Can cnc machining be called as digital manufacturing?
It Is undoubtedly that CNC machining is digital manufacturing. Digital manufacturing is a broader concept that contains different manifestations while CNC machining is one of the manifestations of digital manufacturing. In digital manufacturing, each step can generate useful data and transfer it to the next step fast, which improve production efficiency and save cost. Those necessary elements of digital manufacturing match the features of CNC machining perfectly.
Understanding the relation between CNC machining and digital manufacturing helps targeted improvement of manufacturing. The following articles deliver a more detailed explanation.

What is digital manufacturing?

Digital manufacturing uses a computer system to exchange information in the process from design to production. It can lower the cost of trial and error.
In digital manufacturing, each procedure can receive the correct data faster from the last one. As the market and customer demand are always changing and be flexible, digital manufacturing even can make the simulation demonstration to change product fast, which can improve the production efficiency, product quality, and shorten the time to market.
In traditional manufacturing, the part design, part production, finished part, and part maintenance is independent. In traditional manufacturing, the data can be sent to the next procedure only when the last part is finished.
Digital manufacturing is available in connecting every single procedure to be entirety. Digital manufacturing is not a new concept, which has appeared for 30 years. In the long history of development, digital manufacturing always aims to improve the ability of manufacturing.

Traditional manufacturing vs digital manufacturing - 2fprototypes
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Digital manufacturing contains data transmission carrier, operating and analytic personnel, and continuous operating production.

Data transmission carrier

In the process of part design, the data carrier can simulate the test of part feasibility and use sense. For expensive and crucial parts, the simulating test can eliminate poor design and absorb more ideas. The personnel can respond quickly if the part function is limited. Even the design procedure can transmit more useful data to the next procedure of prototyping.
There is a concept named IIOT (Industrial internet of things). The IIOT machine sensors can have a remote control, monitoring, and analysis while producing. The sensor can help optimize the equipment, cutting direction, and maintenance.
By data transmission and analysis between each procedure, digital manufacturing shortens the finished time to improve the production efficiency.

Data transmission carrier - 2fprototypes
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Operating and analytic personnel 

Superior and detailed data need both digital technology and personnel. Personnel’s expertise and tacit understanding of the digital system influence the whole digital system. Practical manufacturing request personnel that have an overall understanding of the analytical software and interface. Only then can the procedure processed quickly. However, the speed of technology iteration needs the personnel to follow up closely. Regular training and examination are the two factors to ensure digital manufacturing.

Continuous operating production 

A complete product line from design to production is the key to the digital system. This line can be different supplying chains or various departments inside a company. Commonly, internal communication will be viewed as more smoothly. Now external communication becomes the same during the introduction of digital manufacturing. The whole supplying chain is able to monitoring, analysis, and transmit the data.

Why is CNC machining digital manufacturing?

The full name of CNC, computer numerical control, is essentially technological manufacturing. A complete CNC workflow contains different procedures.
Once the procedure of 2D/3D drawings is finished, we would calculate the toolpath and simulation. In this age of information, there are many CAM software to assist this procedure. By taking into full consideration of tool shape, size, movement, and location, personnel can have a concrete understanding of material removal. Then the CAM software can simulate the movement to verify the tool path and convert it to the CNC language.
The next procedure is communication to the CNC machine. Personnel will adjust kinds of settings and input the G-code(generate by CAM) on the CNC machine to guide the movement of tooling and axis are in the correct direction.
Depending on the customers’ request, the finished part may have other finishing like polishing, plating, painting, etc. On the base of it, CNC manufacturing is like small digital manufacturing.

CNC workflow
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Operating software/language 

CAM(Computer Aided Manufacturing) is able to generate a language(G-code) that drives the CNC machining in the right path. If G-code is a wonderful language that can be recognized by CNC, then CAM is a translator that can convert human understanding to machine understanding. After the calculation of tool path, CAM can simulate the path of cutting, drilling, milling for verification. This procedure simplifies the personnel’s work and improves working efficiency.

CNC operating software/language - 2fprototypes
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Operating/analytic personnel 

It is not an easy job to talk with an icy machine. Before the CAM, the machinist needs extensive training, practice to operate the CNC expertly. However, it is restrictive when it comes to complicated parts. Thanks to the introduction of CAM, the machinists can produce more detailed and complex parts. They are still irreplaceable and a crucial role to the perfect part. As the communicator, the personnel uses their experiences and knowledge to be the CNC machine’s partner. The communication lowers the failure and supports the manufacturing strongly.

CNC operating system 

Every procedure relies on the data and feedback from the following. The data from calculation and simulation can shows specifically whether the cutting path is optimized. The CNC machine will start working automatically after settings. The working situation can be viewed as a verification for the G-code and settings. All the movements will be incorrect when wrong settings. The operating system is continuous feedback. Only the constant operating can the part be completed perfectly.

CNC workshop-2fprototypes
Photo Credit:2fprototypes CNC Workshop

How digital manufacturing impact CNC Machining?

The function of automation and pre-settings drive the CNC machine to work automatically. The machine can have an overall understanding of the command by itself. The whole process saves labor cost. Besides, the machines have good repeatability. They can keep working without a break, which ensures the machining speed with continuous operating.

More customized products

The development of social diversity determines that creation and customization would be booming. Customers are demanding customization for product appearance and function than ever before. Thanks to digital manufacturing, CNC machining catch up with the customer demand. The tool movement and finishing become diverse and flexible. They can switch the machining tool easily without additional time cost.

Less material waste

Traditional manufacturing higher the cost of material than digital manufacturing. The material block is wasted when personnel has mistakes during the process. In the era of digital manufacturing, CNC machining declines the error rate. The optimization of material promotes eco-friendliness.

CNC materials-2fprototypes
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Less maintenance cost and downtime

At present, most CNC machines can check themselves or stop working automatically when they break down. Digital technology helps personnel save the time for troubleshooting. Furthermore, the CNC machining can last 7*24 hours without failure occurred.

New online platform

The internet is one of the features of digital manufacturing. It is not easy to find a trusted supplier or customer in traditional manufacturing. Now to find each other, all the manufacturers and buyers need to do is a click button. The internet makes it possible which customers can browse the product cases, machining equipment, company info online.

The future of CNC machining


Digital technology drives the CNC manufacturer competition from price to service. This new competition requires the CNC manufacturer to provide predictable maintenance service and link it to the products. The CNC products not only meet the drawing demand but also correct future errors.

Supplementing skilled CNC machinist by training

The updates and functional maturation of CNC equipment need skilled machinists. The talent pool will dry up fast someday if there is no machinist supplement. There is a must that CNC training and CNC institutes will be increased in the future. Also, CNC machining is becoming a booming market. More people are willing to learn CNC machining.

CNC machine with AI implemented

Digital manufacturing will develop towards the trends of AI (Artificial Intelligence). With the assistance of AI, CNC machines can learn themselves according to the machining time by time. As experience grows, the CNC machine can start to work automatically without pre-settings and simulation.

CNC machine with AI implemented - 2fprototypes
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More-axis CNC machining

High-tech products rely on precise machining to achieve their function. It seems that 5-axis, 6-axis, 7-axis, and more-axis will become the mainstream of CNC machining. The accurate machining will unlock more complicated product design, more complex shape, and reduce working time.

Updated CNC programming/software

CNC machining process will be connected to programming or software of simulation, monitoring, and info exchange. All the information will be completed during the machining process. Let the machine language to understand each other, saving more time to subsequent machining.

About 2fprototypes - Specialized in services of CNC machining, injection molding, 3D printing, and vacuum casting. With skilled team for 10+ years, 2fprototypes provide the best cost-effective and quality solution in the market of automotive parts, medical appliances, electronic devices, industrial equipment, household product, etc.
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