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All Types of CNC Machines Explained


Unless you are in the know, you might not realise that rather than CNC machinery occupying one broad category, there are actually a number of different varieties of equipment which fall within this general definition.

To give you a better look at what each can do, here is an overview of the features and functions that the varied types bring to the table.

Milling machines

One of the most commonly used and understood types of CNC precision machining. Milling equipment makes use of a spinning tool head to precisely shave away layers of material to create components automatically, without the need for a more limited manual approach.

There are a whole host of used CNC machines available to small businesses looking to get their foot in the door of this industry, as well as cutting edge new models that boast impressive feature sets and efficient operating potential, demonstrating just how much technology has influenced this industry.


Lathes have been in use for centuries, but CNC tech helps to automate this process and provide the precision that only a computer-controlled process can offer.

The concept remains the same as in legacy equipment; the material is rotated while the tools used to cut is kept stationary. This makes CNC lathes especially well suited to producing spherical and cylindrical components, as well as those which require a high level of symmetry in their design.

Drilling machines

Drilling holes in materials can be completely computerised and automated with the right equipment to hand.

This not only allows for improvements to precision, as mentioned earlier, but also boosts the speed with which repetitive processes can be executed, making it ideal for use in mass production scenarios, as well as in smaller scale operations.

The latest CNC drilling machines are able to easily switch between several tool heads depending on the kind of material that is being handled and the size of the hole that is required.


While milling machines and lathes can be used to create intricate components or to fashion objects with minutely honed designs, sometimes it is necessary to remove large amounts of material as quickly as possible without being as concerned with precision.

This is where CNC grinders come into play, as they can harness rotary wheels to abrade the surface of the material in question at high speeds, powering through tougher tasks in a jiffy.

Plasma cutters

When it comes to cutting in two dimensions rather than three, a CNC-based plasma cutter will be the machine of choice.

The power of plasma cutting has been harnessed manually for some time, but again the speed and precision of the automation afforded by a computer-controlled system is significantly more desirable for most modern businesses.

Other considerations

It is worth noting that even within these main categories of CNC machinery there are lots of other variations to keep in mind, such as the number of axes along which a milling machine can operate, for example.

Because there is so much choice available, it is important to research thoroughly before buying CNC machines to make sure you pick the best bet for your firm.

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