CNC Machining Services
with Shapeways

CNC machining continues to stand the test of time for manufacturers, offering undeniable power in industrial production. With the ability to manufacture thousands of parts in mass production without deviation in quality or detail, CNC manufacturing is often the most proficient route for satisfying customer project requirements–especially on the larger scale.

The Rise in CNC Machining Services

The rise in demand for CNC machining services continues to accelerate too, with ‘impressive growth’ noted currently and projected through 2029. Recent data shows the CNC Machine market valued at USD $64.47 billion, and expected to reach USD $154.02 by 2029–reflecting a CAGR of 10.70% during that time. Lathe machines are specifically in the highest demand for CNC machining applications.

“The primary reasons driving the industry include technological improvements in machine tools, such as robotic and multi-axis arms, as well as the growth in the manufacturing industry,” states Grand View Research

CNC machining assures manufactures of excellence in product quality, while also offering greater speed and efficiency. While demand increases from industrial businesses, there is increased interest in CNC machining due to more economical cost in starting up, more streamlined setup processes than before, and the ability to produce in small or larger volumes. Automation is expected to become even more critical to this process, as well as more sophisticated–offering even greater benefits to a wide range of industries in the future.

What is CNC Machining?

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining is an extremely precise digital technology, made of automated commands, a drive system, and a feedback system. The process begins as an engineer or designer conceptualizes a product, converts it to a CAD file, and then moves forward to make industrial parts in a wide range of materials, sizes, and shapes.

In comparison to additive manufacturing or 3D printing, CNC machining is known as a subtractive process. Pre-programmed computer software controls machining, issuing instructions centered around a 3D file. CNC technology offers outstanding dimensional accuracy in parts, using a variety of automated tools and machines for fine-tuned precision, to include:

    • Cutters – Machine tools constructed of metal materials like steel, CNC laser cutters consist of a head, lens, and nozzle. The cutter chips away at a block of material until the intended structure is complete and accurate. Cutters may also be used to mark or engrave parts or make customized shapes. 
    • Drills – Several drill types are used for CNC machining, employing a rotating cutting tool to create extremely precise openings for screws and bolts. Holes may be drilled into parts for other purposes too, including aesthetics. CNC drills are used with a wide range of materials and are known to be very accurate due to computer control.
    • Grinders These abrasive grinding machines finish parts for surface quality, while removing minimal material. These tools are accompanied by a rotating grinding wheel that moves in place for subtracting material from a part. CNC grinders may be categorized as surface grinders, centerless grinders, cylindrical grinders, internal grinders, or other parts. They are also used to sharpen CNC tools, especially cutters.
    • Lathes – As mounted, stationary machines, lathes rotate materials on a spindle, ensuring manufacturing of precise shapes in CNC machining. Lathes are not just traditional tools–they harken back to ancient times where two people would use the tool to make simple woodwork. Since times like Ancient Egypt, the lathe has evolved into a modern, precision tool directed by software code.

“The metal cutting type segment dominated the industry and accounted for the largest revenue share of more than 77.00% in 2021,” states Grand View Research. “Turning machine tools in the metal cutting segment accounted for a significant revenue share in 2021. The ability to turn machine tools to make a variety of items, such as airplane parts, electric motor parts, nuts, crankshafts, train components, pistons, wooden bowls, sleeves, bolts, pump parts, and others is expected to enhance their demand.”Milling machines play a large role too, serving as rotary tools to make cuts. 

“Milling machining is a common production process used in machine shops and industries to create high-precision products and parts in a wide range of forms and sizes. The need for milling machines is predicted to increase due to benefits, such as reduced human errors, exact cuts, high precision, and the ability to make individual components in small or big batches,” states Grand View.

These automated CNC manufacturing tools can also be added to with other choices like hydraulic vises as well as parts like probes allowing for more efficient setup. Automated coolers are helpful for long production runs, as well as side-mount tool changers for storing parts and switching to other tools.

The History of CNC Manufacturing Technology

CNC technology was developed in the 1940s by James Parsons (1913-2007), an American inventor and engineer deeply involved in designing parts for planes and helicopters in connection with the Air Force and MIT. Not only did the Numerical Control Society award Parsons with the Joseph Marie Jacquard Memorial Award, he was also considered to be the father of the second industrial revolution by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Parsons’ work was built upon by engineers, evolving from punched tape used for telecommunications and data storage into digitally controlled machining using countless forms of material. Along with this machinery, CAD software evolved into the powerful technology we know today.
CNC Machining Services Components
CNC Machining Services

CNC Machining Applications

CNC machining is popular for critical applications in global manufacturing, providing accuracy in parts regardless of complexity. Not only that, CNC machining tools like grinders can be set to run precisely–and around the clock with no interruptions.

Typical industries relying on CNC production for parts include:

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Construction
  • Electronics
  • Marine
  • Medical and dental
  • Oil and gas
  • Transportation

The Benefits of Traditional Manufacturing like CNC Technology

For most businesses using manufacturing, the goal is to make parts that last. Shapeways is a world leader in digital fabrication and remains agnostic in terms of technology. Our focus is on working with customers by matching the correct materials and processes to a specific application. When customer demand increases exponentially, it makes greater economic sense—as well as increasing speed and efficiency—to scale production, using traditional methods for large volumes of identical parts.

Today, many businesses rely on hybrid technology. This means using a mixture of AM processes and CNC machining. For companies requiring versatility, hybrid technology can be the answer to retaining all the benefits possible, with AM complementing traditional manufacturing.

One of the greatest benefits of CNC machining is that it is compatible with so many different types of materials. Shapeways offers a range of materials for use with CNC machining, some of which are used in additive manufacturing, like thermoplastics, nylons, and metals.

While designers and engineers must consider tolerances to heat, design requirements and guidelines, stress resistance and more, our User Application team can always assist in answering additional questions as well as helping with more complex projects or customizations.

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