Smart Manufacturing CNC Control

The manufacturing process of today involves many challenges from mass production down to lot size one. The CNC controls in factories must master this market trend specifically without an adequate amount of skilled labor in the US manufacturing world. In essence, manufacturing is facing a Renaissance in the CNC control technology shift.


On one hand, many of the current CNC used in factories are controlling machines with 3-axis motion or maybe 3+1 and relying on a CAM program to provide the right machine code (e.g., G-codes) to drive these machines. An operator just pushes the green button to start a program. When one operation is done, he stops the machine, repositioning the part (or a robot) and pushes the green button again to start the next machining program. This type of operation bears a few risks.


The next generation of professional manufacturing machine operations will not be willing to just push a button. Many machine operators want to have feel empowered to make a quality part. At the same time, advanced 5-axis machine CNC controls have arrived and many of today’s operators expect that the part they see on the touchscreen comes off the machine at the exact size as the print or that the 3D model calls for. They do not want to rework or re-cut like some of the more experience machinists are used to. And quite frankly, that is how it should be if factory owners want to maximize the machine utilization and productivity output. In order to achieve this, the modern machine motion system has to be much more sophisticated than a simple 3-axis CNC with encoders on ball screws.


Today’s new 5-axis machine controls offers so much more on the factory floor. For example, the latest HEIDENHAIN TNC 640 (standard TNC) mill turn CNC control comes with a 24”multi-touch screen and allows the operator to import CAM files in IGES or DXF formats right into the CNC. This enables users to interactively create and simulate the machining process right on a virtual machine with high resolution graphics. The system gives the operator the confidence that the part will be perfectly cut without a collision of the spindle or fixture of the machine setup quicker and more easily than ever before.


These new TNC controls offer accessibility from the operator panel on the machine right to the Server System. Options now possible for the control users includes the ability of the operator to view setup sheets, workflow information and even run the CAM-system right from the machine, as well as update programs, create new tool paths and transfer data right into the CNC. In the age of mass customization, priorities and workflow change constantly so the smart CNC needs to be able to adjust quickly and reliably.


Another important function now available for use on the factory floor and speeding up the process is the ability to reprioritize manufacturing jobs automatically.


The control is programmed to determine if all the necessary machining programs and tools are available to complete the next job, and if so, does so. It even determines if the remaining tool life is adequate to machine the next job where the tool will be used. The TNC can accurately determine how long it will actually take to machine a particular job because it has the actual machine motion or kinematics stored in the CNC. This enables the operator or programmer to accurately calculate the machining time based on machine behavior and axis motion speed hence optimizing machine utilization time and maximizing profits.

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