What is a CNC machining center and how does it work?

¿Qué es y cómo funciona un centro mecanizado CNC?
Machining center

A CNC machining center is a type of machine that works by numerical control, making the process automatic. Thanks to this type of machines it is possible to carry out numerous machining operations with the help of a computer and with minimal intervention of operators.

Why use a CNC machining center?

Machining centers appeared thanks to the evolution of the milling machine and the need to increase productivity in machining workshops and factories. In addition, of course, to guarantee the safety conditions of the operators, in this type of machinery, their degree of intervention is minimal.

The CNC machining center allows tasks to be carried out, not only with minimal human intervention; also at high production speeds, something that, without a doubt, considerably reduces costs. In the market it is possible to find multiple types of machining centers grouped according to size, functions and levels of automation. Thus, you can find machines that reach powers of 75 kW and spindle speeds with limits between 4000 and 8000 rpm. And, due to their size, there are some capable of supporting up to 7,000 kg of weight. This, without a doubt, makes them a great bet for machining workshops.

On the other hand, these machines offer the possibility for an operator to control several CNC machines simultaneously, only having to load or unload the part and make rotations (whenever necessary and not all machining centers require it). Furthermore, it is the machine program that has full control of the cutting parameters, required speeds and, of course, the planes.

Why is it a good option to include a CNC machining center in a workshop? Because it allows you to do basically any type of machining work (not just milling) and the operator who handles it only requires control of computer programs such as CAD and CAM.

Characteristics of machining centers

The characteristics of a CNC machining center only provide advantages to workshops. We find that this type of machines is completely reconfigurable, that is, it is enough to change the configuration (from the computer) for the machine to perform multiple machining operations on the same part.

These machines are also flexible and versatile thanks to the artificial intelligence they use, which allows production processes to be faster and more uniform. As for uniformity, it means that this type of machines are capable of mass or series production and that all the pieces worked here are practically the same. Something difficult to achieve with manual machines.

But, without a doubt, the most important thing is that these machines, as their name indicates, are equipped with CNC numerical control.

CNC numerical control in machining center

Numerical control allows the machine to be fully automatic and to operate thanks to programmable codes and alphanumeric characters. The CNC represents, in itself, a revolution for the machining industry. This type of technology, which was developed in the second half of the 20th century, works thanks to sophisticated computer programs that, over the years, have been simplified, making it possible for more and more factories and workshops to instruct their operators to operate the machines. that incorporate them.

To operate a CNC machining center, CAD and CAM programs are required. The first of these programs is the one that does the actual design of the part to be machined.

This design is done on a computer using a CAD program. This design is saved and opened in another program, CAM; It could be said that the CAM is responsible for translating the plan or design into the CNC language. Afterwards, the operator only has to order the machining center to follow certain instructions to execute the machining process of the design that has been made for the part. Thus, this type of machines can be easily configured to carry out, in a short period of time, the machining of a part, only by following the instructions of the computer integrated into them.

Automatic tool changer

It is possible to wonder if a lathe or a milling machine that uses CNC technology in a machining center are the same. Why are they different if they both incorporate numerical control? A priori they seem the same, however, the main difference between these two machine tools and the CNC machining center is that the latter has an automatic tool changer. Without a doubt, a great feature and advantage over the other two machines.

A CNC machining center has a system that allows you to automatically switch between tools to perform multiple tasks on the same part. There is no need for an operator to stop the machine and approach to change, for example, the cutter for another tool for roughing. Of course, in order to carry out this task the operator must program the computer and tell it what the part is like, what the final design is and the tools that need to be used to achieve that result. Once this is done, it will be the machine itself that will make the changes between the different types of tools it needs to use.