Well, the 1st thing to know is CNC is an acronym for Computer Numerical Control

Basically, a computer and software is used to precisely tell the machine how to move. This is an oversimplification of the true magic taking place in the background. Such as pulses and tics and geometry and kinematics.

Anyway, back to the basics. The CNC milling machine reads code known as M-CODE and G-CODE. The codes give commands to the machine telling it when to turn off and on. As well as how fast to move and which locations to go to based on a Coordinate System.

So mills are automated cutting machines that use a rotating spindle that holds a tool to cut away material (AKA: subtractive manufacturing). CNC milling machines have many different sizes, features, axis configurations, and high-level automation.

CNC Mills are used to cut almost every material you can think of. Materials like aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, copper, gold, platinum and so much more. They even cut materials such as plastics, wood, glass, stones, and hopefully, one day space stuff like Kryptonite. 

Like most tools anyone would buy at the hardware store, like power drills and saws, CNC mills have levels of power and capabilities. CNC mills are very much the same in this aspect. The most basic CNC mill is the 3-axis mill. It uses a X Y Z value on those axis. The mill has a table that has a fixed vise or other work-holding hardware that moves around the cutting tool. 

To take the 3-axis one step further, we move into a 4-axis CNC mill. This means we can rotate around 1 of the 3 axes to achieve more complex geometry and even reduce the cycle time of a 3-axis machine. Beyond the 4-axis we have the 5-axis CNC machine which allows us to rotate around multiple axes simultaneously. The 5-axis machine is usually reserved for extremely complex geometry cutting and ultra-high precision. 5-axis machines are also often used to greatly reduce the cycle time and positioning of the part. This leads to improved accuracy and overall quality of the part.

If you need precision and repeatability for your parts, CNC machining is the industry standard. These CNC machines make rapid prototyping possible so that we can test our ideas faster and ultimately mass produce your products faster and more effectively.

One thing to keep in mind is the size of the CNC mill. Most often, a machine shop or job shop will have a large machine making a small part. The larger and more complex a machine is, generally, the more expensive the machine rate is. This is one of the reasons why RMG is able to drive down costs. We can pair your parts and projects with the appropriately sized CNC mill.

Rutherford Manufacturing Group utilizes 3-axis CNC machining, 4-axis CNC machining, and 5-axis CNC machining to make the best parts possible. We also have lathes, also known as turning. Stay in touch to read all about “Turning vs. Milling” and “Lathe vs. Mill” where we discuss the differences and why your project will require one over the other. We also will cover the “MILL TURN” which is exactly like it sounds…both machines combined into one. 

“The complexity and capabilities of CNC milling are a true testament to engineering and what people are capable of when they come together.” –Christopher Moers