General CNC Setup And Overview

Our readers often ask, what exactly does a CNC manufacturing machine look like? Well, there’s no one size fits all diagram for that. From differences in manufacturers to the number of axis, sophistication of the CNC and even the CNC tool being used, one can only come up with a generic sketch of what every machine should consist. 

A generic diagram is shown below: 

There is a general setup and operation process for CNC machines. Basically, machining requires a number of operations that may be referred to as pre-start operations. The flow continues through the tool loading to adjusting offset and machine shutdown. A flow chart below demonstrates the CNC setup operation: 

The pre-start process entails all the things you should do before firing up the machine. This includes checking the oil and coolant types/levels, cleaning of the work surface, checking for loose tools or equipment, clearing safety hazards, checking electrical sockets and air compressors. Once all of these are in order, you are ready to start machining. 

As soon as the machine is started, the control should load into the home screen. Every CNC machine should have a power button close to the control screen that is easily assessible. Once the machine has come on, give it some time to warm. 

During this process, the CNC machine should be programmed with some warmup program to get the machine and spindle moving. This ensures proper thermal circulation and lubrication in the machine spindle for better performance all through the production runtime. 

Load Tools 
Your CNC machine will have a CNC program tool list that instructs on how to load all the required tools and in what order they should be loaded. Machines that have tool changers make work faster and safer, however, if your machine is lacking this feature, have all your tools ready for quick in and out to the spindle as soon as they are required. Generally, the aim of this phase is to help you get all the tools into the toolholders. Bear in mind that a CNC setup sheet can be of great advantage as each tool will have its own parameters to ensure maximum performance. 

Load workpiece 
After the tools have been properly loaded and arranged, the next step is to mount your workpiece in the vise. Ensure that this is done carefully and meticulously. Also, ensure that the workpiece is firmly tightened to prevent tool deflection and workpiece damage. 

Set Tool offsets 
Next, set the tool length offsets for each tool to be used as directed by the CNC program. 
Tool offset lengths are important as each tool loaded into the CNC machine has varying length. The tool length offset provides a means for the CNC machine to know how far each tool extends from the spindle to the tip. You can shuffle through each tool to set the tool length offset and save your input for each tool. Once you have completed this, proceed to setting part offset. 

Set Part Offsets
After the workpiece has been properly mounted and tool length offsets programmed, proceed to set the fixture offset for the part. The fixture offsets provides a method of allowing the CNC control to devise the distance from the part WCS and machine home position. Once the fixture offset values are determined, enter them into the control and watch the CNC machine translate them into coordinates. 

Load CNC data 
With either a USB flash drive, some local area connection or floppy disk (for really old machines), load the CNC program unto the CNC machine control and proceed to have a test run. The CNC data will direct the machining operation with set of commands on how to run the workpiece from start to finish. 

Test Run
Before commencing with your workpiece, it is advisable to have a test or dry run with the CNC program. To do this, you can consider running the program in the air, some two to three inches above the workpiece. 

Run Program 
Once the test run is deemed to be successful, proceed to run the CNC machine program on your workpiece. At this point, you have essentially begun to machine the part. It is advisable to proceed with caution until you are certain that the entire part of the CNC program is error-free. 

Adjust offsets 
As the machining operation commences, check the part features and adjust all offsets as needed to ensure that the manufacturing operation is precise and accurate with the specifications of the end part. 

Power down
Once you have successfully machined your workpiece to obtain your final part, remove the part from the spindle and power down the machine. 

After you have turned off the machine, clean your work area, remove the tools from the spindle, check for spills and shortages in lubricant levels, check coolants and replace as appropriate. Use compressed air to blow out the work area and leave ensure that all items that may constitute hazard are removed from the machine shop. 

FirstPart CNC Machining in China 
Exploit Firstpart for our expertise across additive, CNC and conventional manufacturing techniques. Our array of services include CNC machining, 3D printing, Rapid Tooling, Die casting, Rapid prototyping, Plastic Injection Molding, Urethane Casting, Aluminum Extrusion, Post-machining/Finishing services and much more. 

As we understand the start-up challenges that is faced by new businesses, engineers and product developers, we offer both mass production, bridge tooling and low-volume prototyping/manufacturing. Our services are flexible, saleable and innovative, with a team of engineers and design experts available to support you through your entire product development cycle. 

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