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G-code

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"G-code" redirects here. For other uses, see G-code (disambiguation) and G programming
language (disambiguation).

G-code

Appeared in 1950s (first edition)

Massachusetts Institute of
Designed by
Technology

many, mainly Siemens Sinumeric,


Major FANUC, Haas, Heidenhain, Mazak.
implementations Generally there is one international
standard - ISO 6983.

Usual file
.mpt, .mpf .nc and several others
extensions

G-code is the common name for the most widely used computer numerical control (CNC)
programming language, which has many implementations. Used mainly in automation, it is
part of computer-aided engineering. This general sense of the term, referring to the language
overall (using the mass sense of "code"), is imprecise, because it comes metonymically from
the literal sense of the term, referring to one letter address among many in the language (G
address, for preparatory commands) and to the specific codes (count sense) that can be
formed with it (for example, G00, G01, G28). In fact, every letter of the English alphabet is
used somewhere in the language, although some letters' use is less common. Nevertheless, the
general sense of the term is indelibly established as the common name of the language. G-
code is sometimes called G programming language. This usage may be more common
outside North America than inside. American industrial CNC users tend to say G-code only.

The first implementation of numerical control was developed at the MIT Servomechanisms
Laboratory in the early 1950s. In the decades since, many implementations have been
developed by many (commercial and noncommercial) organizations. G-code has often been
used in these implementations. The main standardized version used in the United States was
settled by the Electronic Industries Alliance in the early 1960s.[citation needed] A final revision
was approved in February 1980 as RS274D. In Europe, the standard ISO 6983 is often used,
although in varied states sometimes used other standards, example DIN 66025 or PN-73M-
55256, PN-93/M-55251 in Poland.

Extensions and variations have been added independently by control manufacturers and
machine tool manufacturers, and operators of a specific controller must be aware of
differences of each manufacturer's product.

One standardized version of G-code, known as BCL, is used only on very few machines.

Some CNC machine manufacturers attempted to overcome compatibility difficulties by


standardizing on machine tool controllers built by Fanuc. This semistandardization can be
compared to other instances of market dominance, such as with IBM, Intel, or Microsoft.
Pros and cons exist, and a wide variety of alternatives are available.

Some CNC machines use "conversational" programming, which is a wizard-like


programming mode that either hides G-code or completely bypasses the use of G-code. Some
popular examples are Southwestern Industries' ProtoTRAK, Mazak's Mazatrol, Hurco's
Ultimax, Haas' Intuitive Programming System (IPS), and Mori Seiki's CAPS conversational
software.

G-code began as a limited type of language that lacked constructs such as loops, conditional
operators, and programmer-declared variables with natural-word-including names (or the
expressions in which to use them). It was thus unable to encode logic; it was essentially just a
way to "connect the dots" where many of the dots' locations were figured out longhand by the
programmer. The latest implementations of G-code include such constructs, creating a
language somewhat closer to a high-level programming language. The more a programmer
can tell the machine what end result is desired, and leave the intermediate calculations to the
machine, the more s/he uses the machine's computational power to full advantage.

Contents
[hide]

1 Specific codes
o 1.1 Letter addresses
o 1.2 List of G-codes commonly found on Fanuc and similarly designed controls
o 1.3 List of M-codes commonly found on Fanuc and similarly designed
controls
2 Example program
3 Programming environments
4 See also
5 References
6 Bibliography
7 External links

[edit] Specific codes


G-codes are also called preparatory codes, and are any word in a CNC program that begins
with the letter "G". Generally it is a code telling the machine tool what type of action to
perform, such as:

rapid move
controlled feed move in a straight line or arc
series of controlled feed moves that would result in a hole being bored, a workpiece
cut (routed) to a specific dimension, or a decorative profile shape added to the edge of
a workpiece.
set tool information such as offset.

There are other codes; the type codes can be thought of like registers in a computer.

[edit] Letter addresses

Some letter addresses are used only in milling or only in turning; most are used in both. Bold
below are the letters seen most frequently throughout a program.

Sources: Smid[1]; Green et al.[2]


Variable Description Corollary info
A Absolute or incremental
position of A axis
(rotational axis around X
axis)
B Absolute or incremental
position of B axis
(rotational axis around Y
axis)
C Absolute or incremental
position of C axis
(rotational axis around Z
axis)
D Defines diameter or
radial offset used for
cutter compensation. D
is used for depth of cut
on lathes.
E Precision feedrate for
threading on lathes
F Defines feed rate
G G commands often tell the control what kind of motion
Address for preparatory
is wanted (e.g., rapid positioning, linear feed, circular
commands
feed, fixed cycle) or what offset value to use.
H Defines tool length
offset;
Incremental axis
corresponding to C axis
(e.g., on a turn-mill)
I Defines arc size in X
axis for G02 or G03 arc
commands.
Also used as a parameter
within some fixed
cycles.
J Defines arc size in Y
axis for G02 or G03 arc
commands.
Also used as a parameter
within some fixed
cycles.
K Defines arc size in Z axis
for G02 or G03 arc
commands.
Also used as a parameter
within some fixed
cycles, equal to L
address.
L Fixed cycle loop count: Defines number of repetitions
Fixed cycle loop count;
("loops") of a fixed cycle at each position. Assumed to
Specification of what
be 1 unless programmed with another integer.
register to edit using
Sometimes the K address is used instead of L. With
G10
incremental positioning (G91), a series of equally spaced
holes can be programmed as a loop rather than as
individual positions.
G10 use: Specification of what register to edit (work
offsets, tool radius offsets, tool length offsets, etc.).
M Action code, auxiliary command; descriptions vary.
Many M-codes call for machine functions, which is why
Miscellaneous function
people often say that the "M" stands for "machine",
although it was not intended to.
N Line (block) numbers: Optional, so often omitted.
Necessary for certain tasks, such as M99 P address (to
tell the control which block of the program to return to if
Line (block) number in
not the default one) or GoTo statements (if the control
program;
supports those). N numbering need not increment by 1
System parameter
(for example, it can increment by 10, 20, or 1000) and
number to be changed
can be used on every block or only in certain spots
using G10
throughout a program.
System parameter number: G10 allows changing of
system parameters under program control.
O Program name For example, O4501.
P With G04, defines dwell time value.
Also serves as a parameter in some canned
cycles, representing dwell times or other
Serves as parameter variables.
address for various G Also used in the calling and termination of
and M codes subprograms. (With M98, it specifies which
subprogram to call; with M99, it specifies which
block number of the main program to return to.)

Q Peck increment in
For example, G73, G83 (peck drilling cycles)
canned cycles
R Defines size of arc
radius or defines retract
height in canned cycles
S Data type = integer. In G97 mode (which is usually the
default), an integer after S is interpreted as a number of
Defines speed, either rev/min (rpm). In G96 mode (CSS), an integer after S is
spindle speed or surface interpreted as surface speedsfm (G20) or m/min
speed depending on (G21). See also Speeds and feeds. On multifunction
mode (turn-mill or mill-turn) machines, which spindle gets the
input (main spindle or subspindles) is determined by
other M codes.
T To understand how the T address works and how it
interacts (or not) with M06, one must study the various
methods, such as lathe turret programming, ATC fixed
Tool selection tool selection, ATC random memory tool selection, the
concept of "next tool waiting", and empty tools.
Programming on any particular machine tool requires
knowing which method that machine uses.
U Incremental axis
corresponding to X axis
In these controls, X and U obviate G90 and G91,
(typically only lathe
respectively. On these lathes, G90 is instead a fixed
group A controls)
cycle address for roughing.
Also defines dwell time
on some machines
(instead of "P" or "X").
V Until the 2000s, the V address was very rarely used,
because most lathes that used U and W didn't have a Y-
axis, so they didn't use V. (Green et al 1996[2] did not
Incremental axis even list V in their table of addresses.) That is still often
corresponding to Y axis the case, although the proliferation of live lathe tooling
and turn-mill machining has made V address usage less
rare than it used to be (Smid 2008[1] shows an example).
See also G18.
W Incremental axis
In these controls, Z and W obviate G90 and G91,
corresponding to Z axis
respectively. On these lathes, G90 is instead a fixed
(typically only lathe
cycle address for roughing.
group A controls)
X Absolute or incremental
position of X axis.
Also defines dwell time
on some machines
(instead of "P" or "U").
Y Absolute or incremental
position of Y axis
Z Absolute or incremental The main spindle's axis of rotation often determines
position of Z axis which axis of a machine tool is labeled as Z.

[edit] List of G-codes commonly found on Fanuc and similarly designed


controls

Sources: Smid[1]; Green et al.[2]

Milling Turning
Code Description Corollary info
(M) (T)
G00 On 2- or 3-axis moves, G00 (unlike G01)
traditionally does not necessarily move in a
single straight line between start point and
end point. It moves each axis at its max
speed until its vector is achieved. Shorter
vector usually finishes first (given similar
axis speeds). This matters because it may
Rapid positioning M T
yield a dog-leg or hockey-stick motion,
which the programmer needs to consider
depending on what obstacles are nearby, to
avoid a crash. Some machines offer
interpolated rapids as a feature for ease of
programming (safe to assume a straight
line).
G01 The most common workhorse code for
feeding during a cut. The program specs
the start and end points, and the control
automatically calculates (interpolates) the
intermediate points to pass through that
Linear interpolation M T
will yield a straight line (hence "linear").
The control then calculates the angular
velocities at which to turn the axis
leadscrews. The computer performs
thousands of calculations per second.
Actual machining takes place with given
feed on linear path.
G02 Circular Cannot start G41 or G42 in G02 or G03
interpolation, M T modes. Must already be compensated in
clockwise earlier G01 block.
G03 Circular Cannot start G41 or G42 in G02 or G03
interpolation, M T modes. Must already be compensated in
counterclockwise earlier G01 block.
G04 Takes an address for dwell period (may be
Dwell M T X, U, or P). The dwell period is specified
in milliseconds.
G05 Uses a deep look-ahead buffer and
High-precision
P10000 simulation processing to provide better axis
contour control M
movement acceleration and deceleration
(HPCC)
during contour milling
G05.1 Uses a deep look-ahead buffer and
Q1. Ai Nano contour simulation processing to provide better axis
M
control movement acceleration and deceleration
during contour milling
G07 Imaginary axis
M
designation
G09 Exact stop check M T
G10 Programmable data
M T
input
G11 Data write cancel M T
G12 Fixed cycle for ease of programming 360
Full-circle
circular interpolation with blend-radius
interpolation, M
lead-in and lead-out. Not standard on
clockwise
Fanuc controls.
G13 Fixed cycle for ease of programming 360
Full-circle
circular interpolation with blend-radius
interpolation, M
lead-in and lead-out. Not standard on
counterclockwise
Fanuc controls.
G17 XY plane selection M
G18 On most CNC lathes (built 1960s to
2000s), ZX is the only available plane, so
no G17 to G19 codes are used. This is now
changing as the era begins in which live
tooling, multitask/multifunction, and mill-
ZX plane selection M T
turn/turn-mill gradually become the "new
normal". But the simpler, traditional form
factor will probably not disappearjust
move over to make room for the newer
configurations. See also V address.
G19 YZ plane selection M
G20 Somewhat uncommon except in USA and
(to lesser extent) Canada and UK.
However, in the global marketplace,
Programming in
M T competence with both G20 and G21 always
inches
stands some chance of being necessary at
any time. The usual minimum increment in
G20 is one ten-thousandth of an inch
(0.0001"), which is a larger distance than
the usual minimum increment in G21 (one
thousandth of a millimeter, .001 mm, that
is, one micrometre). This physical
difference sometimes favors G21
programming.
G21 Prevalent worldwide. However, in the
Programming in global marketplace, competence with both
M T
millimeters (mm) G20 and G21 always stands some chance
of being necessary at any time.
G28 Takes X Y Z addresses which define the
Return to home
intermediate point that the tool tip will pass
position (machine
M T through on its way home to machine zero.
zero, aka machine
They are in terms of part zero (aka program
reference point)
zero), NOT machine zero.
G30 Takes a P address specifying which
machine zero point is desired, if the
Return to secondary machine has several secondary points (P1
home position to P4). Takes X Y Z addresses which
(machine zero, aka M T define the intermediate point that the tool
machine reference tip will pass through on its way home to
point) machine zero. They are in terms of part
zero (aka program zero), NOT machine
zero.
G31 Skip function (used
for probes and tool
M
length measurement
systems)
G32 Single-point
Similar to G01 linear interpolation, except
threading, longhand
T with automatic spindle synchronization for
style (if not using a
single-point threading.
cycle, e.g., G76)
G33 Constant-pitch
M
threading
G33 Single-point
threading, longhand Some lathe controls assign this mode to
T
style (if not using a G33 rather than G32.
cycle, e.g., G76)
G34 Variable-pitch
M
threading
G40 Tool radius
M T Cancels G41 or G42.
compensation off
G41 Milling: Given righthand-helix cutter and
M03 spindle direction, G41 corresponds to
climb milling (down milling). Takes an
address (D or H) that calls an offset register
Tool radius value for radius.
M T
compensation left Turning: Often needs no D or H address
on lathes, because whatever tool is active
automatically calls its geometry offsets
with it. (Each turret station is bound to its
geometry offset register.)
G42 Tool radius Similar corollary info as for G41. Given
M T
compensation right righthand-helix cutter and M03 spindle
direction, G42 corresponds to conventional
milling (up milling).
G43 Takes an address, usually H, to call the tool
Tool height offset length offset register value. The value is
compensation M negative because it will be added to the
negative gauge line position. G43 is the commonly
used version (vs G44).
G44 Takes an address, usually H, to call the tool
Tool height offset length offset register value. The value is
compensation M positive because it will be subtracted from
positive the gauge line position. G44 is the seldom-
used version (vs G43).
G45 Axis offset single
M
increase
G46 Axis offset single
M
decrease
G47 Axis offset double
M
increase
G48 Axis offset double
M
decrease
G49 Tool length offset
M Cancels G43 or G44.
compensation cancel
G50 Takes an S address integer which is
interpreted as rpm. Without this feature,
Define the maximum
T G96 mode (CSS) would rev the spindle to
spindle speed
"wide open throttle" when closely
approaching the axis of rotation.
Scaling function
G50 M
cancel
Position register is one of the original
methods to relate the part (program)
coordinate system to the tool position,
which indirectly relates it to the machine
Position register coordinate system, the only position the
(programming of control really "knows". Not commonly
G50 T
vector from part zero programmed anymore because G54 to G59
to tool tip) (WCSs) are a better, newer method. Called
via G50 for turning, G92 for milling. Those
G addresses also have alternate meanings
(which see). Position register can still be
useful for datum shift programming.
G52 Temporarily shifts program zero to a new
Local coordinate
M location. This simplifies programming in
system (LCS)
some cases.
G53 Takes absolute coordinates (X,Y,Z,A,B,C)
with reference to machine zero rather than
program zero. Can be helpful for tool
Machine coordinate
M T changes. Nonmodal and absolute only.
system
Subsequent blocks are interpreted as "back
to G54" even if it is not explicitly
programmed.
G54 to Work coordinate Have largely replaced position register
M T
G59 systems (WCSs) (G50 and G92). Each tuple of axis offsets
relates program zero directly to machine
zero. Standard is 6 tuples (G54 to G59),
with optional extensibility to 48 more via
G54.1 P1 to P48.
G54.1 Up to 48 more WCSs besides the 6
P1 to provided as standard by G54 to G59. Note
P48 floating-point extension of G-code data
Extended work
M T type (formerly all integers). Other
coordinate systems
examples have also evolved (e.g., G84.2).
Modern controls have the hardware to
handle it.
G70 Fixed cycle, multiple
repetitive cycle, for
T
finishing (including
contours)
G71 Fixed cycle, multiple
repetitive cycle, for
T
roughing (Z-axis
emphasis)
G72 Fixed cycle, multiple
repetitive cycle, for
T
roughing (X-axis
emphasis)
G73 Fixed cycle, multiple
repetitive cycle, for
T
roughing, with
pattern repetition
G73 Peck drilling cycle
Retracts only as far as a clearance
for milling - high-
increment (system parameter). For when
speed (NO full M
chipbreaking is the main concern, but chip
retraction from
clogging of flutes is not.
pecks)
G74 Peck drilling cycle
T
for turning
Tapping cycle for
milling, lefthand
G74 M
thread, M04 spindle
direction
G75 Peck grooving cycle
T
for turning
G76 Fine boring cycle for
M
milling
Threading cycle for
G76 turning, multiple T
repetitive cycle
G80 Milling: Cancels all cycles such as G73,
G83, G88, etc. Z-axis returns either to Z-
initial level or R-level, as programmed
Cancel canned cycle M T (G98 or G99, respectively).
Turning: Usually not needed on lathes,
because a new group-1 G address (G00 to
G03) cancels whatever cycle was active.
G81 Simple drilling cycle M No dwell built in
G82 Dwells at hole bottom (Z-depth) for the
Drilling cycle with number of milliseconds specified by the P
M
dwell address. Good for when hole bottom finish
matters.
G83 Peck drilling cycle
Returns to R-level after each peck. Good
(full retraction from M
for clearing flutes of chips.
pecks)
G84 Tapping cycle,
righthand thread,
M
M03 spindle
direction
G84.2 Tapping cycle,
righthand thread,
M03 spindle M
direction, rigid
toolholder
G90 Positioning defined with reference to part
zero.
Milling: Always as above.
Turning: Sometimes as above (Fanuc
group type B and similarly designed), but
Absolute on most lathes (Fanuc group type A and
M T (B)
programming similarly designed), G90/G91 are not used
for absolute/incremental modes. Instead, U
and W are the incremental addresses and X
and Z are the absolute addresses. On these
lathes, G90 is instead a fixed cycle address
for roughing.
Fixed cycle, simple
When not serving for absolute
G90 cycle, for roughing T (A)
programming (above)
(Z-axis emphasis)
G91 Positioning defined with reference to
previous position.
Milling: Always as above.
Turning: Sometimes as above (Fanuc
group type B and similarly designed), but
Incremental on most lathes (Fanuc group type A and
M T (B)
programming similarly designed), G90/G91 are not used
for absolute/incremental modes. Instead, U
and W are the incremental addresses and X
and Z are the absolute addresses. On these
lathes, G90 is a fixed cycle address for
roughing.
G92 Same corollary info as at G50 position
register.
Position register Milling: Always as above.
(programming of Turning: Sometimes as above (Fanuc
M T (B)
vector from part zero group type B and similarly designed), but
to tool tip) on most lathes (Fanuc group type A and
similarly designed), position register is
G50.
Threading cycle,
G92 T (A)
simple cycle
G94 Feedrate per minute M T (B) On group type A lathes, feedrate per
minute is G98.
Fixed cycle, simple
When not serving for feedrate per minute
G94 cycle, for roughing T (A)
(above)
(X-axis emphasis)
G95 Feedrate per On group type A lathes, feedrate per
M T (B)
revolution revolution is G99.
G96 Varies spindle speed automatically to
achieve a constant surface speed. See
Constant surface
T speeds and feeds. Takes an S address
speed (CSS)
integer, which is interpreted as sfm in G20
mode or as m/min in G21 mode.
G97 Takes an S address integer, which is
Constant spindle interpreted as rev/min (rpm). The default
M T
speed speed mode per system parameter if no
mode is programmed.
G98 Return to initial Z
M
level in canned cycle
Feedrate per minute Feedrate per minute is G94 on group type
G98 T (A)
(group type A) B.
G99 Return to R level in
M
canned cycle
Feedrate per
Feedrate per revolution is G95 on group
G99 revolution (group T (A)
type B.
type A)

[edit] List of M-codes commonly found on Fanuc and similarly designed


controls

Sources: Smid[1]; Green et al.[2]

Milling Turning
Code Description Corollary info
(M) (T)
M00 Non-optionalmachine will always stop
Compulsory stop M T upon reaching M00 in the program
execution.
M01 Machine will only stop at M01 if operator
Optional stop M T
has pushed the optional stop button.
M02 No return to program top; may or may not
End of program M T
reset register values.
M03 The speed of the spindle is determined by
the address S, in surface feet per minute.
The right-hand rule can be used to
determine which direction is clockwise and
which direction is counter-clockwise.
Spindle on
M T Right-hand-helix screws moving in the
(clockwise rotation)
tightening direction (and right-hand-helix
flutes spinning in the cutting direction) are
defined as moving in the M03 direction, and
are labeled "clockwise" by convention. The
M03 direction is always M03 regardless of
local vantage point and local CW/CCW
distinction.
M04 Spindle on
(counterclockwise M T See comment above at M03.
rotation)
M05 Spindle stop M T
M06 Many lathes do not use M06 because the T
address itself indexes the turret.
To understand how the T address works and
how it interacts (or not) with M06, one must
study the various methods, such as lathe
Automatic tool T (some-
M turret programming, ATC fixed tool
change (ATC) times)
selection, ATC random memory tool
selection, the concept of "next tool
waiting", and empty tools. Programming on
any particular machine tool requires
knowing which method that machine uses.
M07 Coolant on (mist) M T
M08 Coolant on (flood) M T
M09 Coolant off M T
M10 Pallet clamp on M For machining centers with pallet changers
M11 Pallet clamp off M For machining centers with pallet changers
M13 This one M-code does the work of both
Spindle on
M03 and M08. It is not unusual for specific
(clockwise rotation)
M machine models to have such combined
and coolant on
commands, which make for shorter, more
(flood)
quickly written programs.
M19 Spindle orientation is more often called
within cycles (automatically) or during
setup (manually), but it is also available
Spindle orientation M T under program control via M19. The
abbreviation OSS (oriented spindle stop)
may be seen in reference to an oriented stop
within cycles.
M21 Mirror, X-axis M
M21 Tailstock forward T
M22 Mirror, Y-axis M
M22 Tailstock backward T
M23 Mirror OFF M
Thread gradual
M23 T
pullout ON
M24 Thread gradual
T
pullout OFF
M30 End of program with
M T
return to program top
M41 Gear select - gear 1 T
M42 Gear select - gear 2 T
M43 Gear select - gear 3 T
M44 Gear select - gear 4 T
M48 Feedrate override
M T
allowed
M49 This rule is also called (automatically)
within tapping cycles or single-point
Feedrate override
M T threading cycles, where feed is precisely
NOT allowed
correlated to speed. Same with spindle
speed override and feed hold button.
M60 Automatic pallet
M For machining centers with pallet changers
change (APC)
M98 Takes an address P to specify which
Subprogram call M T subprogram to call, for example, "M98
P8979" calls subprogram O8979.
M99 Usually placed at end of subprogram, where
it returns execution control to the main
program. The default is that control returns
to the block following the M98 call in the
main program. Return to a different block
Subprogram end M T
number can be specified by a P address.
M99 can also be used in main program with
block skip for endless loop of main program
on bar work on lathes (until operator toggles
block skip).

[edit] Example program


Tool Path for program

This is a generic program that demonstrates the use of G-Code to turn a 1" diameter X 1"
long part. Assume that a bar of material is in the machine and that the bar is slightly
oversized in length and diameter and that the bar protrudes by more than 1" from the face of
the chuck. (Caution: This is generic, it might not work on any real machine! Pay particular
attention to point 5 below.)

Sample
Line Code Description
O4968 (Sample face and turn program)
N01 M216 (Turn on load monitor)
G20 G90 (Inch units. Absolute mode. Call work offset values. Moving coordinate
N02 G54 D200 system to the location specified in the register D200. Cancel any existing
G40 tool radius offset.)
(Set maximum spindle speed rev/min - preparing for G96 CSS coming
N03 G50 S2000
soon)
N04 M01 (Optional stop)
N05 T0300 (Index turret to tool 3. Clear wear offset (00).)
G96 S854 (Constant surface speed [automatically varies the spindle speed], 854
N06 M42 M03 sfm, select spindle gear, start spindle CW rotation, turn on the coolant
M08 flood)
(Call tool radius offset. Call tool wear offset. Rapid feed to a point about
G41 G00
0.100" from the end of the bar [not counting 0.005" or 0.006" that the
N07 X1.1 Z1.1
bar-pull-and-stop sequence is set up to leave as a stock allowance for
T0303
facing off] and 0.050" from the side)
G01 Z1.0 (Feed in horizontally until the tool is standing 1" from the datum i.e.
N08
F.05 program Z-zero)
(Feed down until the tool is slightly past center, thus facing the end of the
N09 X-0.002
bar)
N10 G00 Z1.1 (Rapid feed 0.1" away from the end of the bar - clear the part)
N11 X1.0 (Rapid feed up until the tool is standing at the finished OD)
G01 Z0.0 (Feed in horizontally cutting the bar to 1" diameter all the way to the
N12
F.05 datum, feeding at 0.050" per revolution)
G00 X1.1
N13 (Clear the part, stop the spindle, turn off the coolant)
M05 M09
G91 G28 (Home X axis - return to machine X-zero passing through no intermediate
N14
X0 X point [incremental X0])
G91 G28 (Home Z axis - return to machine Z-zero passing through no intermediate
N15
Z0 Z point [incremental Z0])
N16 G90 M215 (Return to absolute mode. Turn off load monitor)
N17 M30 (Program stop, rewind to beginning of program)
%

Several points to note:

1. There is room for some programming style, even in this short program. The grouping
of codes in line N06 could have been put on multiple lines. Doing so may have made
it easier to follow program execution.
2. Many codes are "modal", meaning that they stay in effect until they are cancelled or
replaced by a contradictory code. For example, once variable speed cutting (CSS) had
been selected (G96), it stayed in effect until the end of the program. In operation, the
spindle speed would increase as the tool neared the center of the work in order to
maintain a constant surface speed. Similarly, once rapid feed was selected (G00), all
tool movements would be rapid until a feed rate code (G01, G02, G03) was selected.
3. It is common practice to use a load monitor with CNC machinery. The load monitor
will stop the machine if the spindle or feed loads exceed a preset value that is set
during the set-up operation. The job of the load monitor is to prevent machine damage
in the event of tool breakage or a programming mistake. On small or hobby machines,
it can warn of a tool that is becoming dull and needs to be replaced or sharpened.
4. It is common practice to bring the tool in rapidly to a "safe" point that is close to the
part - in this case 0.1" away - and then start feeding the tool. How close that "safe"
distance is, depends on the skill of the programmer and maximum material condition
for the raw stock.
5. If the program is wrong, there is a high probability that the machine will crash, or ram
the tool into the part under high power. This can be costly, especially in newer
machining centers. It is possible to intersperse the program with optional stops (M01
code) which allow the program to be run piecemeal for testing purposes. The optional
stops remain in the program but they are skipped during the normal running of the
machine. Fortunately, most CAD/CAM software ships with CNC simulators that will
display the movement of the tool as the program executes. Many modern CNC
machines also allow programmers to execute the program in a simulation mode and
observe the operating parameters of the machine at a particular execution point. This
enables programmers to discover semantic errors (as opposed to syntax errors) before
losing material or tools to an incorrect program. Depending on the size of the part,
wax blocks may be used for testing purposes as well.
6. For pedagogical purposes, line numbers have been included in the program above.
They are usually not necessary for operation of a machine, so they are seldom used in
industry. However, if branching or looping statements are used in the code, then line
numbers may well be included as the target of those statements (e.g. GOTO N99).
7. Some machines do not allow multiple M codes in the same line.

[edit] Programming environments


G-code's programming environments have evolved in parallel with those of general
programmingfrom the earliest environments (e.g., writing a program with a pencil, typing
it into a tape puncher) to the latest environments that stack computer-aided design (CAD),
computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), and richly featured G-code editors. (G-code editors
are analogous to XML editors, using colors and indents semantically [plus other features] to
aid the user in ways that basic text editors can't. CAM packages are analogous to IDEs in
general programming.)

Two high-level paradigm shifts have been (1) abandoning "manual programming" (with
nothing but a pencil or text editor and a human mind) for CAM software systems that
generate G-code automatically via postprocessors (analogous to the development of visual
techniques in general programming), and (2) abandoning hardcoded constructs for parametric
ones (analogous to the difference in general programming between hardcoding a constant into
an equation versus declaring it a variable and assigning new values to it at will). Macro
(parametric) CNC programming uses human-friendly variable names, relational operators,
and loop structures much as general programming does, to capture information and logic with
machine-readable semantics. Whereas older manual CNC programming could only describe
particular instances of parts in numeric form, parametric CAM programming describes
abstractions which can be flowed with ease into a wide variety of instances. The difference is
analogous to creating text as bitmaps versus using character encoding and glyphs, or to the
way that HTML passed through a phase of using content markup for presentation purposes,
then matured toward the CSS model. In all of these cases, a higher layer of abstraction was
introduced in order to pursue what was missing semantically.

STEP-NC reflects the same theme, which can be viewed as yet another step along a path that
started with the development of machine tools, jigs and fixtures, and numerical control,
which all sought to "build the skill into the tool". Recent developments of G-code and STEP-
NC aim to build the information and semantics into the tool. The idea itself is not new; from
the beginning of numerical control, the concept of an end-to-end CAD/CAM environment
was the goal of such early technologies as DAC-1 and APT. Those efforts were fine for huge
corporations like GM and Boeing. However, for small and medium enterprises, there had to
be an era in which the simpler implementations of NC, with relatively primitive "connect-the-
dots" G-code and manual programming, ruled the day until CAD/CAM could improve and
disseminate throughout the economy.

Any machine tool with a great number of axes, spindles, and tool stations is difficult to
program well manually. It has been done over the years, but not easily. This challenge has
existed for decades in CNC screw machine and rotary transfer programming, and it now also
arises with today's newer machining centers called "turn-mills", "mill-turns", "multitasking
machines", and "multifunction machines". Now that CAD/CAM systems are widely used,
CNC programming (such as with G-code) requires CAD/CAM (as opposed to manual
programming) to be practical and competitive in the market segments served by these classes
of machines.[3] As Smid says, "Combine all these axes with some additional features, and the
amount of knowledge required to succeed is quite overwhelming, to say the least."[4] At the
same time, however, programmers still must thoroughly understand the principles of manual
programming and must think critically and second-guess some aspects of the software's
decisions.

MTConnect aims to connect machine tools to each other and to other systems in the factory
with a much higher level of interaction and capability than has previously existed. Although
direct numerical control (DNC) has been networking CNC machine tools to the rest of the
enterprise for years, the ability of the various kinds of machines "to talk to each other" has
been rather limited in practice (more often than not), compared to the theoretical possibilities.
DNC has a lot more potential than just "sending a program to a machine tool over a wire
instead of on a tape or disk." But unlocking that potential has been a slow process so far. By
creating open-source industry standards (e.g., APIs, XML schemas), MTConnect hopes to
spur greater interaction between proprietary systems and a wider developer community. MT
Connect might be for manufacturing-segment IT what the Web and app stores have been for
other IT domains (commerce, personal, telecoms): a way to bridge the gap between the
traditional corporate development environment and the hacker universe. Just as hackers may
bring novel uses to smartphones, tablet computers, or Kinects, perhaps they will soon be able
to innovate similarly in manufacturing. The enthusiasm of the additive manufacturing
community shows how much interest hackers and inventors have in such endeavors.

[edit] See also


STEP-NC
Cutter location
Direct Numerical Control
Gerber file

[edit] References
1. ^ a b c d Smid 2008.
2. ^ a b c d Green 1996, pp. 11621226.
3. ^ MMS editorial staff (2010-12-20), "CAM system simplifies Swiss-type lathe
programming", Modern Machine Shop 83 (8 [2011 Jan]): 100105,
http://www.mmsonline.com/articles/cam-system-simplifies-swiss-type-lathe-programming.
Online ahead of print.
4. ^ Smid 2008, p. 457.

[edit] Bibliography
Green, Robert E. et al. (eds) (1996), Machinery's Handbook (25 ed.), New York, NY,
USA: Industrial Press, ISBN 978-0-8311-2575-2,
http://www.worldcat.org/title/machinerys-handbook/oclc/473691581.
Smid, Peter (2008), CNC Programming Handbook (3 ed.), New York, NY, USA:
Industrial Press, ISBN 9780831133474, LCCN 2007-045901.

[edit] External links


Code descriptions with graphics and example code files (examples can be
downloaded).
CNC G-Code and M-Code Programming
Tutorial for G-code
The NIST RS274NGC Standard - Version 3 Aug 2000 also available as a PDF

[show]v d e Metalworking
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and CNC) Stewart platform
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Drilling and threading sizes Drill and tap size chart Drilling Jig borer Tap
and die Tap wrench Threading
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abrasives Cylindrical grinder Diamond plate Flick
grinder Dresser Grinding Grinding machine
Grinding and lapping
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and cutter grinder
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machine Planer Pantograph Shaper
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Numerical control
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"CNC" redirects here. For other uses, see CNC (disambiguation).

A CNC Turning Center.


Siemens CNC panel.

Numerical control (NC) refers to the automation of machine tools that are operated by
abstractly programmed commands encoded on a storage medium, as opposed to manually
controlled via handwheels or levers, or mechanically automated via cams alone. The first NC
machines were built in the 1940s and 1950s, based on existing tools that were modified with
motors that moved the controls to follow points fed into the system on punched tape. These
early servomechanisms were rapidly augmented with analog and digital computers, creating
the modern computer numerical control (CNC) machine tools that have revolutionized the
machining processes.

In modern CNC systems, end-to-end component design is highly automated using computer-
aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs. The programs
produce a computer file that is interpreted to extract the commands needed to operate a
particular machine via a postprocessor, and then loaded into the CNC machines for
production. Since any particular component might require the use of a number of different
tools-drills, saws, etc., modern machines often combine multiple tools into a single "cell". In
other cases, a number of different machines are used with an external controller and human or
robotic operators that move the component from machine to machine. In either case, the
complex series of steps needed to produce any part is highly automated and produces a part
that closely matches the original CAD design.

Contents
[hide]

1 History
o 1.1 Earlier forms of automation
1.1.1 Cams
1.1.2 Tracer control
o 1.2 Servos and selsyns
o 1.3 Parsons and the invention of NC
o 1.4 Enter MIT
o 1.5 MIT's machine
o 1.6 Proliferation of NC
o 1.7 CNC arrives
o 1.8 CAD meets CNC
o 1.9 Proliferation of CNC
o 1.10 DIY, Hobby, and Personal CNC
o 1.11 Today
2 Description
o 2.1 Tools with CNC variants
3 Tool / Machine crashing
4 Numerical accuracy vs Equipment backlash
5 See also
6 References
o 6.1 Bibliography
7 Further reading

[edit] History
[edit] Earlier forms of automation

[edit] Cams

The automation of machine tool control began in the 19th century with cams that "played" a
machine tool in the way that cams had long been playing musical boxes or operating
elaborate cuckoo clocks. Thomas Blanchard built his gun-stock-copying lathes (1820s-30s),
and the work of people such as Christopher Miner Spencer developed the turret lathe into the
screw machine (1870s). Cam-based automation had already reached a highly advanced state
by World War I (1910s).

However, automation via cams is fundamentally different from numerical control because it
cannot be abstractly programmed. Cams can encode information, but getting the information
from the abstract level of an engineering drawing into the cam is a manual process that
requires sculpting and/or machining and filing.

Various forms of abstractly programmable control had existed during the 19th century: those
of the Jacquard loom, player pianos, and mechanical computers pioneered by Charles
Babbage and others. These developments had the potential for convergence with the
automation of machine tool control starting in that century, but the convergence did not
happen until many decades later.

[edit] Tracer control

The application of hydraulics to cam-based automation resulted in tracing machines that used
a stylus to trace a template, such as the enormous Pratt & Whitney "Keller Machine", which
could copy templates several feet across.[1] Another approach was "record and playback",
pioneered at General Motors (GM) in the 1950s, which used a storage system to record the
movements of a human machinist, and then play them back on demand. Analogous systems
are common even today, notably the "teaching lathe" which gives new machinists a hands-on
feel for the process. None of these were numerically programmable, however, and required a
master machinist at some point in the process, because the "programming" was physical
rather than numerical.

[edit] Servos and selsyns

One barrier to complete automation was the required tolerances of the machining process,
which are routinely on the order of thousandths of an inch. Although connecting some sort of
control to a storage device like punched cards was easy, ensuring that the controls were
moved to the correct position with the required accuracy was another issue. The movement of
the tool resulted in varying forces on the controls that would mean a linear input would not
result in linear tool motion. The key development in this area was the introduction of the
servomechanism, which produced highly accurate measurement information. Attaching two
servos together produced a selsyn, where a remote servo's motions were accurately matched
by another. Using a variety of mechanical or electrical systems, the output of the selsyns
could be read to ensure proper movement had occurred (in other words, forming a closed-
loop control system).

The first serious suggestion that selsyns could be used for machining control was made by
Ernst F. W. Alexanderson, a Swedish immigrant to the U.S. working at General Electric
(GE). Alexanderson had worked on the problem of torque amplification that allowed the
small output of a mechanical computer to drive very large motors, which GE used as part of a
larger gun laying system for US Navy ships. Like machining, gun laying requires very high
accuracies, much less than a degree, and the forces during the motion of the gun turrets was
non-linear. In November 1931 Alexanderson suggested to the Industrial Engineering
Department that the same systems could be used to drive the inputs of machine tools,
allowing it to follow the outline of a template without the strong physical contact needed by
existing tools like the Keller Machine. He stated that it was a "matter of straight engineering
development".[2] However, the concept was ahead of its time from a business development
perspective, and GE did not take the matter seriously until years later, when others had
pioneered the field.

[edit] Parsons and the invention of NC

The birth of NC is generally credited to John T. Parsons,[3] a machinist and salesman at his
father's machining company, Parsons Corp.

In 1942 he was told that helicopters were going to be the "next big thing" by the former head
of Ford Trimotor production, Bill Stout. He called Sikorsky Aircraft to inquire about possible
work, and soon got a contract to build the wooden stringers in the rotor blades. After setting
up production at a disused furniture factory and ramping up production, one of the blades
failed and it was traced to the spar. As at least some of the problem appeared to stem from
spot welding a metal collar on the stringer to the metal spar, so Parsons suggested a new
method of attaching the stringers to the spar using adhesives, never before tried on an aircraft
design.[4]

That development led Parsons to consider the possibility of using stamped metal stringers
instead of wood, which would be much stronger and easier to make. The stringers for the
rotors were built from a design provided by Sikorsky, which was sent to Parsons as a series of
17 points defining the outline. Parsons then had to "fill in" the dots with a french curve to
generate an outline they could use as a template to build the jigs for the wooden stringers.
Making a metal cutting tool able to cut that particular shape proved to be difficult. Parsons
went to Wright Field to see Frank Stulen, the head of the Propeller Lab Rotary Ring Branch.
During their conversation, Stulen concluded that Parsons didn't really know what he was
talking about. Parsons realized this, and hired Stulen on the spot. Stulen started work on 1
April 1946 and hired three new engineers to join him.[4]

Stulen's brother worked at Curtis Wright Propeller, and mentioned that they were using
punched card calculators for engineering calculations. Stulen decided to adopt the idea to run
stress calculations on the rotors, the first detailed automated calculations on helicopter
rotors.[4] When Parsons saw what Stulen was doing with the punched card machines, he asked
Stulen if they could be used to generate an outline with 200 points instead of the 17 they were
given, and offset each point by the radius of a mill cutting tool. If you cut at each of those
points, it would produce a relatively accurate cutout of the stringer even in hard steel, and it
could easily be filed down to a smooth shape. The resulting tool would be useful as a
template for stamping metal stringers. Stullen had no problem making such a program, and
used it to produce large tables of numbers that would be taken onto the machine floor. Here,
one operator read the numbers off the charts to two other operators, one on each of the X- and
Y- axes, and they would move the cutting head to that point and make a cut.[4] This was
called the "by-the-numbers method".
At that point Parsons conceived of a fully automated tool. With enough points on the outline,
no manual working would be needed, but with manual operation, the time saved by having
the part more closely match the outline was offset by the time needed to move the controls. If
the machine's inputs were attached directly to the card reader, this delay, and any associated
manual errors, would be removed and the number of points could be dramatically increased.
Such a machine could repeatedly punch out perfectly accurate templates on command. But at
the time Parsons had no funds to develop his ideas.

When one of Parsons's salesmen was on a visit to Wright Field, he was told of the problems
the newly-formed US Air Force was having with new jet designs. He asked if Parsons had
anything to help them. Parsons showed Lockheed their idea of an automated mill, but they
were uninterested. They decided to use 5-axis template copiers to produce the stringers,
cutting from a metal template, and had already ordered the expensive cutting machine. But as
Parsons noted:

Now just picture the situation for a minute. Lockheed had contracted to design a machine to
make these wings. This machine had five axes of cutter movement, and each of these was
tracer controlled using a template. Nobody was using my method of making templates, so just
imagine what chance they were going to have of making an accurate airfoil shape with
inaccurate templates.[4]

Parsons worries soon came true, and Lockheed's protests that they could fix the problem
eventually rang hollow. In 1949 the Air Force arranged funding for Parsons to build his
machines on his own.[4] Early work with Snyder Machine & Tool Corp proved the system of
directly driving the controls from motors failed to give the accuracy needed to set the
machine for a perfectly smooth cut. Since the mechanical controls did not respond in a linear
fashion, you couldn't simply drive it with a given amount of power, because the differing
forces meant the same amount of power would not always produce the same amount of
motion in the controls. No matter how many points you included, the outline would still be
rough.

[edit] Enter MIT

This was not an impossible problem to solve, but would require some sort of feedback
system, like a selsyn, to directly measure how far the controls had actually turned. Faced with
the daunting task of building such a system, in the spring of 1949 Parsons turned to Gordon
S. Brown's Servomechanisms Laboratory at MIT, which was a world leader in mechanical
computing and feedback systems.[5] During the war the Lab had built a number of complex
motor-driven devices like the motorized gun turret systems for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress
and the automatic tracking system for the SCR-584 radar. They were naturally suited to
technological transfer into a prototype of Parsons's automated "by-the-numbers" machine.

The MIT team was led by William Pease assisted by James McDonough. They quickly
concluded that Parsons's design could be greatly improved; if the machine did not simply cut
at points A and B, but instead moved smoothly between the points, then not only would it
make a perfectly smooth cut, but could do so with many fewer points - the mill could cut
lines directly instead of having to define a large number of cutting points to "simulate" it. A
three-way agreement was arranged between Parsons, MIT, and the Air Force, and the project
officially ran from July 1949 to June 1950.[6] The contract called for the construction of two
"Card-a-matic Milling Machine"s, a prototype and a production system. Both to be handed to
Parsons for attachment to one of their mills in order to develop a deliverable system for
cutting stringers.

Instead, in 1950 MIT bought a surplus Cincinnati Milling Machine Company "Hydro-Tel"
mill of their own and arranged a new contract directly with the Air Force that froze Parsons
out of further development.[4] Parsons would later comment that he "never dreamed that
anybody as reputable as MIT would deliberately go ahead and take over my project."[4] In
spite of the development being handed to MIT, Parsons filed for a patent on "Motor
Controlled Apparatus for Positioning Machine Tool" on 5 May 1952, sparking a filing by
MIT for a "Numerical Control Servo-System" on 14 August 1952. Parsons received US
Patent 2,820,187 on 14 January 1958, and the company sold an exclusive license to Bendix.
IBM, Fujitsu and General Electric all took sub-licenses after having already started
development of their own devices.

[edit] MIT's machine

MIT fit gears to the various handwheel inputs and drove them with roller chains connected to
motors, one for each of the machine's three axes (X, Y, and Z). The associated controller
consisted of five refrigerator-sized cabinets that, together, were almost as large as the mill
they were connected to. Three of the cabinets contained the motor controllers, one controller
for each motor, the other two the digital reading system.[1]

Unlike Parsons's original punched card design, the MIT design used standard 7-track punch
tape for input. Three of the tracks were used to control the different axes of the machine,
while the other four encoded various control information.[1] The tape was read in a cabinet
that also housed six relay-based hardware registers, two for each axis. With every read
operation the previously read point was copied into the "starting point" register, and the
newly read one into the "ending point".[1] The tape was read continually and the number in
the register increased until a "stop" instruction was encountered, four holes in a line.

The final cabinet held a clock that sent pulses through the registers, compared them, and
generated output pulses that interpolated between the points. For instance, if the points were
far apart the output would have pulses with every clock cycle, whereas closely spaced points
would only generate pulses after multiple clock cycles. The pulses are sent into a summing
register in the motor controllers, counting up by the number of pulses every time they were
received. The summing registers were connected to a digital to analog converter that
increased power to the motors as the count in the registers increased.[1]

The registers were decremented by encoders attached to the motors and the mill itself, which
would reduce the count by one for every one degree of rotation. Once the second point was
reached the pulses from the clock would stop, and the motors would eventually drive the mill
to the encoded position. Each 1 degree rotation of the controls produced a 0.0005 inch
movement of the cutting head. The programmer could control the speed of the cut by
selecting points that were closer together for slow movements, or further apart for rapid
ones.[1]

The system was publicly demonstrated in September 1952, appearing in that month's
Scientific American.[1] MIT's system was an outstanding success by any technical measure,
quickly making any complex cut with extremely high accuracy that could not easily be
duplicated by hand. However, the system was terribly complex, including 250 vacuum tubes,
175 relays and numerous moving parts, reducing its reliability in a production environment. It
was also very expensive, the total bill presented to the Air Force was $360,000.14,
$2,641,727.63 in 2005 dollars.[7] Between 1952 and 1956 the system was used to mill a
number of one-off designs for various aviation firms, in order to study their potential
economic impact.[8]

[edit] Proliferation of NC

The Air Force funding for the project ran out in 1953, but development was picked up by the
Giddings and Lewis Machine Tool Co. In 1955 many of the MIT team left to form Concord
Controls, a commercial NC company with Giddings' backing, producing the Numericord
controller.[8] Numericord was similar to the MIT design, but replaced the punch tape with a
magnetic tape reader that General Electric was working on. The tape contained a number of
signals of different phases, which directly encoded the angle of the various controls. The tape
was played at a constant speed in the controller, which set its half of the selsyn to the encoded
angles while the remote side was attached to the machine controls. Designs were still
encoded on paper tape, but the tapes were transferred to a reader/writer that converted them
into magnetic form. The magtapes could then be used on any of the machines on the floor,
where the controllers were greatly reduced in complexity. Developed to produce highly
accurate dies for an aircraft skinning press, the Numericord "NC5" went into operation at
G&L's plant at Fond du Lac, WI in 1955.[9]

Monarch Machine Tool also developed an numerical controlled lathe, starting in 1952. They
demonstrated their machine at the 1955 Chicago Machine Tool Show, along with a number
of other vendors with punched card or paper tape machines that were either fully developed
or in prototype form. These included Kearney & Treckers Milwaukee-Matic II that could
change its cutting tool under numerical control,[9] a common feature on modern machines.

A Boeing report noted that "numerical control has proved it can reduce costs, reduce lead
times, improve quality, reduce tooling and increase productivity.[9] In spite of these
developments, and glowing reviews from the few users, uptake of NC was relatively slow. As
Parsons later noted:

The NC concept was so strange to manufacturers, and so slow to catch on, that the US Army
itself finally had to build 120 NC machines and lease them to various manufacturers to begin
popularizing its use.[4]

In 1958 MIT published its report on the economics of NC. They concluded that the tools
were competitive with human operators, but simply moved the time from the machining to
the creation of the tapes. In Forces of Production, Noble[10] claims that this was the whole
point as far as the Air Force was concerned; moving the process off of the highly unionized
factory floor and into the un-unionized white collar design office. The cultural context of the
early 1950s, a second Red Scare with a widespread fear of a bomber gap and of domestic
subversion, sheds light on this interpretation. It was strongly feared that the West would lose
the defense production race to the Communists, and that syndicalist power was a path toward
losing, either by "getting too soft" (less output, greater unit expense) or even by Communist
sympathy and subversion within unions (arising from their common theme of empowering
the working class).

[edit] CNC arrives

Many of the commands for the experimental parts were programmed "by hand" to produce
the punch tapes that were used as input. During the development of Whirlwind, MIT's real-
time computer, John Runyon coded a number of subroutines to produce these tapes under
computer control. Users could enter a list of points and speeds, and the program would
generate the punch tape. In one instance, this process reduced the time required to produce
the instruction list and mill the part from 8 hours to 15 minutes. This led to a proposal to the
Air Force to produce a generalized "programming" language for numerical control, which
was accepted in June 1956.[8]

Starting in September, Ross and Pople outlined a language for machine control that was
based on points and lines, developing this over several years into the APT programming
language. In 1957 the Aircraft Industries Association (AIA) and Air Material Command at
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base joined with MIT to standardize this work and produce a
fully computer-controlled NC system. On 25 February 1959 the combined team held a press
conference showing the results, including a 3D machined aluminum ash tray that was handed
out in the press kit.[8]

Meanwhile, Patrick Hanratty was making similar developments at GE as part of their


partnership with G&L on the Numericord. His language, PRONTO, beat APT into
commercial use when it was released in 1958.[11] Hanratty then went on to develop MICR
magnetic ink characters that were used in cheque processing, before moving to General
Motors to work on the groundbreaking DAC-1 CAD system.

APT was soon extended to include "real" curves in 2D-APT-II. With its release, MIT reduced
its focus on CNC as it moved into CAD experiments. APT development was picked up with
the AIA in San Diego, and in 1962, by Illinois Institute of Technology Research. Work on
making APT an international standard started in 1963 under USASI X3.4.7, but many
manufacturers of CNC machines had their own one-off additions (like PRONTO), so
standardization was not completed until 1968, when there were 25 optional add-ins to the
basic system.[8]

Just as APT was being released in the early 1960s, a second generation of lower-cost
transistorized computers was hitting the market that were able to process much larger
volumes of information in production settings. This reduced the cost of implementing a NC
system and by the mid 1960s, APT runs accounted for a third of all computer time at large
aviation firms.

[edit] CAD meets CNC

While the Servomechanisms Lab was in the process of developing their first mill, in 1953,
MIT's Mechanical Engineering Department dropped the requirement that undergraduates take
courses in drawing. The instructors formerly teaching these programs were merged into the
Design Division, where an informal discussion of computerized design started. Meanwhile
the Electronic Systems Laboratory, the newly rechristened Servomechanisms Laboratory, had
been discussing whether or not design would ever start with paper diagrams in the future.[12]

In January 1959, an informal meeting was held involving individuals from both the
Electronic Systems Laboratory and the Mechanical Engineering Department's Design
Division. Formal meetings followed in April and May, which resulted in the "Computer-
Aided Design Project". In December 1959, the Air Force issued a one year contract to ESL
for $223,000 to fund the Project, including $20,800 earmarked for 104 hours of computer
time at $200 per hour.[13] This proved to be far too little for the ambitious program they had
in mind, although their engineering calculation system, AED, was released in March 1965.

In 1959, General Motors started an experimental project to digitize, store and print the many
design sketches being generated in the various GM design departments. When the basic
concept demonstrated that it could work, they started the DAC-1 project with IBM to develop
a production version. One part of the DAC project was the direct conversion of paper
diagrams into 3D models, which were then converted into APT commands and cut on milling
machines. In November 1963 a trunk lid design moved from 2D paper sketch to 3D clay
prototype for the first time.[14] With the exception of the initial sketch, the design-to-
production loop had been closed.

Meanwhile, MIT's offsite Lincoln Labs was building computers to test new transistorized
designs. The ultimate goal was essentially a transistorized Whirlwind known as TX-2, but in
order to test various circuit designs a smaller version known as TX-0 was built first. When
construction of TX-2 started, time in TX-0 freed up and this led to a number of experiments
involving interactive input and use of the machine's CRT display for graphics. Further
development of these concepts led to Ivan Sutherland's groundbreaking Sketchpad program
on the TX-2.

Sutherland moved to the University of Utah after his Sketchpad work, but it inspired other
MIT graduates to attempt the first true CAD system. It was Electronic Drafting Machine
(EDM), sold to Control Data and known as "Digigraphics", that Lockheed used to build
production parts for the C-5 Galaxy, the first example of an end-to-end CAD/CNC
production system.
By 1970 there were a wide variety of CAD firms including Intergraph, Applicon,
Computervision, Auto-trol Technology, UGS Corp. and others, as well as large vendors like
CDC and IBM.

[edit] Proliferation of CNC

The price of computer cycles fell drastically during the 1960s with the widespread
introduction of useful minicomputers. Eventually it became less expensive to handle the
motor control and feedback with a computer program than it was with dedicated servo
systems. Small computers were dedicated to a single mill, placing the entire process in a
small box. PDP-8's and Data General Nova computers were common in these roles. The
introduction of the microprocessor in the 1970s further reduced the cost of implementation,
and today almost all CNC machines use some form of microprocessor to handle all
operations.

The introduction of lower-cost CNC machines radically changed the manufacturing industry.
Curves are as easy to cut as straight lines, complex 3-D structures are relatively easy to
produce, and the number of machining steps that required human action have been
dramatically reduced. With the increased automation of manufacturing processes with CNC
machining, considerable improvements in consistency and quality have been achieved with
no strain on the operator. CNC automation reduced the frequency of errors and provided
CNC operators with time to perform additional tasks. CNC automation also allows for more
flexibility in the way parts are held in the manufacturing process and the time required to
change the machine to produce different components.

During the early 1970s the Western economies were mired in slow economic growth and
rising employment costs, and NC machines started to become more attractive. The major
U.S. vendors were slow to respond to the demand for machines suitable for lower-cost NC
systems, and into this void stepped the Germans. In 1979, sales of German machines
surpassed the U.S. designs for the first time. This cycle quickly repeated itself, and by 1980
Japan had taken a leadership position, U.S. sales dropping all the time. Once sitting in the #1
position in terms of sales on a top-ten chart consisting entirely of U.S. companies in 1971, by
1987 Cincinnati Milacron was in 8th place on a chart heavily dominated by Japanese
firms.[15]

Many researchers have commented that the U.S. focus on high-end applications left them in
an uncompetitive situation when the economic downturn in the early 1970s led to greatly
increased demand for low-cost NC systems. Unlike the U.S. companies, who had focused on
the highly profitable aerospace market, German and Japanese manufacturers targeted lower-
profit segments from the start and were able to enter the low-cost markets much more
easily.[15][16]

As computing and networking evolved, so did direct numerical control (DNC). Its long-term
coexistence with less networked variants of NC and CNC is explained by the fact that
individual firms tend to stick with whatever is profitable, and their time and money for trying
out alternatives is limited. This explains why machine tool models and tape storage media
persist in grandfathered fashion even as the state of the art advances.

[edit] DIY, Hobby, and Personal CNC

Recent developments in small scale CNC have been enabled, in large part, by the Enhanced
Machine Controller project from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),
an agency of the US Government's Department of Commerce. EMC is a public domain
program operating under the Linux operating system and working on PC based hardware.
After the NIST project ended, development continued, leading to EMC2 which is licensed
under the GNU General Public License and Lesser GNU General Public License (GPL and
LGPL). Derivations of the original EMC software have also led to several proprietary PC
based programs notably TurboCNC, and Mach3, as well as embedded systems based on
proprietary hardware. The availability of these PC based control programs has led to the
development of DIY CNC, allowing hobbyists to build their own [17][18] using open source
hardware designs. The same basic architecture has allowed manufacturers, such as Sherline
and Taig, to produce turnkey lightweight desktop milling machines for hobbyists.

The easy availability of PC based software and support information of Mach3, written by Art
Fenerty, lets anyone with some time and technical expertise make complex parts for home
and prototype use. Fenerty is considered a principal founder of Windows-based PC CNC
machining.[19]

Eventually, the homebrew architecture was fully commercialized and used to create larger
machinery suitable for commercial and industrial applications. This class of equipment has
been referred to as Personal CNC. Parallel to the evolution of personal computers, Personal
CNC has its roots in EMC and PC based control, but has evolved to the point where it can
replace larger conventional equipment in many instances. As with the Personal Computer,
Personal CNC is characterized by equipment whose size, capabilities, and original sales price
make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end user,
often without professional training in CNC technology.

[edit] Today

Although modern data storage techniques have moved on from punch tape in almost every
other role, tapes are still relatively common in CNC systems. Several reasons explain this.
One is easy backward compatibility of existing programs. Companies were spared the trouble
of re-writing existing tapes into a new format. Another is the principle, mentioned earlier,
that individual firms tend to stick with whatever is profitable, and their time and money for
trying out alternatives is limited. A small firm that has found a profitable niche may keep
older equipment in service for years because "if it ain't broke [profitability-wise], don't fix it."
Competition places natural limits on that approach, as some amount of innovation and
continuous improvement eventually becomes necessary, lest competitors be the ones who
find the way to the "better mousetrap".

One change that was implemented fairly widely was the switch from paper to mylar tapes,
which are much more mechanically robust. Floppy disks, USB flash drives and local area
networking have replaced the tapes to some degree, especially in larger environments that are
highly integrated.

The proliferation of CNC led to the need for new CNC standards that were not encumbered
by licensing or particular design concepts, like APT. A number of different "standards"
proliferated for a time, often based around vector graphics markup languages supported by
plotters. One such standard has since become very common, the "G-code" that was originally
used on Gerber Scientific plotters and then adapted for CNC use. The file format became so
widely used that it has been embodied in an EIA standard. In turn, while G-code is the
predominant language used by CNC machines today, there is a push to supplant it with
STEP-NC, a system that was deliberately designed for CNC, rather than grown from an
existing plotter standard.[citation needed]

While G-code is the most common method of programming, some machine-tool/control


manufacturers also have invented their own proprietary "conversational" methods of
programming, trying to make it easier to program simple parts and make set-up and
modifications at the machine easier (such as Mazak's Mazatrol and Hurco). These have met
with varying success.[citation needed]

A more recent advancement in CNC interpreters is support of logical commands, known as


parametric programming (also known as macro programming). Parametric programs include
both device commands as well as a control language similar to BASIC. The programmer can
make if/then/else statements, loops, subprogram calls, perform various arithmetic, and
manipulate variables to create a large degree of freedom within one program. An entire
product line of different sizes can be programmed using logic and simple math to create and
scale an entire range of parts, or create a stock part that can be scaled to any size a customer
demands.

Since about 2006, the idea has been suggested and pursued to foster the convergence with
CNC and DNC of several trends elsewhere in the world of information technology that have
not yet much affected CNC and DNC. One of these trends is the combination of greater data
collection (more sensors), greater and more automated data exchange (via building new, open
industry-standard XML schemas), and data mining to yield a new level of business
intelligence and workflow automation in manufacturing. Another of these trends is the
emergence of widely published APIs together with the aforementioned open data standards to
encourage an ecosystem of user-generated apps and mashups, which can be both open and
commercialin other words, taking the new IT culture of app marketplaces that began in
web development and smartphone app development and spreading it to CNC, DNC, and the
other factory automation systems that are networked with the CNC/DNC. MTConnect is a
leading effort to bring these ideas into successful implementation.

[edit] Description
Modern CNC mills differ little in concept from the original model built at MIT in 1952. Mills
typically consist of a table that moves in the X and Y axes, and a tool spindle that moves in
the Z (depth). The position of the tool is driven by motors through a series of step-down gears
in order to provide highly accurate movements, or in modern designs, direct-drive stepper
motors. Closed-loop control is not mandatory today, as open-loop control works as long as
the forces are kept small enough.

As the controller hardware evolved, the mills themselves also evolved. One change has been
to enclose the entire mechanism in a large box as a safety measure, often with additional
safety interlocks to ensure the operator is far enough from the working piece for safe
operation. Most new CNC systems built today are completely electronically controlled.

CNC-like systems are now used for any process that can be described as a series of
movements and operations. These include laser cutting, welding, friction stir welding,
ultrasonic welding, flame and plasma cutting, bending, spinning, pinning, gluing, fabric
cutting, sewing, tape and fiber placement, routing, picking and placing (PnP), and sawing.

[edit] Tools with CNC variants

Drills
EDMs
Lathes
Milling machines
Wood routers
Sheet metal works (Turret Punch)
Wire bending machines
Hot-wire foam cutters
Plasma cuttings
Water jet cutters
Laser cutting
Oxy-fuel
Surface grinders
Cylindrical grinders
3D Printing
Induction hardening machines[citation needed]
[edit] Tool / Machine crashing
In CNC, a crash is causing the automated machinery to move in a way that is harmful to the
machine or tools, sometimes resulting in bending or breakage of cutting tools, accessory
clamps, vises, and fixtures, or causing damage to the machine itself by bending guide rails,
breaking drive screws, or causing structural components to crack under strain and break
apart.

Many CNC tools have no inherent sense of the absolute position of the table or tools when
turned on. They must be manually "homed" or "zeroed" to have any reference to work from,
and these limits are just for figuring out the location of the part to work with it, and aren't
really any sort of hard motion limit on the mechanism. It is often possible to drive the
machine outside the physical bounds of its drive mechanism, resulting in a collision with
itself or damage to the drive mechanism.

Many CNC tools also don't know anything about their working environment. They often lack
any form of sensory capability to detect problems with the machining process, and will not
abort if something goes wrong. They blindly follow the machining code provided and it is up
to an operator to detect if a crash is either occurring or about to occur, and for the operator to
manually abort the cutting process.

If the drive system is weaker than the machine structural integrity, then the drive system
simply pushes against the obstruction and the drive motors "slip in place". The machine tool
may not detect the collision or the slipping, so for example the tool should now be at 210mm
on the X axis but is in fact at 32mm where it hit the obstruction and kept slipping. All of the
next tool motions will be off by -178mm on the X axis, and all future motions are now
invalid, which may result in further collisions with clamps, vises, or the machine itself.

Collision detection and avoidance is possible, through the use of absolute position sensors
(optical encoder strips or disks) to verify that motion occurred, or torque sensors or power-
draw sensors on the drive system to detect abnormal strain when the machine should just be
moving and not cutting, but these are not a common component of most CNC tools.

Instead, most CNC tools simply rely on the assumed accuracy of stepper motors that rotate a
specific number of degrees in response to magnetic field changes. It is often assumed the
stepper is perfectly accurate and never mis-steps, so tool position monitoring simply involves
counting the number of pulses sent to the stepper over time. An alternate means of stepper
position monitoring is usually not available, so crash or slip detection is not possible.

[edit] Numerical accuracy vs Equipment backlash


Within the numerical systems of CNC programming it is possible for the code generator to
assume that the controlled mechanism is always perfectly accurate, or that accuracy
tolerances are identical for all cutting or movement directions. This is not always a true
condition of CNC tools.

CNC tools with a large amount of mechanical backlash can still be highly accurate if the
drive or cutting mechanism is only driven so as to apply cutting force from one direction, and
all driving systems are pressed tight together in that one cutting direction. However a CNC
device with high backlash and a dull cutting tool can lead to cutter chatter and possible
workpiece gouging.

The high backlash mechanism itself is not necessarily relied on to be repeatably accurate for
the cutting process, but some other reference object or precision surface may be used to zero
the mechanism, by tightly applying pressure against the reference and setting that as the zero
reference for all following CNC-encoded motions. This is similar to the manual machine tool
method of clamping a micrometer onto a reference beam and adjusting the vernier dial to
zero using that object as the reference.

[edit] See also


Computer-aided technologies
o Computer-aided engineering (CAE)
Coordinate-measuring machine (CMM)
Direct Numerical Control (DNC)
Design for Manufacturability for CNC machining
Multiaxis machining

[edit] References
1. ^ a b c d e f g Pease, William (1952), "An automatic machine tool", Scientific American 187 (3): 101115,
doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0952-101, ISSN 0036-8733,
http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/04/05/an-automatic-machine-tool/.
2. ^ Brittain 1992, pp. 210211.
3. ^ The International Biographical Dictionary of Computer Pioneers refers to Parsons as "the father of
computerized milling machines", and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers awarded him a citation
for "conceptualization of numerical control marked the beginning of the second industrial revolution."
4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Father of the Second Industrial Revolution", Manufacturing Engineering 127 (2),
August 2001, http://www.sme.org/cgi-bin/find-articles.pl?&01aum042&ME&20010802&&SME&
5. ^ Reintjes 1991, p. 16.
6. ^ Wildes & Lindgren 1985, p. 220.
7. ^ New Technology, pg. 47
8. ^ a b c d e Ross, Douglas T. (August 1978), "Origins of the APT language for automatically programmed
tools", ACM SIGPLAN Notices 13 (8): 6199, doi:10.1145/960118.808374, archived from the original
on 03-09-2010, http://www.webcitation.org/5o6WeFeUk.
9. ^ a b c Makely, William (August 2005), "Numbers Take Control: NC Machines", Cutting Tool Engineering
57 (8): 45, archived from the original on 03-09-2010, http://www.webcitation.org/5o6bsmK8i.
10. ^ Noble 1984.
11. ^ "The CAD/CAM Hall of Fame: Patrick J. Hanratty", American Machinist
12. ^ Weisberg, pp. 39.
13. ^ Weisberg, pp. 310.
14. ^ Krull, F.N. (September 1994), "The origin of computer graphics within General Motors", IEEE Annals
of the History of Computing 16 (3): 4056, doi:10.1109/MAHC.1994.298419, ISSN 1058-6180.
15. ^ a b Arnold, Heinrich Martin (November 2001), "The recent history of the machine tool industry and
the effects of technological change", LMU, doi:10.1.1.119.2125,
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.119.2125&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
16. ^ Holland 1989.
17. ^ Home Made CNC Machine. Hacked Gadgets - DIY Tech Blog.
18. ^ Desktop Manufacturing. Make (magazine) Vol 21, Feb, 2010.
19. ^ CNCzone discussion of Fenerty,
http://www.cnczone.com/forums/mach_software_artsoft_software/51586-
art_fenerty_has_retired_mach.html

[edit] Bibliography

Brittain, James (1992), Alexanderson: Pioneer in American Electrical Engineering, Johns


Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0-8018-4228-X.
Holland, Max (1989), When the Machine Stopped: A Cautionary Tale from Industrial America,
Boston: Harvard Business School Press, ISBN 978-0-87584-208-0, OCLC 246343673.
Noble, David F. (1984), Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation, New
York, New York, USA: Knopf, ISBN 978-0-394-51262-4, LCCN 83-048867.
Reintjes, J. Francis (1991), Numerical Control: Making a New Technology, Oxford University
Press, ISBN 9780195067729.
Weisberg, David, The Engineering Design Revolution, archived from the original on 03-09-
2010, http://www.webcitation.org/5o6XN0EG4.
Wildes, Karl L.; Lindgren, Nilo A. (1985), A Century of Electrical Engineering and Computer
Science at MIT, MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-23119-0.

[edit] Further reading


Wikimedia Commons has media related to: CNC

Herrin, Golden E. "Industry Honors The Inventor Of NC", Modern Machine Shop, 12 January
1998.
Hood-Daniel, Patrick and Kelly, James Floyd. Build your own CNC machine (Technology in
action series). Apress, 2009. ISBN 9781430224891
Siegel, Arnold. "Automatic Programming of Numerically Controlled Machine Tools", Control
Engineering, Volume 3 Issue 10 (October 1956), pp. 6570.
Smid, Peter (2008), CNC Programming Handbook (3 ed.), New York, NY, USA: Industrial
Press, ISBN 9780831133474, LCCN 2007-045901.
Vasilash, Gary. "Man of Our Age", Automotive Design & Production.

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Numerical control
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from CNC)
Jump to: navigation, search
"CNC" redirects here. For other uses, see CNC (disambiguation).
A CNC Turning Center.

Siemens CNC panel.

Numerical control (NC) refers to the automation of machine tools that are operated by
abstractly programmed commands encoded on a storage medium, as opposed to manually
controlled via handwheels or levers, or mechanically automated via cams alone. The first NC
machines were built in the 1940s and 1950s, based on existing tools that were modified with
motors that moved the controls to follow points fed into the system on punched tape. These
early servomechanisms were rapidly augmented with analog and digital computers, creating
the modern computer numerical control (CNC) machine tools that have revolutionized the
machining processes.

In modern CNC systems, end-to-end component design is highly automated using computer-
aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs. The programs
produce a computer file that is interpreted to extract the commands needed to operate a
particular machine via a postprocessor, and then loaded into the CNC machines for
production. Since any particular component might require the use of a number of different
tools-drills, saws, etc., modern machines often combine multiple tools into a single "cell". In
other cases, a number of different machines are used with an external controller and human or
robotic operators that move the component from machine to machine. In either case, the
complex series of steps needed to produce any part is highly automated and produces a part
that closely matches the original CAD design.

Contents
[hide]

1 History
o 1.1 Earlier forms of automation
1.1.1 Cams
1.1.2 Tracer control
o 1.2 Servos and selsyns
o 1.3 Parsons and the invention of NC
o 1.4 Enter MIT
o 1.5 MIT's machine
o 1.6 Proliferation of NC
o 1.7 CNC arrives
o 1.8 CAD meets CNC
o 1.9 Proliferation of CNC
o 1.10 DIY, Hobby, and Personal CNC
o 1.11 Today
2 Description
o 2.1 Tools with CNC variants
3 Tool / Machine crashing
4 Numerical accuracy vs Equipment backlash
5 See also
6 References
o 6.1 Bibliography
7 Further reading

[edit] History
[edit] Earlier forms of automation

[edit] Cams

The automation of machine tool control began in the 19th century with cams that "played" a
machine tool in the way that cams had long been playing musical boxes or operating
elaborate cuckoo clocks. Thomas Blanchard built his gun-stock-copying lathes (1820s-30s),
and the work of people such as Christopher Miner Spencer developed the turret lathe into the
screw machine (1870s). Cam-based automation had already reached a highly advanced state
by World War I (1910s).

However, automation via cams is fundamentally different from numerical control because it
cannot be abstractly programmed. Cams can encode information, but getting the information
from the abstract level of an engineering drawing into the cam is a manual process that
requires sculpting and/or machining and filing.

Various forms of abstractly programmable control had existed during the 19th century: those
of the Jacquard loom, player pianos, and mechanical computers pioneered by Charles
Babbage and others. These developments had the potential for convergence with the
automation of machine tool control starting in that century, but the convergence did not
happen until many decades later.

[edit] Tracer control

The application of hydraulics to cam-based automation resulted in tracing machines that used
a stylus to trace a template, such as the enormous Pratt & Whitney "Keller Machine", which
could copy templates several feet across.[1] Another approach was "record and playback",
pioneered at General Motors (GM) in the 1950s, which used a storage system to record the
movements of a human machinist, and then play them back on demand. Analogous systems
are common even today, notably the "teaching lathe" which gives new machinists a hands-on
feel for the process. None of these were numerically programmable, however, and required a
master machinist at some point in the process, because the "programming" was physical
rather than numerical.

[edit] Servos and selsyns


One barrier to complete automation was the required tolerances of the machining process,
which are routinely on the order of thousandths of an inch. Although connecting some sort of
control to a storage device like punched cards was easy, ensuring that the controls were
moved to the correct position with the required accuracy was another issue. The movement of
the tool resulted in varying forces on the controls that would mean a linear input would not
result in linear tool motion. The key development in this area was the introduction of the
servomechanism, which produced highly accurate measurement information. Attaching two
servos together produced a selsyn, where a remote servo's motions were accurately matched
by another. Using a variety of mechanical or electrical systems, the output of the selsyns
could be read to ensure proper movement had occurred (in other words, forming a closed-
loop control system).

The first serious suggestion that selsyns could be used for machining control was made by
Ernst F. W. Alexanderson, a Swedish immigrant to the U.S. working at General Electric
(GE). Alexanderson had worked on the problem of torque amplification that allowed the
small output of a mechanical computer to drive very large motors, which GE used as part of a
larger gun laying system for US Navy ships. Like machining, gun laying requires very high
accuracies, much less than a degree, and the forces during the motion of the gun turrets was
non-linear. In November 1931 Alexanderson suggested to the Industrial Engineering
Department that the same systems could be used to drive the inputs of machine tools,
allowing it to follow the outline of a template without the strong physical contact needed by
existing tools like the Keller Machine. He stated that it was a "matter of straight engineering
development".[2] However, the concept was ahead of its time from a business development
perspective, and GE did not take the matter seriously until years later, when others had
pioneered the field.

[edit] Parsons and the invention of NC

The birth of NC is generally credited to John T. Parsons,[3] a machinist and salesman at his
father's machining company, Parsons Corp.

In 1942 he was told that helicopters were going to be the "next big thing" by the former head
of Ford Trimotor production, Bill Stout. He called Sikorsky Aircraft to inquire about possible
work, and soon got a contract to build the wooden stringers in the rotor blades. After setting
up production at a disused furniture factory and ramping up production, one of the blades
failed and it was traced to the spar. As at least some of the problem appeared to stem from
spot welding a metal collar on the stringer to the metal spar, so Parsons suggested a new
method of attaching the stringers to the spar using adhesives, never before tried on an aircraft
design.[4]

That development led Parsons to consider the possibility of using stamped metal stringers
instead of wood, which would be much stronger and easier to make. The stringers for the
rotors were built from a design provided by Sikorsky, which was sent to Parsons as a series of
17 points defining the outline. Parsons then had to "fill in" the dots with a french curve to
generate an outline they could use as a template to build the jigs for the wooden stringers.
Making a metal cutting tool able to cut that particular shape proved to be difficult. Parsons
went to Wright Field to see Frank Stulen, the head of the Propeller Lab Rotary Ring Branch.
During their conversation, Stulen concluded that Parsons didn't really know what he was
talking about. Parsons realized this, and hired Stulen on the spot. Stulen started work on 1
April 1946 and hired three new engineers to join him.[4]

Stulen's brother worked at Curtis Wright Propeller, and mentioned that they were using
punched card calculators for engineering calculations. Stulen decided to adopt the idea to run
stress calculations on the rotors, the first detailed automated calculations on helicopter
rotors.[4] When Parsons saw what Stulen was doing with the punched card machines, he asked
Stulen if they could be used to generate an outline with 200 points instead of the 17 they were
given, and offset each point by the radius of a mill cutting tool. If you cut at each of those
points, it would produce a relatively accurate cutout of the stringer even in hard steel, and it
could easily be filed down to a smooth shape. The resulting tool would be useful as a
template for stamping metal stringers. Stullen had no problem making such a program, and
used it to produce large tables of numbers that would be taken onto the machine floor. Here,
one operator read the numbers off the charts to two other operators, one on each of the X- and
Y- axes, and they would move the cutting head to that point and make a cut.[4] This was
called the "by-the-numbers method".

At that point Parsons conceived of a fully automated tool. With enough points on the outline,
no manual working would be needed, but with manual operation, the time saved by having
the part more closely match the outline was offset by the time needed to move the controls. If
the machine's inputs were attached directly to the card reader, this delay, and any associated
manual errors, would be removed and the number of points could be dramatically increased.
Such a machine could repeatedly punch out perfectly accurate templates on command. But at
the time Parsons had no funds to develop his ideas.

When one of Parsons's salesmen was on a visit to Wright Field, he was told of the problems
the newly-formed US Air Force was having with new jet designs. He asked if Parsons had
anything to help them. Parsons showed Lockheed their idea of an automated mill, but they
were uninterested. They decided to use 5-axis template copiers to produce the stringers,
cutting from a metal template, and had already ordered the expensive cutting machine. But as
Parsons noted:

Now just picture the situation for a minute. Lockheed had contracted to design a machine to
make these wings. This machine had five axes of cutter movement, and each of these was
tracer controlled using a template. Nobody was using my method of making templates, so just
imagine what chance they were going to have of making an accurate airfoil shape with
inaccurate templates.[4]

Parsons worries soon came true, and Lockheed's protests that they could fix the problem
eventually rang hollow. In 1949 the Air Force arranged funding for Parsons to build his
machines on his own.[4] Early work with Snyder Machine & Tool Corp proved the system of
directly driving the controls from motors failed to give the accuracy needed to set the
machine for a perfectly smooth cut. Since the mechanical controls did not respond in a linear
fashion, you couldn't simply drive it with a given amount of power, because the differing
forces meant the same amount of power would not always produce the same amount of
motion in the controls. No matter how many points you included, the outline would still be
rough.

[edit] Enter MIT

This was not an impossible problem to solve, but would require some sort of feedback
system, like a selsyn, to directly measure how far the controls had actually turned. Faced with
the daunting task of building such a system, in the spring of 1949 Parsons turned to Gordon
S. Brown's Servomechanisms Laboratory at MIT, which was a world leader in mechanical
computing and feedback systems.[5] During the war the Lab had built a number of complex
motor-driven devices like the motorized gun turret systems for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress
and the automatic tracking system for the SCR-584 radar. They were naturally suited to
technological transfer into a prototype of Parsons's automated "by-the-numbers" machine.

The MIT team was led by William Pease assisted by James McDonough. They quickly
concluded that Parsons's design could be greatly improved; if the machine did not simply cut
at points A and B, but instead moved smoothly between the points, then not only would it
make a perfectly smooth cut, but could do so with many fewer points - the mill could cut
lines directly instead of having to define a large number of cutting points to "simulate" it. A
three-way agreement was arranged between Parsons, MIT, and the Air Force, and the project
officially ran from July 1949 to June 1950.[6] The contract called for the construction of two
"Card-a-matic Milling Machine"s, a prototype and a production system. Both to be handed to
Parsons for attachment to one of their mills in order to develop a deliverable system for
cutting stringers.

Instead, in 1950 MIT bought a surplus Cincinnati Milling Machine Company "Hydro-Tel"
mill of their own and arranged a new contract directly with the Air Force that froze Parsons
out of further development.[4] Parsons would later comment that he "never dreamed that
anybody as reputable as MIT would deliberately go ahead and take over my project."[4] In
spite of the development being handed to MIT, Parsons filed for a patent on "Motor
Controlled Apparatus for Positioning Machine Tool" on 5 May 1952, sparking a filing by
MIT for a "Numerical Control Servo-System" on 14 August 1952. Parsons received US
Patent 2,820,187 on 14 January 1958, and the company sold an exclusive license to Bendix.
IBM, Fujitsu and General Electric all took sub-licenses after having already started
development of their own devices.

[edit] MIT's machine

MIT fit gears to the various handwheel inputs and drove them with roller chains connected to
motors, one for each of the machine's three axes (X, Y, and Z). The associated controller
consisted of five refrigerator-sized cabinets that, together, were almost as large as the mill
they were connected to. Three of the cabinets contained the motor controllers, one controller
for each motor, the other two the digital reading system.[1]

Unlike Parsons's original punched card design, the MIT design used standard 7-track punch
tape for input. Three of the tracks were used to control the different axes of the machine,
while the other four encoded various control information.[1] The tape was read in a cabinet
that also housed six relay-based hardware registers, two for each axis. With every read
operation the previously read point was copied into the "starting point" register, and the
newly read one into the "ending point".[1] The tape was read continually and the number in
the register increased until a "stop" instruction was encountered, four holes in a line.

The final cabinet held a clock that sent pulses through the registers, compared them, and
generated output pulses that interpolated between the points. For instance, if the points were
far apart the output would have pulses with every clock cycle, whereas closely spaced points
would only generate pulses after multiple clock cycles. The pulses are sent into a summing
register in the motor controllers, counting up by the number of pulses every time they were
received. The summing registers were connected to a digital to analog converter that
increased power to the motors as the count in the registers increased.[1]

The registers were decremented by encoders attached to the motors and the mill itself, which
would reduce the count by one for every one degree of rotation. Once the second point was
reached the pulses from the clock would stop, and the motors would eventually drive the mill
to the encoded position. Each 1 degree rotation of the controls produced a 0.0005 inch
movement of the cutting head. The programmer could control the speed of the cut by
selecting points that were closer together for slow movements, or further apart for rapid
ones.[1]

The system was publicly demonstrated in September 1952, appearing in that month's
Scientific American.[1] MIT's system was an outstanding success by any technical measure,
quickly making any complex cut with extremely high accuracy that could not easily be
duplicated by hand. However, the system was terribly complex, including 250 vacuum tubes,
175 relays and numerous moving parts, reducing its reliability in a production environment. It
was also very expensive, the total bill presented to the Air Force was $360,000.14,
$2,641,727.63 in 2005 dollars.[7] Between 1952 and 1956 the system was used to mill a
number of one-off designs for various aviation firms, in order to study their potential
economic impact.[8]
[edit] Proliferation of NC

The Air Force funding for the project ran out in 1953, but development was picked up by the
Giddings and Lewis Machine Tool Co. In 1955 many of the MIT team left to form Concord
Controls, a commercial NC company with Giddings' backing, producing the Numericord
controller.[8] Numericord was similar to the MIT design, but replaced the punch tape with a
magnetic tape reader that General Electric was working on. The tape contained a number of
signals of different phases, which directly encoded the angle of the various controls. The tape
was played at a constant speed in the controller, which set its half of the selsyn to the encoded
angles while the remote side was attached to the machine controls. Designs were still
encoded on paper tape, but the tapes were transferred to a reader/writer that converted them
into magnetic form. The magtapes could then be used on any of the machines on the floor,
where the controllers were greatly reduced in complexity. Developed to produce highly
accurate dies for an aircraft skinning press, the Numericord "NC5" went into operation at
G&L's plant at Fond du Lac, WI in 1955.[9]

Monarch Machine Tool also developed an numerical controlled lathe, starting in 1952. They
demonstrated their machine at the 1955 Chicago Machine Tool Show, along with a number
of other vendors with punched card or paper tape machines that were either fully developed
or in prototype form. These included Kearney & Treckers Milwaukee-Matic II that could
change its cutting tool under numerical control,[9] a common feature on modern machines.

A Boeing report noted that "numerical control has proved it can reduce costs, reduce lead
times, improve quality, reduce tooling and increase productivity.[9] In spite of these
developments, and glowing reviews from the few users, uptake of NC was relatively slow. As
Parsons later noted:

The NC concept was so strange to manufacturers, and so slow to catch on, that the US Army
itself finally had to build 120 NC machines and lease them to various manufacturers to begin
popularizing its use.[4]

In 1958 MIT published its report on the economics of NC. They concluded that the tools
were competitive with human operators, but simply moved the time from the machining to
the creation of the tapes. In Forces of Production, Noble[10] claims that this was the whole
point as far as the Air Force was concerned; moving the process off of the highly unionized
factory floor and into the un-unionized white collar design office. The cultural context of the
early 1950s, a second Red Scare with a widespread fear of a bomber gap and of domestic
subversion, sheds light on this interpretation. It was strongly feared that the West would lose
the defense production race to the Communists, and that syndicalist power was a path toward
losing, either by "getting too soft" (less output, greater unit expense) or even by Communist
sympathy and subversion within unions (arising from their common theme of empowering
the working class).

[edit] CNC arrives

Many of the commands for the experimental parts were programmed "by hand" to produce
the punch tapes that were used as input. During the development of Whirlwind, MIT's real-
time computer, John Runyon coded a number of subroutines to produce these tapes under
computer control. Users could enter a list of points and speeds, and the program would
generate the punch tape. In one instance, this process reduced the time required to produce
the instruction list and mill the part from 8 hours to 15 minutes. This led to a proposal to the
Air Force to produce a generalized "programming" language for numerical control, which
was accepted in June 1956.[8]

Starting in September, Ross and Pople outlined a language for machine control that was
based on points and lines, developing this over several years into the APT programming
language. In 1957 the Aircraft Industries Association (AIA) and Air Material Command at
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base joined with MIT to standardize this work and produce a
fully computer-controlled NC system. On 25 February 1959 the combined team held a press
conference showing the results, including a 3D machined aluminum ash tray that was handed
out in the press kit.[8]

Meanwhile, Patrick Hanratty was making similar developments at GE as part of their


partnership with G&L on the Numericord. His language, PRONTO, beat APT into
commercial use when it was released in 1958.[11] Hanratty then went on to develop MICR
magnetic ink characters that were used in cheque processing, before moving to General
Motors to work on the groundbreaking DAC-1 CAD system.

APT was soon extended to include "real" curves in 2D-APT-II. With its release, MIT reduced
its focus on CNC as it moved into CAD experiments. APT development was picked up with
the AIA in San Diego, and in 1962, by Illinois Institute of Technology Research. Work on
making APT an international standard started in 1963 under USASI X3.4.7, but many
manufacturers of CNC machines had their own one-off additions (like PRONTO), so
standardization was not completed until 1968, when there were 25 optional add-ins to the
basic system.[8]

Just as APT was being released in the early 1960s, a second generation of lower-cost
transistorized computers was hitting the market that were able to process much larger
volumes of information in production settings. This reduced the cost of implementing a NC
system and by the mid 1960s, APT runs accounted for a third of all computer time at large
aviation firms.

[edit] CAD meets CNC

While the Servomechanisms Lab was in the process of developing their first mill, in 1953,
MIT's Mechanical Engineering Department dropped the requirement that undergraduates take
courses in drawing. The instructors formerly teaching these programs were merged into the
Design Division, where an informal discussion of computerized design started. Meanwhile
the Electronic Systems Laboratory, the newly rechristened Servomechanisms Laboratory, had
been discussing whether or not design would ever start with paper diagrams in the future.[12]

In January 1959, an informal meeting was held involving individuals from both the
Electronic Systems Laboratory and the Mechanical Engineering Department's Design
Division. Formal meetings followed in April and May, which resulted in the "Computer-
Aided Design Project". In December 1959, the Air Force issued a one year contract to ESL
for $223,000 to fund the Project, including $20,800 earmarked for 104 hours of computer
time at $200 per hour.[13] This proved to be far too little for the ambitious program they had
in mind, although their engineering calculation system, AED, was released in March 1965.

In 1959, General Motors started an experimental project to digitize, store and print the many
design sketches being generated in the various GM design departments. When the basic
concept demonstrated that it could work, they started the DAC-1 project with IBM to develop
a production version. One part of the DAC project was the direct conversion of paper
diagrams into 3D models, which were then converted into APT commands and cut on milling
machines. In November 1963 a trunk lid design moved from 2D paper sketch to 3D clay
prototype for the first time.[14] With the exception of the initial sketch, the design-to-
production loop had been closed.

Meanwhile, MIT's offsite Lincoln Labs was building computers to test new transistorized
designs. The ultimate goal was essentially a transistorized Whirlwind known as TX-2, but in
order to test various circuit designs a smaller version known as TX-0 was built first. When
construction of TX-2 started, time in TX-0 freed up and this led to a number of experiments
involving interactive input and use of the machine's CRT display for graphics. Further
development of these concepts led to Ivan Sutherland's groundbreaking Sketchpad program
on the TX-2.

Sutherland moved to the University of Utah after his Sketchpad work, but it inspired other
MIT graduates to attempt the first true CAD system. It was Electronic Drafting Machine
(EDM), sold to Control Data and known as "Digigraphics", that Lockheed used to build
production parts for the C-5 Galaxy, the first example of an end-to-end CAD/CNC
production system.

By 1970 there were a wide variety of CAD firms including Intergraph, Applicon,
Computervision, Auto-trol Technology, UGS Corp. and others, as well as large vendors like
CDC and IBM.

[edit] Proliferation of CNC

The price of computer cycles fell drastically during the 1960s with the widespread
introduction of useful minicomputers. Eventually it became less expensive to handle the
motor control and feedback with a computer program than it was with dedicated servo
systems. Small computers were dedicated to a single mill, placing the entire process in a
small box. PDP-8's and Data General Nova computers were common in these roles. The
introduction of the microprocessor in the 1970s further reduced the cost of implementation,
and today almost all CNC machines use some form of microprocessor to handle all
operations.

The introduction of lower-cost CNC machines radically changed the manufacturing industry.
Curves are as easy to cut as straight lines, complex 3-D structures are relatively easy to
produce, and the number of machining steps that required human action have been
dramatically reduced. With the increased automation of manufacturing processes with CNC
machining, considerable improvements in consistency and quality have been achieved with
no strain on the operator. CNC automation reduced the frequency of errors and provided
CNC operators with time to perform additional tasks. CNC automation also allows for more
flexibility in the way parts are held in the manufacturing process and the time required to
change the machine to produce different components.

During the early 1970s the Western economies were mired in slow economic growth and
rising employment costs, and NC machines started to become more attractive. The major
U.S. vendors were slow to respond to the demand for machines suitable for lower-cost NC
systems, and into this void stepped the Germans. In 1979, sales of German machines
surpassed the U.S. designs for the first time. This cycle quickly repeated itself, and by 1980
Japan had taken a leadership position, U.S. sales dropping all the time. Once sitting in the #1
position in terms of sales on a top-ten chart consisting entirely of U.S. companies in 1971, by
1987 Cincinnati Milacron was in 8th place on a chart heavily dominated by Japanese
firms.[15]

Many researchers have commented that the U.S. focus on high-end applications left them in
an uncompetitive situation when the economic downturn in the early 1970s led to greatly
increased demand for low-cost NC systems. Unlike the U.S. companies, who had focused on
the highly profitable aerospace market, German and Japanese manufacturers targeted lower-
profit segments from the start and were able to enter the low-cost markets much more
easily.[15][16]

As computing and networking evolved, so did direct numerical control (DNC). Its long-term
coexistence with less networked variants of NC and CNC is explained by the fact that
individual firms tend to stick with whatever is profitable, and their time and money for trying
out alternatives is limited. This explains why machine tool models and tape storage media
persist in grandfathered fashion even as the state of the art advances.
[edit] DIY, Hobby, and Personal CNC

Recent developments in small scale CNC have been enabled, in large part, by the Enhanced
Machine Controller project from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),
an agency of the US Government's Department of Commerce. EMC is a public domain
program operating under the Linux operating system and working on PC based hardware.
After the NIST project ended, development continued, leading to EMC2 which is licensed
under the GNU General Public License and Lesser GNU General Public License (GPL and
LGPL). Derivations of the original EMC software have also led to several proprietary PC
based programs notably TurboCNC, and Mach3, as well as embedded systems based on
proprietary hardware. The availability of these PC based control programs has led to the
development of DIY CNC, allowing hobbyists to build their own [17][18] using open source
hardware designs. The same basic architecture has allowed manufacturers, such as Sherline
and Taig, to produce turnkey lightweight desktop milling machines for hobbyists.

The easy availability of PC based software and support information of Mach3, written by Art
Fenerty, lets anyone with some time and technical expertise make complex parts for home
and prototype use. Fenerty is considered a principal founder of Windows-based PC CNC
machining.[19]

Eventually, the homebrew architecture was fully commercialized and used to create larger
machinery suitable for commercial and industrial applications. This class of equipment has
been referred to as Personal CNC. Parallel to the evolution of personal computers, Personal
CNC has its roots in EMC and PC based control, but has evolved to the point where it can
replace larger conventional equipment in many instances. As with the Personal Computer,
Personal CNC is characterized by equipment whose size, capabilities, and original sales price
make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end user,
often without professional training in CNC technology.

[edit] Today

Although modern data storage techniques have moved on from punch tape in almost every
other role, tapes are still relatively common in CNC systems. Several reasons explain this.
One is easy backward compatibility of existing programs. Companies were spared the trouble
of re-writing existing tapes into a new format. Another is the principle, mentioned earlier,
that individual firms tend to stick with whatever is profitable, and their time and money for
trying out alternatives is limited. A small firm that has found a profitable niche may keep
older equipment in service for years because "if it ain't broke [profitability-wise], don't fix it."
Competition places natural limits on that approach, as some amount of innovation and
continuous improvement eventually becomes necessary, lest competitors be the ones who
find the way to the "better mousetrap".

One change that was implemented fairly widely was the switch from paper to mylar tapes,
which are much more mechanically robust. Floppy disks, USB flash drives and local area
networking have replaced the tapes to some degree, especially in larger environments that are
highly integrated.

The proliferation of CNC led to the need for new CNC standards that were not encumbered
by licensing or particular design concepts, like APT. A number of different "standards"
proliferated for a time, often based around vector graphics markup languages supported by
plotters. One such standard has since become very common, the "G-code" that was originally
used on Gerber Scientific plotters and then adapted for CNC use. The file format became so
widely used that it has been embodied in an EIA standard. In turn, while G-code is the
predominant language used by CNC machines today, there is a push to supplant it with
STEP-NC, a system that was deliberately designed for CNC, rather than grown from an
existing plotter standard.[citation needed]
While G-code is the most common method of programming, some machine-tool/control
manufacturers also have invented their own proprietary "conversational" methods of
programming, trying to make it easier to program simple parts and make set-up and
modifications at the machine easier (such as Mazak's Mazatrol and Hurco). These have met
with varying success.[citation needed]

A more recent advancement in CNC interpreters is support of logical commands, known as


parametric programming (also known as macro programming). Parametric programs include
both device commands as well as a control language similar to BASIC. The programmer can
make if/then/else statements, loops, subprogram calls, perform various arithmetic, and
manipulate variables to create a large degree of freedom within one program. An entire
product line of different sizes can be programmed using logic and simple math to create and
scale an entire range of parts, or create a stock part that can be scaled to any size a customer
demands.

Since about 2006, the idea has been suggested and pursued to foster the convergence with
CNC and DNC of several trends elsewhere in the world of information technology that have
not yet much affected CNC and DNC. One of these trends is the combination of greater data
collection (more sensors), greater and more automated data exchange (via building new, open
industry-standard XML schemas), and data mining to yield a new level of business
intelligence and workflow automation in manufacturing. Another of these trends is the
emergence of widely published APIs together with the aforementioned open data standards to
encourage an ecosystem of user-generated apps and mashups, which can be both open and
commercialin other words, taking the new IT culture of app marketplaces that began in
web development and smartphone app development and spreading it to CNC, DNC, and the
other factory automation systems that are networked with the CNC/DNC. MTConnect is a
leading effort to bring these ideas into successful implementation.

[edit] Description
Modern CNC mills differ little in concept from the original model built at MIT in 1952. Mills
typically consist of a table that moves in the X and Y axes, and a tool spindle that moves in
the Z (depth). The position of the tool is driven by motors through a series of step-down gears
in order to provide highly accurate movements, or in modern designs, direct-drive stepper
motors. Closed-loop control is not mandatory today, as open-loop control works as long as
the forces are kept small enough.

As the controller hardware evolved, the mills themselves also evolved. One change has been
to enclose the entire mechanism in a large box as a safety measure, often with additional
safety interlocks to ensure the operator is far enough from the working piece for safe
operation. Most new CNC systems built today are completely electronically controlled.

CNC-like systems are now used for any process that can be described as a series of
movements and operations. These include laser cutting, welding, friction stir welding,
ultrasonic welding, flame and plasma cutting, bending, spinning, pinning, gluing, fabric
cutting, sewing, tape and fiber placement, routing, picking and placing (PnP), and sawing.

[edit] Tools with CNC variants

Drills
EDMs
Lathes
Milling machines
Wood routers
Sheet metal works (Turret Punch)
Wire bending machines
Hot-wire foam cutters
Plasma cuttings
Water jet cutters
Laser cutting
Oxy-fuel
Surface grinders
Cylindrical grinders
3D Printing
Induction hardening machines[citation needed]

[edit] Tool / Machine crashing


In CNC, a crash is causing the automated machinery to move in a way that is harmful to the
machine or tools, sometimes resulting in bending or breakage of cutting tools, accessory
clamps, vises, and fixtures, or causing damage to the machine itself by bending guide rails,
breaking drive screws, or causing structural components to crack under strain and break
apart.

Many CNC tools have no inherent sense of the absolute position of the table or tools when
turned on. They must be manually "homed" or "zeroed" to have any reference to work from,
and these limits are just for figuring out the location of the part to work with it, and aren't
really any sort of hard motion limit on the mechanism. It is often possible to drive the
machine outside the physical bounds of its drive mechanism, resulting in a collision with
itself or damage to the drive mechanism.

Many CNC tools also don't know anything about their working environment. They often lack
any form of sensory capability to detect problems with the machining process, and will not
abort if something goes wrong. They blindly follow the machining code provided and it is up
to an operator to detect if a crash is either occurring or about to occur, and for the operator to
manually abort the cutting process.

If the drive system is weaker than the machine structural integrity, then the drive system
simply pushes against the obstruction and the drive motors "slip in place". The machine tool
may not detect the collision or the slipping, so for example the tool should now be at 210mm
on the X axis but is in fact at 32mm where it hit the obstruction and kept slipping. All of the
next tool motions will be off by -178mm on the X axis, and all future motions are now
invalid, which may result in further collisions with clamps, vises, or the machine itself.

Collision detection and avoidance is possible, through the use of absolute position sensors
(optical encoder strips or disks) to verify that motion occurred, or torque sensors or power-
draw sensors on the drive system to detect abnormal strain when the machine should just be
moving and not cutting, but these are not a common component of most CNC tools.

Instead, most CNC tools simply rely on the assumed accuracy of stepper motors that rotate a
specific number of degrees in response to magnetic field changes. It is often assumed the
stepper is perfectly accurate and never mis-steps, so tool position monitoring simply involves
counting the number of pulses sent to the stepper over time. An alternate means of stepper
position monitoring is usually not available, so crash or slip detection is not possible.

[edit] Numerical accuracy vs Equipment backlash


Within the numerical systems of CNC programming it is possible for the code generator to
assume that the controlled mechanism is always perfectly accurate, or that accuracy
tolerances are identical for all cutting or movement directions. This is not always a true
condition of CNC tools.

CNC tools with a large amount of mechanical backlash can still be highly accurate if the
drive or cutting mechanism is only driven so as to apply cutting force from one direction, and
all driving systems are pressed tight together in that one cutting direction. However a CNC
device with high backlash and a dull cutting tool can lead to cutter chatter and possible
workpiece gouging.

The high backlash mechanism itself is not necessarily relied on to be repeatably accurate for
the cutting process, but some other reference object or precision surface may be used to zero
the mechanism, by tightly applying pressure against the reference and setting that as the zero
reference for all following CNC-encoded motions. This is similar to the manual machine tool
method of clamping a micrometer onto a reference beam and adjusting the vernier dial to
zero using that object as the reference.

[edit] See also


Computer-aided technologies
o Computer-aided engineering (CAE)
Coordinate-measuring machine (CMM)
Direct Numerical Control (DNC)
Design for Manufacturability for CNC machining
Multiaxis machining

[edit] References
1. ^ a b c d e f g Pease, William (1952), "An automatic machine tool", Scientific American 187 (3): 101115,
doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0952-101, ISSN 0036-8733,
http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/04/05/an-automatic-machine-tool/.
2. ^ Brittain 1992, pp. 210211.
3. ^ The International Biographical Dictionary of Computer Pioneers refers to Parsons as "the father of
computerized milling machines", and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers awarded him a citation
for "conceptualization of numerical control marked the beginning of the second industrial revolution."
4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Father of the Second Industrial Revolution", Manufacturing Engineering 127 (2),
August 2001, http://www.sme.org/cgi-bin/find-articles.pl?&01aum042&ME&20010802&&SME&
5. ^ Reintjes 1991, p. 16.
6. ^ Wildes & Lindgren 1985, p. 220.
7. ^ New Technology, pg. 47
8. ^ a b c d e Ross, Douglas T. (August 1978), "Origins of the APT language for automatically programmed
tools", ACM SIGPLAN Notices 13 (8): 6199, doi:10.1145/960118.808374, archived from the original
on 03-09-2010, http://www.webcitation.org/5o6WeFeUk.
9. ^ a b c Makely, William (August 2005), "Numbers Take Control: NC Machines", Cutting Tool Engineering
57 (8): 45, archived from the original on 03-09-2010, http://www.webcitation.org/5o6bsmK8i.
10. ^ Noble 1984.
11. ^ "The CAD/CAM Hall of Fame: Patrick J. Hanratty", American Machinist
12. ^ Weisberg, pp. 39.
13. ^ Weisberg, pp. 310.
14. ^ Krull, F.N. (September 1994), "The origin of computer graphics within General Motors", IEEE Annals
of the History of Computing 16 (3): 4056, doi:10.1109/MAHC.1994.298419, ISSN 1058-6180.
15. ^ a b Arnold, Heinrich Martin (November 2001), "The recent history of the machine tool industry and
the effects of technological change", LMU, doi:10.1.1.119.2125,
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.119.2125&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
16. ^ Holland 1989.
17. ^ Home Made CNC Machine. Hacked Gadgets - DIY Tech Blog.
18. ^ Desktop Manufacturing. Make (magazine) Vol 21, Feb, 2010.
19. ^ CNCzone discussion of Fenerty,
http://www.cnczone.com/forums/mach_software_artsoft_software/51586-
art_fenerty_has_retired_mach.html

[edit] Bibliography

Brittain, James (1992), Alexanderson: Pioneer in American Electrical Engineering, Johns


Hopkins University Press, ISBN 0-8018-4228-X.
Holland, Max (1989), When the Machine Stopped: A Cautionary Tale from Industrial America,
Boston: Harvard Business School Press, ISBN 978-0-87584-208-0, OCLC 246343673.
Noble, David F. (1984), Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation, New
York, New York, USA: Knopf, ISBN 978-0-394-51262-4, LCCN 83-048867.
Reintjes, J. Francis (1991), Numerical Control: Making a New Technology, Oxford University
Press, ISBN 9780195067729.
Weisberg, David, The Engineering Design Revolution, archived from the original on 03-09-
2010, http://www.webcitation.org/5o6XN0EG4.
Wildes, Karl L.; Lindgren, Nilo A. (1985), A Century of Electrical Engineering and Computer
Science at MIT, MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-23119-0.

[edit] Further reading


Wikimedia Commons has media related to: CNC

Herrin, Golden E. "Industry Honors The Inventor Of NC", Modern Machine Shop, 12 January
1998.
Hood-Daniel, Patrick and Kelly, James Floyd. Build your own CNC machine (Technology in
action series). Apress, 2009. ISBN 9781430224891
Siegel, Arnold. "Automatic Programming of Numerically Controlled Machine Tools", Control
Engineering, Volume 3 Issue 10 (October 1956), pp. 6570.
Smid, Peter (2008), CNC Programming Handbook (3 ed.), New York, NY, USA: Industrial
Press, ISBN 9780831133474, LCCN 2007-045901.
Vasilash, Gary. "Man of Our Age", Automotive Design & Production.

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Electrical discharge machining


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

An electrical discharge machine

Electric discharge machining (EDM), sometimes colloquially also referred to as spark


machining, spark eroding, burning, die sinking or wire erosion,[1] is a manufacturing
process whereby a desired shape is obtained using electrical discharges (sparks). Material is
removed from the workpiece by a series of rapidly recurring current discharges between two
electrodes, separated by a dielectric liquid and subject to an electric voltage. One of the
electrodes is called the tool-electrode, or simply the tool or electrode, while the other is
called the workpiece-electrode, or workpiece.

When the distance between the two electrodes is reduced, the intensity of the electric field in
the volume between the electrodes becomes greater than the strength of the dielectric (at least
in some point(s)), which breaks, allowing current to flow between the two electrodes. This
phenomenon is the same as the breakdown of a capacitor (condenser) (see also breakdown
voltage). As a result, material is removed from both the electrodes. Once the current flow
stops (or it is stopped - depending on the type of generator), new liquid dielectric is usually
conveyed into the inter-electrode volume enabling the solid particles (debris) to be carried
away and the insulating proprieties of the dielectric to be restored. Adding new liquid
dielectric in the inter-electrode volume is commonly referred to as flushing. Also, after a
current flow, a difference of potential between the two electrodes is restored to what it was
before the breakdown, so that a new liquid dielectric breakdown can occur.

Contents
[hide]

1 History
2 Generalities
3 Definition of the technological parameters
4 Material removal mechanism
5 Types
o 5.1 Sinker EDM
o 5.2 Wire EDM
6 Applications
o 6.1 Prototype production
o 6.2 Coinage die making
o 6.3 Small hole drilling
o 6.4 Metal disintegration machining
7 Advantages and disadvantages
8 See also
9 References
o 9.1 Bibliography
10 External links
[edit] History
In 1770, English physicist Joseph Priestley studied the erosive effect of electrical discharges.
Furthering Priestley's research, the EDM process was invented by two Russian scientists, Dr.
B. R. Lazarenko and Dr. N. I. Lazarenko, in 1943. In their efforts to exploit the destructive
effects of an electrical discharge, they developed a controlled process for machining of
metals. Their initial process used a spark machining process, named after the succession of
sparks (electrical discharges) that took place between two electrical conductors immersed in a
dielectric fluid. The discharge generator effect used by this machine, known as the Lazarenko
circuit, was used for many years in the construction of generators for electrical discharge.

Additional researchers entered the field and contributed many fundamental characteristics of
the machining method we know today. In 1952, the manufacturer Charmilles created the first
machine using the spark machining process and was presented for the first time at the
European Machine Tool Exhibition in 1955.[2]

In 1969 Agie launched the world's first numerically controlled wire-cut EDM machine.[3][4]
Seibu developed the first CNC wire EDM machine 1972 and the first system manufactured in
Japan.[citation needed]

[edit] Generalities
Electrical discharge machining is a machining method primarily used for hard metals or those
that would be very difficult to machine with traditional techniques. EDM typically works
with materials that are electrically conductive, although methods for machining insulating
ceramics[5][6] with EDM have also been proposed. EDM can cut intricate contours or cavities
in pre-hardened steel without the need for heat treatment to soften and re-harden them. This
method can be used with any other metal or metal alloy such as titanium, hastelloy, kovar,
and inconel. Also, applications of this process to shape polycrystalline diamond tools have
been reported.[7]

EDM is often included in the non-traditional or non-conventional group of machining


methods together with processes such as electrochemical machining (ECM), water jet cutting
(WJ, AWJ), laser cutting and opposite to the conventional group (turning, milling, grinding,
drilling and any other process whose material removal mechanism is essentially based on
mechanical forces).[8]

Ideally, EDM can be seen as a series of breakdown and restoration of the liquid dielectric in-
between the electrodes. However, caution should be exerted in considering such a statement
because it is an idealized model of the process, introduced to describe the fundamental ideas
underlying the process. Yet, any practical application involves many aspects that may also
need to be considered. For instance, the removal of the debris from the inter-electrode volume
is likely to be always partial. Thus the electrical proprieties of the dielectric in the inter-
electrodes volume can be different from their nominal values and can even vary with time.
The inter-electrode distance, often also referred to as spark-gap, is the end result of the
control algorithms of the specific machine used. The control of such a distance appears
logically to be central to this process. Also, not all of the current flow between the dielectric
is of the ideal type described above: the spark-gap can be short-circuited by the debris. The
control system of the electrode may fail to react quickly enough to prevent the two electrodes
(tool and workpiece) to get in contact, with a consequent short circuit. This is unwanted
because a short circuit contributes to the removal differently from the ideal case. The flushing
action can be inadequate to restore the insulating properties of the dielectric so that the flow
of current always happens in the point of the inter-electrode volume (this is referred to as
arcing), with a consequent unwanted change of shape (damage) of the tool-electrode and
workpiece. Ultimately, a description of this process in a suitable way for the specific purpose
at hand is what makes the EDM area such a rich field for further investigation and research.[9]
To obtain a specific geometry, the EDM tool is guided along the desired path very close to
the work, ideally it should not touch the workpiece, although in reality this may happen due
to the performance of the specific motion control in use. In this way a large number of current
discharges (colloquially also called sparks) happen, each contributing to the removal of
material from both tool and workpiece, where small craters are formed. The size of the
craters is a function of the technological parameters set for the specific job at hand. They can
be with typical dimensions ranging from the nanoscale (in micro-EDM operations) to some
hundreds of micrometers in roughing conditions.

The presence of these small craters on the tool results in the gradual erosion of the electrode.
This erosion of the tool-electrode is also referred to as wear. Strategies are needed to
counteract the detrimental effect of the wear on the geometry of the workpiece. One
possibility is that of continuously replacing the tool-electrode during a machining operation.
This is what happens if a continuously replaced wire is used as electrode. In this case, the
correspondent EDM process is also called wire EDM. The tool-electrode can also be used in
such a way that only a small portion of it is actually engaged in the machining process and
this portion is changed on a regular basis. This is, for instance, the case when using a rotating
disk as a tool-electrode. The corresponding process is often also referred to as EDM
grinding.[10]

A further strategy consists in using a set of electrodes with different sizes and shapes during
the same EDM operation. This is often referred to as multiple electrode strategy, and is most
common when the tool electrode replicates in negative the wanted shape and is advanced
towards the blank along a single direction, usually the vertical direction (i.e. z-axis). This
resembles the sink of the tool into the dielectric liquid in which the workpiece is immersed,
so, not surprisingly, it is often referred to as die-sinking EDM (also called conventional EDM
and ram EDM). The corresponding machines are often called sinker EDM. Usually, the
electrodes of this type have quite complex forms. If the final geometry is obtained using a
usually simple shaped electrode which is moved along several directions and is possibly also
subject to rotations often the term EDM milling is used.[11]

In any case, the severity of the wear is strictly dependent on the technological parameters
used in the operation (for instance: polarity, maximum current, open circuit voltage). For
example, in micro-EDM, also known as -EDM, these parameters are usually set at values
which generates severe wear. Therefore, wear is a major problem in that area.

The problem of wear to graphite electrodes is being addressed. In one approach a digital
generator, controllable within milliseconds, reverses polarity as electro-erosion takes place.
That produces an effect similar to electroplating that continuously deposits the eroded
graphite back on the electrode. In another method, a so-called "Zero Wear" circuit reduces
how often the discharge starts and stops, keeping it on for as long a time as possible.[12]

[edit] Definition of the technological parameters


Difficulties have been encountered in the definition of the technological parameters that drive
the process.

Two broad categories of generators, also known as power supplies, are in use on EDM
machines commercially available: the group based on RC circuits and the group based on
transistor controlled pulses.

In the first category, the main parameters to choose from at setup time are the resistance(s) of
the resistor(s) and the capacitance(s) of the capacitor(s). In an ideal condition these quantities
would affect the maximum current delivered in a discharge which is expected to be
associated with the charge accumulated on the capacitors at a certain moment in time. Little
control, however, is expected over the time duration of the discharge, which is likely to
depend on the actual spark-gap conditions (size and pollution) at the moment of the
discharge. The RC circuit generator can allow the user to obtain short time durations of the
discharges more easily than the pulse-controlled generator, although this advantage is
diminishing with the development of new electronic components.[13] Also, the open circuit
voltage (i.e. the voltage between the electrodes when the dielectric is not yet broken) can be
identified as steady state voltage of the RC circuit.

In generators based on transistor control, the user is usually able to deliver a train of pulses of
voltage to the electrodes. Each pulse can be controlled in shape, for instance, quasi-
rectangular. In particular, the time between two consecutive pulses and the duration of each
pulse can be set. The amplitude of each pulse constitutes the open circuit voltage. Thus, the
maximum duration of discharge is equal to the duration of a pulse of voltage in the train. Two
pulses of current are then expected not to occur for a duration equal or larger than the time
interval between two consecutive pulses of voltage.

The maximum current during a discharge that the generator delivers can also be controlled.
Because other sorts of generators may also be used by different machine builders, the
parameters that may actually be set on a particular machine will depend on the generator
manufacturer. The details of the generators and control systems on their machines are not
always easily available to their user. This is a barrier to describing unequivocally the
technological parameters of the EDM process. Moreover, the parameters affecting the
phenomena occurring between tool and electrode are also related to the controller of the
motion of the electrodes.

A framework to define and measure the electrical parameters during an EDM operation
directly on inter-electrode volume with an oscilloscope external to the machine has been
recently proposed by Ferri et al.[14] These authors conducted their research in the field of -
EDM, but the same approach can be used in any EDM operation. This would enable the user
to estimate directly the electrical parameter that affect their operations without relying upon
machine manufacturer's claims. Finally, it is worth mentioning that when machining different
materials in the same setup conditions, the actual electrical parameters of the process are
significantly different.[14]

[edit] Material removal mechanism


The first serious attempt of providing a physical explanation of the material removal during
electric discharge machining is perhaps that of Van Dijk.[15] Van Dijk presented a thermal
model together with a computational simulation to explain the phenomena between the
electrodes during electric discharge machining. However, as Van Dijk himself admitted in his
study, the number of assumptions made to overcome the lack of experimental data at that
time was quite significant.

Further models of what occurs during electric discharge machining in terms of heat transfer
were developed in the late eighties and early nineties, including an investigation at Texas
A&M University with the support of AGIE, now Agiecharmilles. It resulted in three
scholarly papers: the first presenting a thermal model of material removal on the cathode,[16]
the second presenting a thermal model for the erosion occurring on the anode[17] and the third
introducing a model describing the plasma channel formed during the passage of the
discharge current through the dielectric liquid.[18] Validation of these models is supported by
experimental data provided by AGIE.

These models give the most authoritative support for the claim that EDM is a thermal
process, removing material from the two electrodes because of melting and/or vaporization,
along with pressure dynamics established in the spark-gap by the collapsing of the plasma
channel. However, for small discharge energies the models are inadequate to explain the
experimental data. All these models hinge on a number of assumptions from such disparate
research areas as submarine explosions, discharges in gases, and failure of transformers, so it
is not surprising that alternative models have been proposed more recently in the literature
trying to explain the EDM process.

Among these, the model from Singh and Ghosh[19] reconnects the removal of material from
the electrode to the presence of an electrical force on the surface of the electrode that could
mechanically remove material and create the craters. This would be possible because the
material on the surface has altered mechanical properties due to an increased temperature
caused by the passage of electric current. The authors' simulations showed how they might
explain EDM better than a thermal model (melting and/or evaporation), especially for small
discharge energies, which are typically used in -EDM and in finishing operations.

Given the many available models, it appears that the material removal mechanism in EDM is
not yet well understood and that further investigation is necessary to clarify it,[14] especially
considering the lack of experimental scientific evidence to build and validate the current
EDM models.[14] This explains an increased current research effort in related experimental
techniques.[9]

[edit] Types
[edit] Sinker EDM

Sinker EDM allowed quick production of 614 uniform injectors for the J-2 rocket engine, six
of which were needed for each trip to the moon.[20]

Sinker EDM, also called cavity type EDM or volume EDM, consists of an electrode and
workpiece submerged in an insulating liquid such as, more typically,[21] oil or, less
frequently, other dielectric fluids. The electrode and workpiece are connected to a suitable
power supply. The power supply generates an electrical potential between the two parts. As
the electrode approaches the workpiece, dielectric breakdown occurs in the fluid, forming a
plasma channel,[9][16][17][18] and a small spark jumps.

These sparks usually strike one at a time[21] because it is very unlikely that different locations
in the inter-electrode space have the identical local electrical characteristics which would
enable a spark to occur simultaneously in all such locations. These sparks happen in huge
numbers at seemingly random locations between the electrode and the workpiece. As the base
metal is eroded, and the spark gap subsequently increased, the electrode is lowered
automatically by the machine so that the process can continue uninterrupted. Several hundred
thousand sparks occur per second, with the actual duty cycle carefully controlled by the setup
parameters. These controlling cycles are sometimes known as "on time" and "off time",
which are more formally defined in the literature.[9][14][22]

The on time setting determines the length or duration of the spark. Hence, a longer on time
produces a deeper cavity for that spark and all subsequent sparks for that cycle, creating a
rougher finish on the workpiece. The reverse is true for a shorter on time. Off time is the
period of time that one spark is replaced by another. A longer off time, for example, allows
the flushing of dielectric fluid through a nozzle to clean out the eroded debris, thereby
avoiding a short circuit. These settings can be maintained in micro seconds. The typical part
geometry is a complex 3D shape,[21] often with small or odd shaped angles. Vertical, orbital,
vectorial, directional, helical, conical, rotational, spin and indexing machining cycles are also
used.

[edit] Wire EDM

CNC Wire-cut EDM machine

In wire electrical discharge machining (WEDM), also known as wire-cut EDM and wire
cutting,[23] a thin single-strand metal wire, usually brass, is fed through the workpiece,
submerged in a tank of dielectric fluid, typically deionized water.[21] Wire-cut EDM is
typically used to cut plates as thick as 300mm and to make punches, tools, and dies from hard
metals that are difficult to machine with other methods.

The wire, which is constantly fed from a spool, is held between upper and lower diamond
guides. The guides, usually CNC-controlled, move in the xy plane. On most machines, the
upper guide can also move independently in the zuv axis, giving rise to the ability to cut
tapered and transitioning shapes (circle on the bottom square at the top for example). The
upper guide can control axis movements in xyuvijkl. This allows the wire-cut EDM
to be programmed to cut very intricate and delicate shapes.

The upper and lower diamond guides are usually accurate to 0.004 mm, and can have a
cutting path or kerf as small as 0.12 mm using 0.1 mm wire, though the average cutting
kerf that achieves the best economic cost and machining time is 0.335 mm using 0.25 brass
wire. The reason that the cutting width is greater than the width of the wire is because
sparking occurs from the sides of the wire to the work piece, causing erosion.[21] This
"overcut" is necessary, for many applications it is adequately predictable and therefore can be
compensated for (for instance in micro-EDM this is not often the case). Spools of wire are
longan 8 kg spool of 0.25 mm wire is just over 19 kilometers in length. Wire diameter can
be as small as 20 micrometres and the geometry precision is not far from +/- 1 micrometre.

The wire-cut process uses water as its dielectric fluid, controlling its resistivity and other
electrical properties with filters and de-ionizer units. The water flushes the cut debris away
from the cutting zone. Flushing is an important factor in determining the maximum feed rate
for a given material thickness.

Along with tighter tolerances, multiaxis EDM wire-cutting machining center have added
features such as multiheads for cutting two parts at the same time, controls for preventing
wire breakage, automatic self-threading features in case of wire breakage, and programmable
machining strategies to optimize the operation.

Wire-cutting EDM is commonly used when low residual stresses are desired, because it does
not require high cutting forces for removal of material. If the energy/power per pulse is
relatively low (as in finishing operations), little change in the mechanical properties of a
material is expected due to these low residual stresses, although material that hasn't been
stress-relieved can distort in the machining process.
The workpiece may undergo a significant thermal cycle, its severity depending on the
technological parameters used. Such thermal cycles may cause formation of a recast layer on
the part and residual tensile stresses on the workpiece.

[edit] Applications
[edit] Prototype production

The EDM process is most widely used by the mould-making tool and die industries, but is
becoming a common method of making prototype and production parts,[24] especially in the
aerospace, automobile and electronics industries in which production quantities are relatively
low. In Sinker EDM, a graphite, copper tungsten or pure copper electrode is machined into
the desired (negative) shape and fed into the workpiece on the end of a vertical ram.

[edit] Coinage die making

For the creation of dies for producing jewelry and badges by the coinage (stamping) process,
the positive master may be made from sterling silver, since (with appropriate machine
settings) the master is significantly eroded and is used only once. The resultant negative die is
then hardened and used in a drop hammer to produce stamped flats from cutout sheet blanks
of bronze, silver, or low proof gold alloy. For badges these flats may be further shaped to a
curved surface by another die. This type of EDM is usually performed submerged in an oil-
based dielectric. The finished object may be further refined by hard (glass) or soft (paint)
enameling and/or electroplated with pure gold or nickel. Softer materials such as silver may
be hand engraved as a refinement.

EDM control panel (Hansvedt machine). Machine may be adjusted for a refined surface
(electropolish) at end of process.
Master at top, badge die workpiece at bottom, oil jets at left (oil has been drained). Initial flat
stamping will be "dapped" to give a curved surface.

[edit] Small hole drilling

A turbine blade with internal cooling as applied in the high-pressure turbine.

Small hole drilling EDM is used in a variety of applications.

On wire-cut EDM machines, small hole drilling EDM is used to make a through hole in a
workpiece in through which to thread the wire for the wire-cut EDM operation. A separate
EDM head specifically for small hole drilling is mounted on a wire-cut machine and allows
large hardened plates to have finished parts eroded from them as needed and without pre-
drilling.

Small hole EDM is used to drill rows of holes into the leading and trailing edges of turbine
blades used in jet engines. Gas flow through these small holes allows the engines to use
higher temperatures than otherwise possible. The high-temperature, very hard, single crystal
alloys employed in these blades makes conventional machining of these holes with high
aspect ratio extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Small hole EDM is also used to create microscopic orifices for fuel system components,
spinnerets for synthetic fibers such as rayon, and other applications.

There are also stand-alone small hole drilling EDM machines with an xy axis also known as
a super drill or hole popper that can machine blind or through holes. EDM drills bore holes
with a long brass or copper tube electrode that rotates in a chuck with a constant flow of
distilled or deionized water flowing through the electrode as a flushing agent and dielectric.
The electrode tubes operate like the wire in wire-cut EDM machines, having a spark gap and
wear rate. Some small-hole drilling EDMs are able to drill through 100 mm of soft or through
hardened steel in less than 10 seconds, averaging 50% to 80% wear rate. Holes of 0.3 mm to
6.1 mm can be achieved in this drilling operation. Brass electrodes are easier to machine but
are not recommended for wire-cut operations due to eroded brass particles causing "brass on
brass" wire breakage, therefore copper is recommended.

[edit] Metal disintegration machining

Several manufacturers produce EDM machines for the specific purpose of removing broken
tools (drill bits or taps) from work pieces. In this application, the process is termed "metal
disintegration machining".

[edit] Advantages and disadvantages


Some of the advantages of EDM include machining of:

Complex shapes that would otherwise be difficult to produce with conventional


cutting tools
Extremely hard material to very close tolerances
Very small work pieces where conventional cutting tools may damage the part from
excess cutting tool pressure.
There is no direct contact between tool and work piece. Therefore delicate sections
and weak materials can be machined without any distortion.
A good surface finish can be obtained.
Very fine holes can be easily drilled.

Some of the disadvantages of EDM include:


The slow rate of material removal.
The additional time and cost used for creating electrodes for ram/sinker EDM.
Reproducing sharp corners on the workpiece is difficult due to electrode wear.
Specific power consumption is very high.
Power consumption is high.
"Overcut" is formed.
Excessive tool wear occurs during machining.
Electrically non-conductive materials can be machined only with specific set-up of
the process.[25]

[edit] See also


Electro chemical machining

[edit] References
1. ^ http://www.wire-cut.co.uk/wireedm.htm
2. ^ The History of EDM, http://www.atlantaedm.com/articles/a8-history-of-edm.php, retrieved 2010-08-
05
3. ^ Experience Agie, http://www.charmillesus.com/newsroom/literature/Agie/EXPERIENCE%2024.pdf,
retrieved 2009-11-02.
4. ^ What is wire EDM?, http://www.jobshop.com/techinfo/papers/whatiswireedm.shtml, retrieved 2009-
11-02.
5. ^ Naotake Mohria, Yasushi Fukuzawab, Takayuki Tanic, Nagao Saitoa and Katsushi Furutani.
Assisting Electrode Method for Machining Insulating Ceramics. CIRP Annals - Manufacturing
Technology. Volume 45, Issue 1, 1996, Pages 201-204. doi:10.1016/S0007-8506(07)63047-9
6. ^ Y.H. Liu, X.P. Lia, R.J. Jia, L.L. Yua, H.F. Zhanga and Q.Y. Li. Effect of technological parameter on
the process performance for electric discharge milling of insulating Al2O3 ceramic. Journal of
Materials Processing Technology. Volume 208, Issues 1-3, 21 November 2008, Pages 245-250.
doi:10.1016/j.jmatprotec.2007.12.143
7. ^ Chris J Morgan, R Ryan Vallance and Eric R Marsh. Micro machining glass with polycrystalline
diamond tools shaped by micro electro discharge machining. Journal of Micromechanics and
Microengineering, 2004, volume 14, 1687-1692 doi:10.1088/0960-1317/14/12/013
8. ^ Willard J. McCarthy, Joseph A. McGeough Machine tool article of the Enciclopaedia Britannica
URL [1]
9. ^ a b c d Antoine Descoeudres. Characterization of electrical discharge machining plasmas. Thse EPFL,
no 3542 (2006). Dir.: Christoph Hollenstein. URL [2].
10. ^ Feng-Tsai Weng, R.F. Shyua and Chen-Siang Hsub. Fabrication of micro-electrodes by multi-EDM
grinding process. Journal of Materials Processing Technology. Volume 140, Issues 1-3, 22 September
2003, Pages 332-334 doi:10.1016/S0924-0136(03)00748-9
11. ^ Jayakumar Narasimhana, Zuyuan Yua and Kamlakar P. Rajurkara. Tool Wear Compensation and
Path Generation in Micro and Macro EDM. Journal of Manufacturing Processes, volume 7, Issue 1,
2005, Pages 75-82. doi:10.1016/S1526-6125(05)70084-0
12. ^ Koelsch, James. "EDM: A Changing Competitive Calculus," Manufacturing Engineering, Society of
Manufacturing Engineers, October 2009
13. ^ Fuzhu Han, Li Chen, Dingwen Yu and Xiaoguang Zhou. Basic study on pulse generator for micro-
edm. The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology 33, 474-479 (2007). doi:
10.1007/s00170-006-0483-9 URL: http://www.springerlink.com/content/e40q854g2r5ku900/
14. ^ a b c d e Carlo Ferri, Atanas Ivanov and Antoine Petrelli. Electrical measurements in -edm. Journal of
Micromechanics and Microengineering 18, 085007+ (2008). doi:10.1088/0960-1317/18/8/085007
URL: http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0960-1317/18/8/085007/ e-print, i.e. author-created un-
copyedited version.
15. ^ Frans Van Dijk. Physico-mathematical analysis of the electro dicharge machining process. PhD
Thesis Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven. Around 1972. Sorry no date is on my printed copy.
16. ^ a b Dibitonto, D. D., Eubank, P. T., Patel, M. R. & Barrufet, M. A. Theoretical models of the
electrical discharge machining process. I a simple cathode erosion model. Journal of Applied Physics
66, 4095-4103 (1989).
17. ^ a b Patel, M. R., Barrufet, M. A., Eubank, P. T. & Dibitonto, D. D. Theoretical models of the
electrical discharge machining process. II the anode erosion model. Journal of Applied Physics 66,
4104-4111 (1989).
18. ^ a b Theoretical models of the electrical discharge machining process. III. The variable mass,
cylindrical plasma model
19. ^ Singh, A. & Ghosh, A. A Thermo-Electric Model of Material Removal During Electric Discharge
Machining. International Journal of Machine Tools Manufacture 39, 669-682 (1999).
20. ^ Bilstein, Roger E. (1999). Stages to Saturn: A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn Launch
Vehicle (NASA-SP4206). DIANE Publishing. p. 145.
http://books.google.com/books?id=JnoZTbVLx0MC&pg=PA145&lpg=PA145&dq=electrical+dischar
ge+machining+j-
2+injectors&source=bl&ots=C3zbUSO1MZ&sig=PfsEB_Er_a1FzhnI3p36Iad_wuQ&hl=en&ei=uaNu
TayvNYfpgAewwK1L&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onep
age&q=electrical%20discharge%20machining%20j-2%20injectors&f=false.
21. ^ a b c d e Jameson, 2001.
22. ^ Semon, 1975.
23. ^ Todd, Allen & Alting 1994, pp. 175179.
24. ^ http://www.componenteng.com/wire-edm-prototyping.html
25. ^ Kucukturk, G. & Cogun, C. A new method for machining electrically nonconductive workpieces
using electric discharge machining technique. Machining Science and Technology: An International
Journal, 14(2), 189-207. doi:10.1080/10910344.2010.500497 (2010).

[edit] Bibliography

Jameson, Elman C. (2001), Electrical Discharge Machining, SME, ISBN 978-


0872635210, http://www.sme.org/cgi-bin/get-item.pl?BK01PUB11&2&SME.
Semon, G. (1975), A Practical Guide to Electro-Discharge Machining, 2nd ed.,
Atelier De Charmilles, Geneva.
Todd, Robert H.; Allen, Dell K.; Alting, Leo (1994), Manufacturing Processes
Reference Guide, Industrial Press Inc., ISBN 0-8311-3049-0,
http://books.google.com/books?id=6x1smAf_PAcC.

[edit] External links


Research carried on EDM process
New Arc Detection Technology for Highly Efficient Electro-Discharge Machining

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Laser cutting
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. Please
improve this article if you can. The talk page may contain suggestions. (June 2009)

Laser cutting process on a sheet of steel.


CAD (top) and stainless steel laser-cut part (bottom)
This article needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and
removed. (December 2010)

Laser cutting is a technology that uses a laser to cut materials, and is typically used for
industrial manufacturing applications, but is also starting to be used by schools, small
businesses and hobbyists. Laser cutting works by directing the output of a high-power laser,
by computer, at the material to be cut. The material then either melts, burns, vaporizes away,
or is blown away by a jet of gas,[1] leaving an edge with a high-quality surface finish.
Industrial laser cutters are used to cut flat-sheet material as well as structural and piping
materials.

Contents
[hide]

1 Types
o 1.1 Laser microjet
2 Process
o 2.1 Vaporization cutting
o 2.2 Melt and blow
o 2.3 Thermal stress cracking
o 2.4 Stealth dicing of silicon wafers
o 2.5 Reactive cutting
o 2.6 Tolerances and surface finish
3 Machine configurations
o 3.1 Pulsing
4 Advantages and disadvantages
5 Production and cutting rates
6 History
7 See also
8 References
o 8.1 Bibliography
9 External links

[edit] Types

A diffusion cooled resonator

There are three main types of lasers used in laser cutting. The CO2 laser is suited for cutting,
boring, and engraving. The neodymium (Nd) and neodymium yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd-
YAG) lasers are identical in style and differ only in application. Nd is used for boring and
where high energy but low repetition are required. The Nd-YAG laser is used where very
high power is needed and for boring and engraving. Both CO2 and Nd/ Nd-YAG lasers can
be used for welding.[2]

Common variants of CO2 lasers include fast axial flow, slow axial flow, transverse flow, and
slab.

CO2 lasers are commonly "pumped" by passing a current through the gas mix (DC-excited)
or using radio frequency energy (RF-excited). The RF method is newer and has become more
popular. Since DC designs require electrodes inside the cavity, they can encounter electrode
erosion and plating of electrode material on glassware and optics. Since RF resonators have
external electrodes they are not prone to those problems.
CO2 lasers are used for industrial cutting of many materials including mild steel, aluminum,
stainless steel, titanium, paper, wax, plastics, wood, and fabrics. YAG lasers are primarily
used for cutting and scribing metals and ceramics.

In addition to the power source, the type of gas flow can affect performance as well. In a fast
axial flow resonator, the mixture of carbon dioxide, helium and nitrogen is circulated at high
velocity by a turbine or blower. Transverse flow lasers circulate the gas mix at a lower
velocity, requiring a simpler blower. Slab or diffusion cooled resonators have a static gas
field that requires no pressurization or glassware, leading to savings on replacement turbines
and glassware.

The laser generator and external optics (including the focus lens) require cooling. Depending
on system size and configuration, waste heat may be transferred by a coolant or directly to
air. Water is a commonly used coolant, usually circulated through a chiller or heat transfer
system.

Lasing Materials Applications


Boring
CO2
Cutting/Scribing Engraving
High-energy pulses

Nd Low repetition speed (1 kHz)

Boring
Very high energy pulses
Nd-YAG
Boring Engraving Trimming

[edit] Laser microjet

A laser microjet is a water-jet guided laser in which a pulsed laser beam is coupled into a
low-pressure water jet. This is used to perform laser cutting functions while using the water
jet to guide the laser beam, much like an optical fiber, through total internal reflection. The
advantages of this are that the water also removes debris and cools the material. Additional
advantages over traditional "dry" laser cutting are high dicing speeds, parallel kerf and
omnidirectional cutting.[3]

[edit] Process

Industrial Laser Cutting of Steel with Cutting Instructions Programmed Through the CNC
Interface
Generation of the laser beam involves stimulating a lasing material by electrical discharges or
lamps within a closed container. As the lasing material is stimulated, the beam is reflected
internally by means of a partial mirror, until it achieves sufficient energy to escape as a
stream of monochromatic coherent light. Mirrors or fiber optics are typically used to direct
the coherent light to a lens, which focuses the light at the work zone. The narrowest part of
the focused beam is generally less than 0.0125 in (0.3175 mm). in diameter. Depending upon
material thickness, kerf widths as small as 0.004 in (0.1016 mm) are possible.[4] In order to be
able to start cutting from somewhere else than the edge, a pierce is done before every cut.
Piercing usually involves a high-power pulsed laser beam which slowly makes a hole in the
material, taking around 515 seconds for 12-inch-thick (13 mm) stainless steel, for example.

The parallel rays of coherent light from the laser source often fall in the range between
1/16 inch to 1/2 inch (1.5875 mm to 12.7 mm) in diameter. This beam is normally focused
and intensified by a lens or a mirror to a very small spot of about 0.001 inch (0.0254 mm) to
create a very intense laser beam. In order to achieve the smoothest possible finish during
contour cutting, the direction of beam polarization must be rotated as it goes around the
periphery of a contoured workpiece. For sheet metal cutting, the focal length is usually
between 1.5 inches and 3 inches (38.1 mm and 76.2 mm)[5].

There are many different methods in cutting using lasers, with different types used to cut
different material. Some of the methods are vaporization, melt and blow, melt blow and burn,
thermal stress cracking, scribing, cold cutting and burning stabilized laser cutting.

[edit] Vaporization cutting

In vaporization cutting the focused beam heats the surface of the material to boiling point and
generates a keyhole. The keyhole leads to a sudden increase in absorptivity quickly
deepening the hole. As the hole deepens and the material boils, vapor generated erodes the
molten walls blowing eject out and further enlarging the hole. Non melting material such as
wood, carbon and thermoset plastics are usually cut by this method.

[edit] Melt and blow

Melt and blow or fusion cutting uses high-pressure gas to blow molten material from the
cutting area, greatly decreasing the power requirement. First the material is heated to melting
point then a gas jet blows the molten material out of the kerf avoiding the need to raise the
temperature of the material any further. Materials cut with this process are usually metals.

[edit] Thermal stress cracking

Brittle materials are particularly sensitive to thermal fracture, a feature exploited in thermal
stress cracking. A beam is focused on the surface causing localized heating and thermal
expansion. This results in a crack that can then be guided by moving the beam. The crack can
be moved in order of m/s. It is usually used in cutting of glass.

[edit] Stealth dicing of silicon wafers

Main article: wafer dicing

The separation of microelectronic chips as prepared in semiconductor device fabrication from


silicon wafers may be performed by the so-called stealth dicing process, which operates with
a pulsed Nd:YAG laser, the wavelength of which (1064 nm) is well adopted to the electronic
band gap of silicon (1.11 eV or 1117 nm).

[edit] Reactive cutting

Also called "burning stabilized laser gas cutting", "flame cutting".


Reactive cutting is like oxygen torch cutting but with a laser beam as the ignition source.
Mostly used for cutting carbon steel in thicknesses over 1 mm. This process can be used to
cut very thick steel plates with relatively little laser power.

[edit] Tolerances and surface finish

New laser cutters have positioning accuracy of 10 micrometers and repeatability of 5


micrometers.

Standard roughness Rz increases with the sheet thickness, but decreases with laser power and
cutting speed. When cutting low carbon steel with laser power of 800 W, standard roughness
Rz is 10 m for sheet thickness of 1 mm, 20 m for 3 mm, and 25 m for 6 mm. Rz =
12.528*(S^0.542)/((P^0.528)*(V^0.322)), where: S = steel sheet thickness in mm; P = laser
power in kW (some new laser cutters have laser power of 4 kW.); V = cutting speed in meters
per minute[6]

This process is capable of holding quite close tolerances, often to within 0.001 inch
(0.025 mm) Part geometry and the mechanical soundness of the machine have much to do
with tolerance capabilities. The typical surface finish resulting from laser beam cutting may
range from 125 to 250 micro-inches (0.003 mm to 0.006 mm).[2]

[edit] Machine configurations

Dual Pallet Flying Optics Laser

Flying Optics Laserhead

There are generally three different configurations of industrial laser cutting machines:
Moving material, Hybrid, and Flying Optics systems. These refer to the way that the laser
beam is moved over the material to be cut or processed. For all of these, the axes of motion
are typically designated X and Y axis. If the cutting head may be controlled, it is designated
as the Z-axis.

Moving material lasers have a stationary cutting head and move the material under it. This
method provides a constant distance from the laser generator to the workpiece and a single
point from which to remove cutting effluent. It requires fewer optics, but requires moving the
workpiece. This style machine tends to have the fewest beam delivery optics, but also tends
to be the slowest.

Hybrid lasers provide a table which moves in one axis (usually the X-axis) and move the
head along the shorter (Y) axis. This results in a more constant beam delivery path length
than a flying optic machine and may permit a simpler beam delivery system. This can result
in reduced power loss in the delivery system and more capacity per watt than flying optics
machines.

Flying optics lasers feature a stationary table and a cutting head (with laser beam) that moves
over the workpiece in both of the horizontal dimensions. Flying optics cutters keep the
workpiece stationary during processing and often do not require material clamping. The
moving mass is constant, so dynamics are not affected by varying size of the workpiece.
Flying optics machines are the fastest type, which is advantageous when cutting thinner
workpieces.[7]

Flying optic machines must use some method to take into account the changing beam length
from near field (close to resonator) cutting to far field (far away from resonator) cutting.
Common methods for controlling this include collimation, adaptive optics or the use of a
constant beam length axis.

The above is written about X-Y systems for cutting flat materials. The same discussion
applies to five and six-axis machines, which permit cutting formed workpieces. In addition,
there are various methods of orienting the laser beam to a shaped workpiece, maintaining a
proper focus distance and nozzle standoff, etc.

[edit] Pulsing

Pulsed lasers which provide a high-power burst of energy for a short period are very effective
in some laser cutting processes, particularly for piercing, or when very small holes or very
low cutting speeds are required, since if a constant laser beam were used, the heat could reach
the point of melting the whole piece being cut.

Most industrial lasers have the ability to pulse or cut CW (Continuous Wave) under NC
(numerical control) program control.

Double pulse lasers use a series of pulse pairs to improve material removal rate and hole
quality. Essentially, the first pulse removes material from the surface and the second prevents
the ejecta from adhering to the side of the hole or cut.[8]

[edit] Advantages and disadvantages


Advantages of laser cutting over mechanical cutting include easier workholding and reduced
contamination of workpiece (since there is no cutting edge which can become contaminated
by the material or contaminate the material). Precision may be better, since the laser beam
does not wear during the process. There is also a reduced chance of warping the material that
is being cut, as laser systems have a small heat-affected zone. Some materials are also very
difficult or impossible to cut by more traditional means.

Laser cutting for metals has the advantages over plasma cutting of being more precise and
using less energy when cutting sheet metal, however, most industrial lasers cannot cut
through the greater metal thickness that plasma can. Newer lasers machines operating at
higher power (6000 watts, as contrasted with early laser cutting machines' 1500 watt ratings)
are approaching plasma machines in their ability to cut through thick materials, but the
capital cost of such machines is much higher than that of plasma cutting machines capable of
cutting thick materials like steel plate.

The main disadvantage of laser cutting is the high power consumption. Industrial laser
efficiency may range from 5% to 15%. The power consumption and efficiency of any
particular laser will vary depending on output power and operating parameters. This will
depend on type of laser and how well the laser is matched to the work at hand. The amount of
laser cutting power required, known as heat input, for a particular job depends on the material
type, thickness, process (reactive/inert) used, and desired cutting rate.
Amount of heat input required for various material at various thicknesses using a CO2 laser
(watts)[9]
Material thickness (in)
Material
0.02 0.04 0.08 0.125 0.25
Stainless steel 1000 1000 1000 500 250
Aluminum 1000 1000 1000 3800 10000
Mild steel - 400 - 500 -
Titanium 250 210 210 - -
Plywood - - - - 650
Boron/epoxy - - - 3000 -

[edit] Production and cutting rates


The production rate is limited by a number of factors. Maximum cutting rate is limited by a
number of factors, including laser power, material thickness, process type (reactive or inert,)
and material properties.

Common industrial systems (1 kW+) will cut carbon steel metal from 0.020 inch to 0.5 inch
(0.508 mm and 12.7 mm) in thickness. For all intents and purposes, a laser can be up to thirty
times faster than standard sawing.

Cutting rates for various materials and thicknesses using a CO2 laser [ipm][citation needed]
Material thickness
Workpiece material 0.02 0.04 0.08 0.125 0.25 0.5 in.
0.508 1.016 2.032 3.175 6.35 12.7 mm
Stainless steel 1000 550 325 185 80 18
Aluminum 800 350 150 100 40 30
Mild steel - 210 185 150 100 50
Titanium 300 300 100 80 60 40
Plywood - - - - 180 45
Boron/epoxy - - - 60 60 25

[edit] History
In 1965, the first production laser cutting machine was used to drill holes in diamond dies.
This machine was made by the Western Electric Engineering Research Center.[10] In 1967,
the British pioneered laser-assisted oxygen jet cutting for metals. In the early 1970s, this
technology was put into production to cut titanium for aerospace applications. At the same
time CO2 lasers were adapted to cut non-metals, such as textiles, because they were absorbed
by metals.[11]

[edit] See also


Laser ablation
Laser converting
Laser drilling
Laser engraving
Laser-microjet
[edit] References
1. ^ Oberg, p. 1447.
2. ^ a b Todd, p. 186.
3. ^ Perrottet, D et al.,"Heat damage-free Laser-Microjet cutting achieves highest die fracture
strength", Photon Processing in Microelectronics and Photonics IV, edited by J. Fieret, et al.,
Proc. of SPIE Vol. 5713 (SPIE, Bellingham, WA, 2005)
4. ^ Todd, p. 185.
5. ^ Todd, p. 188.
6. ^ Research on surface roughness by laser cut by Miroslav Radovanovic and Predrag Dai
7. ^ Caristan, Charles L. (2004). Laser cutting guide for manufacturing. SME. p. 38.
ISBN 9780872636866. http://books.google.com/?id=pRah71xUxbMC&pg=PA38.
8. ^ Forsman, Andrew. "Superpulse A nanosecond pulse format to improve laser drilling" (pdf).
Photonics Spectra. http://web.gat.com/pubs-ext/miscpubs/A25867.pdf.
9. ^ Todd, Allen & Alting 1994, p. 188.
10. ^ Bromberg 1991, p. 202.
11. ^ Bromberg 1991, p. 204.

[edit] Bibliography

Bromberg, Joan (1991). The Laser in America, 1950-1970. MIT Press. p. 202.
ISBN 9780262023184.
http://books.google.com/books?id=P6Ta1MPiOM8C&pg=RA1-PA202.
Oberg, Erik; Franklin D. Jones, Holbrook L. Horton, Henry H. Ryffel (2004).
Machinerys Handbook (27th ed.). New York, NY: Industrial Press Inc. ISBN 978-
0831127008.
Todd, Robert H.; Allen, Dell K.; Alting, Leo (1994). Manufacturing Processes
Reference Guide. Industrial Press Inc.. ISBN 0-8311-3049-0.
http://books.google.com/?id=6x1smAf_PAcC.

[edit] External links


Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Laser cutting

Laser cutting steel parts for a miniature Live steam locomotive


Laser Glass Cutting Good Further Information Resource with White Paper
Laser Cutting and Laser Drilling TRUMPF's page with good information.
Laser Cutting Articles The Fabricator's list of laser cutting articles.
Laser Microjet, a large amount of documentation from the industry

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