The History of CNC Machining

With the invention of CNC machining, the world of construction was forever changed. There haven’t been many tools throughout history that have been able to cause radical changes to what could and couldn’t be done, but many would argue that these fall into that category. As CNC routers (and the software that runs them) steadily improve, more and more people are coming into contact with them.

But, how much do you know about the history of these machines?


Turning Ordinary People into Master Craftsmen

One of the reasons that these machines are so great is because they essentially allow anyone with the proper machine and computer program to become a master craftsman. There’s no need to spend a lifetime practicing and perfecting and art. The basics can all be learned in no time at all. To make it even more impressive, these are powered by computers, so they’re far more precise than humans are even capable of being. And mistakes? Well, they’re basically a thing of the past.

Basic Overview of CNC Machines

In case you’re not familiar with this tool, the letters CNC stand for computer numerical control, and this is because that’s how these machines operate. At a basic level, they have tools arranged on three different axes, and this allows them to carve out materials from all different sides. The designs are made within a software program and are then converted into instructions for the computer to follow. In a relatively short amount of time, pieces of all sizes can be put through these machines, and incredibly elaborate creations come out matching the exact specifications. They’re able to manipulate wood, metal, glass, plastic, and other types of materials.

The Early Days

Humans have been training artisans to carve things since the beginning of recorded history, and they’ve constantly been looking for ways to do it better. They made quite a few impressive advancements fairly early on when they started with contraptions like mills. They could process certain materials at a basic level, but they required a lot of human interaction for not very impressive results. Fortunately, that would eventually change.

 Born Before Computers

This whole concept may sound like something that was only developed recently as our computer technology has skyrocketed in quality. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. These machines actually got their start back in the 1950s, but they used a much simpler method of controlling them. The first C wasn’t yet in the name, and they were just referred to as NC machines. In place of computer brains, they had solutions like punched tape to give the instructions. They were still far behind what we’re able to do today, but they were incredibly advanced at the time.


We Didn’t Speak the Same Language

After a lot of early skepticism, the machines finally began to take off as manufacturers realized they could save so much time and money. The systems slowly became more advanced as early computers started coming on to the scene, and a lot of bright minds were hard at work with the programming. However, an unexpected problem eventually showed up. Each company (or school) working with the machines was creating their own language to tell the CNC machines what to do, so it was impossible for them to work together and use each other’s advancements.

Fortunately, the Air Force stepped in. This branch of the military had been an early proponent of CNC machines after predicting how valuable they would be, and they wanted to put a stop to this problem before it grew out of control. They made a push for a universal language in 1956, and that led to the creation of the APT programming language. After some more developments over the following decades, the industry eventually ended up with the CAD tools that we use today.


One for Everyone!

The trend continued for many years with schools, government organizations, and companies all pursuing advances in the technology. Slowly but surely, this led to where we are today. The machines can be made in massive sizes to help with major construction projects, or they can be small enough to fit in the home and contribute to DIY projects. They’ve come so far, and the developments only seem to be speeding up.

We’re Here to Help You Make History

One of the problems with CNC machines is that many people are intimidated by them. The impression they give is that you need to have an advanced degree in multiple fields of engineering to get started, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Using solutions like EnRoute software, you could be making progress on your project later today. Now, the responsibility is on you to create something noteworthy enough to carve you into the historical timeline of CNC routers!


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