Beginners Guide

Modern technology has accelerated as mans drive to create pushes us to innovate new things. If you were to credit humanities greatest aid in achieving these accomplishments, undoubtedly it would go to mans ability to use tools. Our hands are not as strong as wood, so we built hammers and saws. Our skin cannot stand the extremes of the elements, so we created forges. Our hands cannot hold these tools steady enough for certain tasks, so we created even more tools to help us with these jobs. Our advancements allowed us to create better tooling which in turn allows us to accomplish even greater tasks. Things got bigger, smaller, and better all at the same time. Soon it became apparent that new processes could be invented in order to make our tooling more efficient, and require less human interaction. Hench the birth of automation.

Mike Lynch is the author of CNC Concepts, Inc, which offers some excellent information on machine history and the use of automation. He explains how that early in industry something was needed to replace common tasks in manufacturing in order to streamline and improve the process of machining (“What is CNC”, par 5). Enter Numerical Controllers. NC has been around for at least half a century. While older NC systems used punch cards, vacuum tubes and primitive drive systems, the 70’s gave the automation industry a big leap forward with the advent of the microchip. Even simple tasks used to be extremely difficult to program, and what seemed like science fiction before now became possible, and the capabilities of Numerical Controllers became endless. Personal computers took over as machine controllers, and gave birth to Computer Numerical Controllers, or CNC (par 2).

CNCs take many forms. Often people only associate them with mills, lathes, and routers, but the truth is CNCs can control just about any mechanical device in industry (par 10). Milling is by far one of the most common uses for CNC, and recent advances in technology have brought the technology closer to the common man. Home milling has become popular among hobbyists, and more and more people have jumped on the bandwagon and are creating their own products from home. For the first time in history, CNC technology has become practical for home manufacturing.

So what does this mean to you? In short, it gives you opportunity, if you are so inclined. Imagine independence in your ability to create, manufacture, and invent. What might you be able to contribute? What kind of product might you make? What sort of useful tasks would you be able to accomplish if you were able to harness the power and precision of a machine, and program it to your will?

Welcome to the world of CNC, my friend. Over the next few sections we will cover some of the basic aspects of CNC such as CNC types and software, and how you can get started as a hobby manufacturer. The bad news is, taking in everything about CNC (even hobby CNC) is like drinking from a fire hydrant. There is so much to take in. The good news is, if you break it down into sections it is manageable, and you can get a handle on all the different aspects of this ever advancing industry.

There are many people who have already brought this technology to the home market, and while it may seem far away, I promise it is well within your reach.