Computer numerical control (CNC) has transformed the industrial manufacturing and homemade design fields tremendously over the past few decades. With automation and precision being the two key components of CNC, it’s truly amazing what can be designed today compared to just one generation ago. So, imagine what the future of CNC technology may hold.
Some leaders in manufacturing have posed the question about whether current forms of CNC programming developed by humans will even be necessary in the future. With knowledge-based machining processes, adaptive and closed loop machining, along with automated feature recognition becoming more advanced each day, many experts predict that human CNC programmers will be in much less demand in the near future. This means a programmer-oriented field could endure a very drastic change over the next several years.
Just a few years ago, 3D printing was nothing more than an afterthought for many individuals. Now, it appears as if it could completely replace what we’ve come to know as traditional manufacturing methods. Known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing builds layers of materials to create objects. 3D printers are currently available on the market, and many are very reasonably priced and are being used by individuals in their homes for what is essentially personal manufacturing.
As for CNC technology, CNC machines have already begun to drop in price and are becoming more readily available to the public. Expect to see a continued decrease in the price of these machines. Plus, they’ve become easier to use, and you don’t have to be a math whiz or have manufacturing experience to both assemble and utilize a CNC mill, lathe, or plasma cutter. The main difference between CNC machines and 3D printers is that CNC tools take away – or subtract – materials for large pieces to create an object, whereas 3D printers add materials.
Much like personal desktop computers, cell phones, radios, and MP3 players, CNC machines have already started getting smaller. While they are becoming more compact like other forms of technology, this decrease in size has made CNC machinery easier to store. Hence, more machinery and manufacturing enthusiasts have had the opportunity to store and use CNC machines right in their homes. This trend will likely continue, and the machines will gain even more features for customization.
Despite changes that occur in any industry and with any technology, there is certainly a bright future ahead for CNC machining. To see any piece of technology make our lives easier and more efficient is a great thing. With the continued growth of smaller and more affordable CNC equipment, the next great inventor might be able to achieve incredible success in his or her own living room using a CNC machine.