CNC Machining Basics Beginners Should Know

CNC Machining Basics Beginners Should Know

In recent years, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) technology has influenced the metal forming industry offering advanced precision, which can be impossible to achieve with manual processes.

A CNC machine must interact with a computer with software transforming numerical code allowing the machine to work with a high degree of precision. CNC feeds instructions into a machine, which then controls the mills, lathes, grinders, and routers. CNC milling and turning are processes that achieve similar results although they’re distinctive.

Look below to find more about CNC machining and its processes. 

CNC milling

CNC milling works in the way that the material is being held in place while the cutting tools rotate around it. It’s a machine process that produces custom-designed components by removing material using rotating multipoint cutting tools and computerized controls. It’s a different process from CNC turning, which is mainly used to create round or tubular shapes.

CNC experts know how to cut the parts fast to reduce the cost and manufacture high-quality CNC parts. It plays an important role in mold making, plastic and metal valves, automotive prototypes, medical parts, and others.

The production capabilities of CNC milling include chemical, mechanical, electrical, and thermal. The mills provide superior material conservation efficiency, leading to a reduction in material costs over the machine’s lifespan. It is used in several industries such as woodworking, EDM (electrical discharge machining), metal removing, and others.

Main components of a milling machine


The frame is the main structure supporting the milling machine, which helps to give it stability and rigidity. Typically it comes with a base and detachable column, and the machine headstock where the main spindle is mounted is a very important part of it.


The spindle acts as an intermediate part between the table and the knee and is driven by an electric motor. It slides on guideways and its main function is to move the workpiece in a horizontal direction. A motor with various levels of transmission is used to rotate the spindle, and if you want to keep it in good condition over the long term, you can use different forms of lubrication.


CNC milling machines have x, y, and z-axes, which can be programmed using g-code in the CNC controller. A standard CNC mill has 3-axis, allowing the spindle to travel along the x, y, and z axes. 4-axis have an extra degree of movement by rotating on a vertical axis. The most advanced CNC milling machine, called the multiaxis machine, adds two more axes in addition to the 3 normal ones.

Columns and CNC control panel

The columns of the CNC machine can be single or double, and it depends on the level of complexity needed in the machining task. They’re placed vertically on the base and support the table, knee, etc. The columns consist of driving gear and a motor for the axle and table. The control panel contains electronics that help to control various cutting actions through programming functions.

Types of milling machines

Apart from axis classifications, there are several types of milling machines whether manual or CNC. Some of them are:

  • Column milling machines – used for creating car parts, they’re the simplest types of milling machines. They use a vertically suspended drill and consist of five key parts including the worktable, head, saddle, knee, and over the arm.
  • C-frame milling machines – sturdy and powerful, they use a hydraulic motor and are best utilized in industrial settings.
  • Turret milling machines – versatile machines that can be used in the creation of many parts. They can be readjusted opening a broader range of uses.
  • Horizontal milling machines – positioned horizontal on the ground, and work by moving the bench the workpiece is placed sideways while the cutting tool moves vertically.
  • Bed-type milling machines – placed on the bed itself instead of on top as other milling machines. On this type of machine, the knee is omitted to allow for longitudinal movement.
  • Tracer-controlled milling machines – designed to make duplicate parts based on a model. They can be used for contoured surfaces and machining grooves.

In closing

CNC milling machines and other digital technologies allow for the resolution of many problems that cannot be solved using prior methods. It approaches the working process more effectively and efficiently. For example, it makes the process of cutting metal for car parts much easier and less risky. There is also a variety of solid materials whether hard or soft, that this type of machine can cut such as aluminum, steel, PVC, nylon, stone, etc. 

About Author

Dana Cull

Dana is a digital content creator with a self-confessed obsession with writing. She is also an avid reader and loves to spend her leisure hours watching documentary films from different directors across the world.