With the tremendous growth in technology, CNC machining has far exceeded what we can accomplish with manual operation. It has elevated what metal fabricators can build with levers, screws, and buttons. The advent of CNC machining has also rendered excellent control and comfort to machine operators. By using CNC machining, manufacturers can more easily fabricate parts around the globe.

What Is CNC machining?

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control. The process drives metal fabrication with increased automation, productivity, and versatility.

The primary component of CNC machining includes a command function, a drive or a motion system, and a feedback system. In other words, a CNC machine utilizes a computer-driven machine tool to manufacture a part of solid material in a customized shape.


The inner mechanisms of a CNC machine rely on digital instructions, usually fed on computer-aided manufacturing or computer-aided design software like SolidWorks.


Firstly, operating a CNC machine involves an engineer making a design on software and then transferring it to a CNC programmer.


Secondly, after moving the design, the programmer opens the file in the Computer-Aided Manufacturing program to select the tools required to execute the NC program for the CNC. The programmer then sends the NC program to the CNC machine and gives an operator a list of appropriate tooling setups.


Thirdly, the operator loads the tools and raw materials. They also verify whether the machine makes parts according to the requisite customization and specifications by running sample pieces and measuring them.

Generally, the setup operator renders the first article piece to the concerned department that approves the quality of the material. The department ensures that the dimensions of the material are as per the requirements.


Finally, the CNC machine is loaded with sufficient raw materials to make the required number of custom metallic materials. During the whole procedure, a machine operator scrutinizes the working of the machinery to ensure that it is smoothly functioning, loaded with adequate raw materials, and producing the custom metals as per the specifications.


Typically, CNC machining operates with two different types of software.

Computer-Aided Drawing (CAD)

For entry-level CNC machining, manufacturers employ CAD software for designing parts. Many CAD software programs on the market allow you to create designs with custom specifications. The most popular CAD programs include AutoCAD, Rhino3D, and SolidWorks.

Today, there are also many cloud-based CAD solutions available. Many CAD programs also allow integrating designs with CAM. Otherwise, you need to transfer the file from CAD to CAM.

Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM)

The main distinction between CAD and CAM software is that CAM allows you to establish a “job tree.” This job tree lets you customize your workflow, tool paths, and cutting simulations before fabrication begins.

CAM software serves as an addition to CAD software. It generates g-codes that regulate the movements and speed of CNC tools and raw materials and directs them where to go. The wizards present in CAM software make it convenient to program a CNC machine. Some of the most sought-after CAM programs include Mastercam, Edgecam, and Solidcam.

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Types of CNC Machines

There are countless CNC machines on the market today. If your focus is metal fabrication, custom CNC machining can help you cut or move materials as directed on the controller. Similarly, these machines can also pick up and pass materials like sheet metal in an assembly line.

Let’s examine some of the more common types of CNC machines below.


Lathes turn the workpiece and transfer the cutting tool to the workpiece. Primary lathes consist of a 2-axis, but adding more axes to the lathes doubles the complexity of the cutting procedure. Typically, lathes make symmetrical shapes like spheres, cones, or cylinders.


CNC routers have a striking resemblance to CNC milling machines. For instance, the only difference lies with the suitable materials for cutting. Routers are well-suited for cutting softer materials, not metals. They are ideal for those materials which do not require higher accuracy. Moreover, the reason behind this lower accuracy is lower power output. However, routers are incredibly fast in their function and produce parts at a breakneck pace.


Unlike manual milling, which uses handwheels or screws to cut a metallic piece, a CNC mill uses highly accurate ball screws to the precise coordinates. Overall, milling CNC machines may vary in size and may work on a range of axes.


A CNC grinding machine employs a rotating grinding wheel to remove material. After that, the ultimate goal of a grinding machine is to render a high-end precision finish to a custom metal display.

Plasma Cutters

In CNC plasma cutting, a powerful laser cuts and fabricates metal. Plasma cutters cut pre-programmed designs and shapes, like custom metal displays or POP wire.

3D Printers

A 3D printer uses programs that direct the small pieces to make the custom shape. Usually, a laser solidifies the liquid contents as the layer grows. As a result, this layer-to-layer formation of 3D parts makes metal fabrication considerably easier.

Key Takeaways

Today, CNC machines can enhance efficiency in aerospace, defense, electronics, mining, food industry, automotive, product designing, sheet metal, press brakes, and more.

Modern CNC machining is adept at transforming sheet metal into complex designs. Through automation, you can program CNC machines to function at a rapid pace with incredible repetition. Custom CNC machining can automate any process for you according to your allotted time, resources, and specifications. In conclusion, the automation done through CNC machinery enhances the quality and accuracy of the process.


If you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused about which CNC machining process to use, we’ve got you covered.

Wirefab Inc. has nearly 70 years of knowledge about metal fabrication. Whether you need custom CNC machining, sheet metal welding, or custom wire POP displays, we’re here to help. Above all, we’re always eager to solve our customers’ problems clear their queries with a broad range of manufacturing capabilities. Reach out to us today to see how we can simplify your next project.

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