CNC machine is the abbreviation of ‘Computer numerical control’. CNC machining is a mechanized method where a computer, digitized data and CAM program is used to control, automate and track the actions of a machine. Some of the different types of such machines include: lathe, milling machine, welding machines, induction hardening machines, embroidery machines, 3D printers, Electrical discharge machines, grinders, laser or water jet cutters, wood routers, hot-wire foam cutters, glass cutters, sheet metal stamping machines, robot etc.

Linear and Rotary CNC machines

CNC machine movements can be either linear or rotary. Some machines can even have both linear and rotary movements. Examples of Linear machines are: Laser cutting machines and water jet cutting machines which use linear axes X and Y. Examples of Rotary machines are: Milling machines using three axes X, Y and Z. Examples of machines which are both linear and rotary are: Five axes milling machine which use two rotary axes and three linear axes. Five axes enhance the flexibility to cut and operate in full 180º hemisphere. Some Laser cutting machines come with five axes too. A Robot arm is one such example of five axes CNC machine.

Desktop CNC machine

Desktop CNC machines are smaller machine versions which can be easily used and maintained at home. For example, miniature versions of industry-sized machines, which perform actions like drilling and milling, perform exactly the same operation at the ease of home.

Computer Aided Manufacturing

Computer Aided Manufacturing or Machining (CAM) – CAM as the name implies uses computer assistance in order to manufacture work pieces. Computer aided manufacturing can be used in vivid manufacturing process like management process, planning process, transportation process and storage process. The main intention of CAM is to fasten up the production process and mechanism with precise dimensions and consistency. Computer aided machining (CAM) and computer aided design (CAD) is a popular combination used in many schools and colleges to create object models.

Numerical Control Machine

Numeric control – refers to a basic program which consists of numerical instructions to perform different operations.

Control Machine – stands for a machine which is controlled by set of instructions or programs.

Numeric Control Machine is also known as NC Machine. Numeric Control code is programmable automation, where the process is mainly controlled by symbols and alphanumeric.  Some of the well known NC codes are G-code and ISO code which were used in early 70’s for initial CNC machines.


G-code created for one machine may not work for another machine. Post processor – is basically used to modify g-code, to match up with the specifications of any other CNC machine. Post processors are nothing but text files which are simple to read and understand. These text files can be easily opened and modified in notepad. On the whole, any CAM system can generate output code for any CNC machine. Postprocessors usually come free with CAM system or may be with some extra cost.

CNC machines get better with age and hence, the capability and performance purely depends on its age just like any other computer.