All About CNC Machining

CNC machining-i.e., computer numerical control machining—is a broad term referring to the subtractive manufacturing processes used to create precision parts and components. As implied by the name, these processes employ the use of computer-guided machining tools to remove—i.e., machine—excess material from a workpiece to achieve the desired shape and size.

All CNC machining operations begin with a CAD model of the part. A CAM program reads this generated file and converts it into a series of coded instructions that the machining equipment can follow. A key benefit of using these processes is that, once the file is approved, very little—if any—human intervention is necessary. Instead, the computerized controls monitor and guide the movements of the machine, minimizing the potential for error and allowing for extremely consistent results.

At Associated Fastening Products, our team is well-versed in CNC machining. We perform various computer-controlled machining operations to manufacture a wide range of standard and custom fasteners for our customers. We’ve put together the following overview to help customers fully understand the process. It outlines the types of machining operations available, general advantages of the process, typical materials used and products created, and industrial applications.

Types of CNC Machining Operations

Within the broader category of CNC machining, many different machining operations can be used to craft the final component. Three of the most common are: 

  • Drilling. Many fastening products call for one or more holes to be drilled into the fastener body. The size and placement of these holes are critical, with even small errors rendering the product unusable. CNC drilling operations are much the same way as manual drilling. However, the computerized controls guiding the drill bits allow industry professionals to be more confident in the precision and consistency of the positioning and sizing of the openings from one component to the next.
  • Milling. In CNC milling operations, computerized controls guide multi-point cutting implements as they cut and form the workpiece. Face milling generates shallow and flat cuts, while peripheral milling produces slots and threads. These processes, among others, create the precise connection points needed for fasteners to fit together as desired.
  • Turning. The CNC turning process involves the removal of material from a spinning workpiece. It serves as an alternative to the operations performed by a human-operated lathe and allows for the creation of more uniform threads on cylindrical parts, such as screws and bolts. CNC turning machines can also produce other geometric features, such as slots and tapers, through boring, facing, and grooving operations.

In general, CNC machining operations—including those listed above—are alternate methods of performing manual processes. As they employ the use of computerized controls, they offer greater precision and accuracy, faster processing speeds, and a lower risk of error.

Advantages of CNC Machining

Compared to traditional manufacturing methods, CNC machining offers several benefits, including in regard to the production of standard and custom fasteners. The following represent some of the most significant reasons to employ the process:

Greater Precision and Accuracy

CNC machines allow for the replication of the same component thousands of times over, with each piece produced having the same dimensions as the previous. Additionally, the computerized controls enable industry professionals to achieve a higher level of precision than is generally possible with manual machining methods.

Faster Turnaround

The CNC machining process also carries the potential for substantial time savings. With traditional machining equipment, operators must manually configure and set up the machine for each operation. In contrast, CNC machining equipment can make the necessary changes by a simple adjustment in the computer code. Additionally, while humans need breaks, these machines can operate consistently for more extended periods, allowing them to fulfill orders in a shorter time period.

Better Scalability

CNC machining is suitable for both prototyping and production runs. As the process does not require intensive machine and tool preparation—instead using a CAD file—it’s possible to quickly and accurately produce a prototype. Once a part design is approved, it can then proceed to full-scale production.

Broader Versatility

CNC machining operations accommodate a wide range of designs in metal, polymer, and other materials. This versatility makes them suitable for the manufacture of numerous different parts and products.

Types of CNC Machined Components

Industry professionals across a diverse set of industrial sectors employ CNC machining processes to produce the various parts and products they need for their operations. Within the fastener sector, some of the typical products manufactured include:

  • Bolts
  • Bushings
  • Nuts
  • Screws
  • Studs
  • Washers

Materials Used in CNC Machining Operations

As indicated above, CNC machining accommodates a variety of materials. While the choice of material depends on the part design and intended application, some of the most commonly used include:

  • Metal
  • Plastic
  • Composites
  • Glass
  • Wood
  • Foam

For fasteners, most machining operations utilize metals (e.g., aluminum, brass, carbon steel, copper, and stainless steel) or plastics (e.g., nylon).

Industries & Applications

As you might expect from such a versatile manufacturing technique, CNC machining finds application in a wide range of industries. In particular, it is ideal for industries that require highly precise and accurate components. For example,

  • In the aerospace industry: It is used to create parts for aircraft that need precise and tight tolerance components with complex and intricate designs, such as airfoils, antennas, and manifolds.
  • In the electronics industry: It is used to produce small precision parts for communication and electronic devices, such as heat sinks, housings, and shielding.
  • In the medical industry: It is used to produce both high volumes of standard precision parts and customized devices for patient treatment, such as implants, orthotics, and surgical instruments.
  • In the military and defense industries: It is used for generating reliable and durable upgrade parts in classified and remote areas, such as communication systems and transportation vehicle parts.
  • In the oil and gas industries: It is used to manufacture precision parts for drilling rigs, pipelines, and refineries, such as cylinders, drill bits, pins, rods, and valves.
  • In the transportation industry: It is used to test and prototype designs for more advanced equipment and systems, such as for passenger cars, shipping vessels, and trains.

At Associated Fastening Products, we employ CNC machining processes to produce standard and custom fastening components for customers in the OEM, automotive, and transportation sectors.

Contact the Experts at Associated Fastening Products, Inc.

CNC machining is ideal for producing parts and products for virtually every industry. It offers greater precision, accuracy, and processing speeds with much lower manual labor requirements. When used for the production of fasteners, they accommodate intricate and complex designs without sacrificing quality in both prototype and production runs.

At Associated Fastening Products, Inc., our team understands the need for quality, consistency, and responsive customer service. Throughout our over 30 years in business, we’ve integrated these values in everything we do, from the supply of standard fasteners to the manufacture of custom ones.

In addition to our standard product offerings, we provide custom machining services to ensure all of our customers’ fastener needs are fully met. We offer machining capabilities for turning, milling, and Swiss machining, as well as for secondary operations such as broaching, grinding, drilling, slotting, tapping, and thread rolling.

For additional information about our CNC machining capabilities or other fastener products and services, request a quote today.

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