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What is CNC machining?

CNC machining was created back in the 18th century. The father of CNC machining is known as David Wilkinson, an American mechanical engineer. Wilkinson invented the lathe used for cutting screw threads, an important development in machine tools at the time. Before CNC machining was invented, the operator had to hand operate the NC machine which featured punch cards with a set of codes incorporated into them.

CNC machining came about in 1967 when the ideas of a computer controlled machine began to be floated. The CNC machine offers precision, accuracy, safety and productivity and because of this the number of errors are significantly reduced in the resulting work.

What does CNC stand for?

This acronym stands for computer numerical control. The CNC means a computer turns the design of the CAD software into numerical value to form a graph that the cutter follows. CNC is an offshoot of the NC (numerical control) technology and it’s mainly used to control the motions of machine tools using a computer.

Many people consider CNC machines robots of sorts because they can be manipulated from a computerized command center and will execute large batches of work. The most common CNC machine is the CNC router which is used for sign making.

CNC machining basics

CNC machining stands for the cutting operations carried out by the CNC.  The fundamentals of CNC machining lie in motion control. In fact, the basic task of a CNC machine is to maintain precise, consistent and automatic motion control at all times. This is why CNC machinery utilizes equipment that offers two or more directions in their range of motion. The two common directions of the axes are rotary which provides circular cutting and linear which provides straight cutting. Programs are designed and fed into the CNC machine to guide it while it’s doing the cutting.

In CNC machining, the motions of the machinery are controlled by servormotors which are controlled by the CNC. When a CNC command is sent from the program it tells the drive motor to rotate the axes a specific number of times. This rotation of the drive motor prompts the ballscrew to rotate driving the linear axis.

The CNC controls allow the linear axis to be commanded into action using a coordinated system that is simple and logical. The coordinating systems used in CNC machine are two: the popar coordinating system and Cartesian (rectangular) coordinating system. The latter is the most popular of the two coordinating systems and it utilizes graphing. In CNC machining the 

CNC machining parts

The CNC machine is made up of a number of key components including the software and the hardware parts.

The tools

Input devices 

There are three input devices for a CNC machine: the magnetic tape reader, the punch tape reader, and the computer using the RS-232 –C communication. These are the tools used to input the program code into the CNC machine.

Driving system

In the CNC machine, the driving system is made up of the amplifier circuits, the ball lead screw and the drive motors. This system feeds the position and speed signals to the different axis in the amplifier circuit activating the control signals which in turn actuate the drive motors. The drive motors begin to rotate the ball lead screw after being actuated effectively positioning the spindle tool or the work table. The drive system provides control to the motions of the elements in the CNC machine and in sign making the material is engraved with utmost precision.

Machine tool

All CNC machines have a spindle and a slide table which controls the speed and position of the machine. They also feature axes facing the X, Y and Z direction. The spindle is controlled by the Z direction axis while the slide table is controlled by the Y and X direction axis.

Machine control unit

This is the nexus of a CNC machine because it controls all the actions of the machine. The machine control unit decodes the code fed into the CNC machine, implements the interpolation generating the relevant axis motion commands, sends the motion commands to the amplifier circuits in order for the machine to drive the axis mechanisms. It then receives feedback from the axis on the speed and position of each and implements the necessary commands on the tools and spindle depending on the feedback received from the axis.

Feedback system

The feedback system lives up to its name of measuring the performance of the various elements in the machine and reporting on their measurement metrics through signals. It utilizes transducers, which work like sensors and send the information back to the machine control unit (MCU) in order to correct any errors on the position and speed.

The software

Some of the popular CNC software like EnRoute are used to create plasma signs that have become popular all around the world. Such software can be used to drive the drivers of different models of CNC machines and it has 40 supported file formats for the user. It can be used in sign making and wood working. Software used in CNC machine is typically CAD CAM with corresponding features to facilitate ease of design work.

What is CNC machining used for?

CNC machining is used in three main types of industries

Machine milling industries 

These are industries that require highly detailed parts which are created by a number of tools. The computer moves the operating tools like the router in the case of sign making. The computer keeps the router head precise for an accurate finish.

Machine turning industries

In this case the CNC machine turns the material being worked on with precision while keeping the tools being used in cutting or engraving completely still. This is the method used for mass production of different customized parts.

Screw machining

This CNC machine is used to create very precise parts that have no margin of error including parts within 0.0005 inches. Using screw machining needs experts in the parts and in programming the CNC machines.

Various industries fall into the three above categories from medical, aerospace, oil and gas, marine, electronic, transport, military and defense as well as manufacturing industries.

How is CNC Machining Used for Signs?

Description: CNC machine for signs


This is where the CNC machining is used in glass or plastic. They apply this method of CNC machining on soft malleable plastic that has been softened by heating to which inscriptions are made.

CNC routers

CNC routers are the typical equipment for making signs on different materials from aluminum to plastic, wood, acrylic and glass.

Cylindrical grinding

This CNC machining combines surface grinding and lathe turning to create signage. The piece being worked on is held stationary while a grinding wheel with a router is rotated around it making inscriptions on the surface.


Using CNC machining is a precise, accurate and efficient way to create catchy signage. And with advancing technology there is so much one can achieve with their signage now. There are many different kinds of signs you can achieve through CNC machining – and they’re all signs we can make for your business.

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