditional machining. Finnally, because a computer is machining the part, the risk of human injury is reduced.

CNC machining combines the precision of a computer to control a traditional machining process. CNC is an acronym for 'Computer Numerically Controlled'. Adding a computer control to a machine reduces the possiblity of human error and increases operator efficency.

To setup a CNC machine, First a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program is used to design a part or mold. This design information is then transfered to the CNC machine. The CNC machine selects the tools from this information and traces the paths necessary to create the product.

Whether it is a lathe or milling machine, a CNC machine is essentially just the same as its human controlled counterpart.

A typical lathe usually has a three or four jawed chuck or clamp that holds the work piece. After the work piece is clamped in place, a machinist can use a variety of cutting tools to remove material. Cutting tools can machine thread or drill holes by removing material from a rotating piece.

A milling machine allows a machinist to remove material from the sides of a piece. The work piece is held in place by clamps. The clamps are fastened to a table that can be moved along a table in both directions (the x and y planes). The machinist can move the part back and forth along those two planes to remove material. The cutting tool is connected to its own positioning device to allow up and down movement (z axis).

A CNC milling machine is not limited to machining only along the x, y and z-axis. It also is capable of rotating to different angles which allows more flexible designs. CNC machining can also machine a wide variety of materials including metal, plastic, hard rubber and wood. CNC machines can usually be setup for a new piece faster than regular Numerically Controlled (NC) machines. And finally, with CNC machining you can view the end product before the final part is actually machined.

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