The Biggest Misconception About CNC Machining

Whether you’re a CNC veteran or you just discovered this amazing tool, everybody has had to start somewhere. I’ve talked to a number of Tormach customers, and the stories vary widely.

One customer got into CNC because he was going into production of his widget and needed to manufacture faster to scale things properly. Another customer was an old-school manual shop guy that wanted to make some complex curves with precision. Yet another customer had an incredibly engineered design, with 3D printed prototypes and a well-planned CAD setup, but no means to create a real part.

The community of individuals like that last customer is growing rapidly – individuals or businesses that barely know what CNC is, but need to take the next step in their design/prototyping/manufacturing process.

This is where one of the biggest misconceptions about CNC machining emerges.

CAD and other digital fabrication techniques, like 3D printing, have become abundantly known throughout the general public. Elementary-aged kids are designing everything from toys to new characters for Minecraft, but there is an inherent lack of mechanical knowledge that comes with such an emphasis on the digital side of digital fabrication.

We have to answer one question on a regular basis, whether it’s on tech support calls or at Maker Faire: “So, a PCNC mill is kind of like a 3D printer?”

3d printing versus CNC machining

The expanse of 3D printing has introduced many fabricators/designers/at-home engineers to a drag-and-drop mentality that doesn’t yet exist in the world of machining.

Here at Tormach, we’re quite proud of the fact that our machines are so approachable, so now the challenge lies in the software.

From the side of those who have used CNC machines before, another misconception precipitates from this idea: “CNC controls have to be complicated.”

This is all part of the reason why we created PathPilot – to make controlling CNC machines as approachable as CAD and the machine itself. If you’re new to machining or just haven’t upgraded to PathPilot yet, check out all the benefits here:

What do you think is the biggest misconception about CNC? Email and let me know what you think!

PCNC 440 cutting aluminum

Chris Fox

Chris comes from a publishing background with years of experience in science, technology, and engineering publications. Previously an editor with Product Design and Development and Gizmag, he has a keen eye on the maker community and the changing landscape of the world of prototyping, product development, and small-scale manufacturing. Chris has been working with clients to create Tormach's customer success stories since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheChris_Fox

Chris Fox

One thought on “The Biggest Misconception About CNC Machining

  • Avatar
    08/12/2016 at 2:34 pm

    Chris, fascinating topic. I know a lot of folks think of 3D Printing as drag and drop, but there’s a misconception there too–namely that the parts are going to be glossy, slick, and ready to go right off the printer.

    Be that as it may, I did a survey of CNCCookbook readers and asked them what they thought the most difficult aspects of CNC are, and the results were pretty interesting:

    There’s software available to address some of the issues, such as our G-Wizard for Feeds and Speeds, but some of the other issues spark ideas for how to go about making CNC easier in the future. Making probes, both for locating part zero and for setting tool lengths more affordable and more automatic, can play a big role in making CNC easier.

    I also think there’s a big misconception about CAM for beginners. Namely, most first-time CAM users expect to load a CAD model, push a button, and get back g-code. 3D Printing is much closer to this ideal in many cases, though my article (linked above) discusses one option that is very close to that ideal for CAM.



Comments are closed.