What is a machining center? Types, functions and advantages.

¿Qué es un centro de mecanizado? Tipos, funciones y ventajas.
Vurcon 3-axis machining center

A machining center is a machine capable of performing complex machining tasks based on orders executed by pre-programmed codes , without the need for levers, handwheels or other types of controls manipulated by an operator. In fact, in this type of machines , human intervention is minimal , practically limited to the programming of said codes using computer languages ​​such as Java, C++, Python or Perl.

These codes are processed by a Computer Number Control (CNC) system installed in the machining center. This is the most distinctive feature of this type of machines, since they can perform more precise and faster machining operations than if conventional tools were used, controlled by individual operators. Furthermore, in this case a single operator can supervise several CNC centers simultaneously.

Types of machining centers

There are different types of machining centers aimed at satisfying multiple industrial needs and productivity levels . There is so much variety that their prices can range from €50,000 to more than €1,000,000. However, broadly speaking they can be divided into two large groups .

Machining center with horizontal spindle They are designed to work on large and tall pieces , with multiple machining requirements and even from different angles , since some models of this type have a slightly tiltable base with respect to the axis, as necessary to obtain the desired finishes.
Machining center with vertical spindle Its design focuses on the machining of wide and low-height materials , such as the manufacture of molds and matrices. In these cases, the rotating head is at the top of the machine, descending as it shapes the workpiece. That is, its machining process generally starts from the top of the material .

Functions of a CNC machine

CNC centers have applications in different industries, so they fulfill very varied functions , according to the needs of each company, company or factory. As an example, the following general functions can be highlighted:

  1. Manufacturing industry : They are capable of manufacturing injection molds, metal parts, matrices, components in wood or other materials.
  2. Automotive sector : They are ideal for the mass production of pieces and parts, both original and replacement.
  3. Electronic technology : The main example for this sector is the development of printed circuit prototypes.
  4. Art and fashion : Other functions of a mechanized center are the creation of jewelry, art products (such as, for example, wood), footwear, engravings and much more.

All this versatility is possible thanks to the ability of CNC machines to incorporate different tools in their heads , conveyor pallets and codes adjusted to each need. In addition, there are models that work with more than one head at a time.

Advantages of a machining center

CNC machines stand out, mainly, for the high level of productivity they achieve compared to conventional production methods. In factories and large companies they can reduce the necessary personnel to a minimum, saving costs and speeding up the delivery of parts and components for many sectors.

In summary, the main advantages of a machining center are the following:

  • A single operator can control several centers, with the cost reduction that comes with having fewer staff.
  • Its production speed is much higher, in addition to being able to maintain an almost uninterrupted rhythm based on well-programmed codes.
  • The cutting results are more precise and cleaner , without imperfections. This guarantees greater uniformity in the mass production of the same element.
  • Once the necessary codes for the tasks of the company or industry have been created, changing one for another is extremely simple .
  • CNC machines can perform virtually all types of machining .
  • They are versatile , and can be adjusted to the machining needs according to the products to be manufactured. This occurs more clearly in modular models , which allow the installation or modification of certain peripheral accessories.
  • They can be easily and quickly reconfigured , so that they manage different machining jobs on the same part.

An aspect that cannot be overlooked is that CNC machining centers also have significant maintenance, accessories and parts replacement costs. Something that can only be compensated by maintaining large production volumes , with sufficient profits to amortize these costs. Of course, as long as this situation is met, a machining center is totally worth it.