The acronym CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) refers to a technology through which it’s possible to process several raw materials, in order to get – at the end of the process itself – a perfectly machined object. The difference between this one and the traditional machining procedures is that CNC is totally automated: a computer – properly preset with all the parameters that the final product is supposed to have – manages the whole process, and there is not a direct human intervention in it. The only human contribution in such work is precisely the preset operations: this means that the usual lathe operator employed in a traditional machinery work is replaced by a CNC computer technician, able to set the device for any specific job. Currently, a cnc machining service is still a quite expensive procedure, but by the time it’s becoming more and more affordable, even for the smallest companies. Moreover, at the moment, a CNC device is able to work on almost every material, including metals, stones and woods.
The basical principles of CNC technology
Actually, CNC includes a remarkable number of different technologies, each one of which has its own specificities. But regardless of the differences between them, the basic principles remain the same. Basically, a CNC technology starts from a block of raw and unwrought material, and it manages to cut away from it all the unnecessary parts, until the final object comes out with its precise shape and measures. Being the whole process governed by a computer, the margin of error is virtually non-existent, making the comparison with the manual work simply impractical. As of today, we can say that, for what concerns the works of high craftsmanship the human touch is still essential to give an artefact a unique style. But when it comes with machinery parts and/or precision instruments, the results achieved by the CNC technology have marked a significant step forward for the entire heavy industry, both in terms of products’ quality and manufacturing time. Clearly, there are also some criticalities that deserve to be highlighted, if only to analyse how the industry world is trying to solve them.
Critical aspects of the CNC machining process
The first one concerns the significant waste of raw material. Differently from the 3D printing technologies, CNC machining is based on a progressive erosion of a material, until the initial block reaches the requested shape and measures. The first question is therefore as follows: how can we engage a recycle and reuse cycle, managing to waste the least possible amount of raw materials? This question, in turn, automatically triggers new ones. Is it possible to recycle those materials within the same production cycle, or it’s more advisable to search for new destinations? Which are the economic repercussions of this new operation? Is it worthy for the company? And if not, is there a way to make it worthy, maybe through the use of tax incentives? As anyone can see, the questions on the table are not purely technical ones; they involve heavily politic and economic sectors, which are demanded to give an answer for what concerns their specific expertise.
The second massive criticality concerns the role of many workers employed in the heavy industry in an era in which the automation is getting more and more invasive. Truth be told, this is an issue that involves many other industry sectors, and the whole industry world is wondering how to cope with it. What it takes is giving more and more room to automation, because it ensures a better production quality as well as a significant reduction of processing times; and, at the same time, an intervention in terms of welfare policies and economic stability. The goal would be a complete rethinking of the whole production process, matched with a significant transformation of the workers’ role, and all of this must be obtained with the lowest social unrest ratio.
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