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CNC Machining - A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners Banner

Comprehensive CNC Machining Guide

Regarding advanced manufacturing methods, CNC machining tops the list, offering a wide range of applications. Be it prototyping or mass manufacturing, this technique provides robust performance and scalability to manufacturers. This comprehensive CNC guide will walk you through all the essential elements if you're new to CNC machining.

Whether you plan to outsource CNC manufacturing or integrate the CNC machine processes in-house to scale your business, this guide will help you with every vital detail. As there are hundreds of ways to use computer numerical control (CNC) technology, you need to know how to get started. We at Zeal not only offer on-demand CNC services but also help you get started with the basics of CNC (Computer Numerical Control). So let's explore this cutting-edge technology with this comprehensive guide.

What is CNC Machining?

Computer numerical control (CNC) is among the most-used manufacturing techniques. The CNC machine uses pre-programmed computer software that instructs the movements of several tools. It can operate machines like lathes, grinders, and routers with the highest efficiency and throughput. In addition, fabrication processes become much faster and earlier with this method.

Types of CNC Machines?

Several types of CNC machine processes can perform various heavy-duty operations in a shorter turnaround time. Some of the popular types of CNC machines are:

CNC Milling

Milling is among the most popular types of CNC machines that have integrated tools for cutting and drilling. The materials are present inside the milling CNC machine. Then, the computer will instruct the tools to cut or drill them. The majority of the CNC milling machines are available in 3 to 6-axis settings. A milling machine comes in handy for manufacturing spur gears or drilling workpiece bore to make slots.

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CNC Turning

In this method, the material bars are held between a chuck and rotated while the tool is fed to the workpiece. It's an ideal method to get the desired shape material. Then, the machine moves the raw material bar and removes material to create intricate geometries. It is also known as subtraction machining.

CNC Grinding

CNC grinding is a precision performance tool that leverages a rotating wheel to cut metal from the workpiece. Grinding machines are ideal for manufacturing ball bearings, camshafts, transmission shafts and many other workpieces. It's a suitable technique if you need higher accuracy and precise finishing. Products made using grinding are usually cylindrical.

CNC Routing

Routing works similar to CNC lathes, but it's used for performing more intricate tasks like cutting edges, rabbets and complex shapes. The CNC routing machine supports various materials like sheet metal, wood, plasterboard and more.

CNC routing is ideal for preparing door engraving, wood panels, frames, musical instruments, exterior body, and more.

CNC Drilling

Drilling machines are usually applied for mass production, and they have a multi-function machining centre that can be twisted or mingled. Thus, this machine is ideal for performing operations including counterboring, reaming, creating holes, and more.

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Custom CNC Machining Services
CNC Machine

Modes of CNC Machining Operations

3-Axis Machining

In 3 axis CNC machining, the material workpiece remains stationary. The cutting tools function along the XYZ plane to scrape the materials from the workpiece. It is ideal for various drilling and milling operations, and it's suitable for components that don't need intricate geometry.

4-Axis Machining

The 4-axis machine works similar to a 3-axis machine, but it has an extra rotary movement. This additional rotary moves around the X-axis, which is also known as the A axis. This rotation trims the workpiece around the B axis.

5 Axis Machining

The 5-axis machines are suitable for operating workpieces from five different sides simultaneously. It can pick any two of the three axes among the X, Y, and Z-axis. Also, the A, B, and C axis can operate at a 180° rotation around the X, Y, and Z axes. Thus, it's ideal for creating high precision and complex geometry parts.

CNC Machining vs. 3D Printing

The working mechanism of CNC processes and 3d printing is different, and we can divide the comparison into four core elements:

Material Wastage

CNC machining is subtractive, and 3d printing is an additive process, and the material wastage is higher in CNC.

Product Quality

CNC machines offer a higher heat tolerance & it can manufacture objects with a smoother finish. In 3d printing, the product quality is easier to personalize using different 3d printing technologies.

Manufacturing Speed

CNC machining is ideal for mass manufacturing as it offers a faster turnaround time compared to 3d printing. CNC machining has an assembly line, and 3d printing has a single printing bed.

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Parts Size

CNC machines can manufacture objects in various sizes and on the other hand, you can only 3d print components that are as big as the printing bed.

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CNC Machining Metal Parts
CNC milling drilling

Benefits of CNC Machining

  • Higher accuracy to ensure consistent product quality
  • It offers excellent production speeds and efficiency
  • It offers excellent production speeds and efficiency

Limitations of CNC Machining

  • CNC manufacturing is slightly expensive than manual operations
  • Companies need skilled individuals to operate this machine

Design for CNC Machining

Kickstart your CNC hand-on with our quick CNC machining design guide. Follow these rules to get started with multiple operations:

Cavities & Pockets

  • Recommended depth: 4 x cavity width
  • Feasible depth: 10 x tool diameter or 25 cm (10'')

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Internal Edges

  • Recommended: larger than ⅓ x cavity depth
  • Minimum wall thickness
    • Recommended: 0.8 mm (for metals)
    • Feasible: 0.5 mm
    • Recommended: 1.5 mm (for plastics)
    • Feasible: 1.0 mm


  • Recommended depth: 4 x nominal diameter
  • Max. depth: 10 x nominal diameter


  • Recommended length: 3 x nominal diameter
  • Recommended size: M6 or larger
  • Feasible size: M2


  • Standard: ± 0.125 mm (.005'')
  • Feasible: ± 0.025 mm (.001'')

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Material Selection

A variety of materials are available in plastic and metal for various CNC operations, including:

Plastic Materials:

ABS, ABS-M30i, ASA, PC, PC-ISO, Nylon, Ultem, and more

Metal Materials:

Aluminium, Stainless Steel, Brass, Titanium, Copper, and more

Surface Finishing

  • Anodizing
  • Painting
  • Polishing
  • Plating
  • Sanding
  • Bead blasting
CNC Manufacturing Products
CNC Machining

CNC Cost Reduction Tips

  • Limit the use of tight tolerances and keep it around ± 0.125.
  • Adjust the part's design to have rounded corners. It will allow the machine to run continuously compared to sharp edges.
  • Limit the depth of pockets in your product's design to four times the length.
  • Thin walls take more time to operate as they are fragile; it's better to increase wall thickness to save cost.
  • Instead of custom sizes, use standard-sized drills to optimize the operation.

How Does a CNC Machine Work?

  1. First, designers prepare a CAD model of a product that they need to manufacturing
  2. Once the design is ready; engineers use CAM software to prepare cutting paths and pick the right tools to achieve the desired output.
  3. The cutting paths are compiled as Gcode, and this gives instructions for the matching. Standard instructions involve orientation, location, and speed.
  4. The CNC machine is then set up, and the blank is jigged in the correct position.
  5. The CNC machine runs the Gcode to prepare a part with minimal manual work.
CNC Metal Machining Products

List of CNC Machining Tools

  • CNC Lathes
  • Plasma Cutters
  • Carbon Steel Tool
  • Milling Machine
  • CNC Routers
  • High-Speed Steel
  • Cemented Carbide

Wrapping Up

Get started with CNC services and improve your production speed with this automated method. Keep the above cost optimization tips while operating a design. Gain unparalleled performance with CNC compared and thrive on optimized manufacturing.

Industries and Applications

The following industries are the most ardent users of AM technologies in their businesses.


Lightweight aerodynamics parts are desirable in the automobile industry. This contributes to making cars more energy efficient. 3D printing in the automotive industry is used both for rapid prototyping services as well as for some end parts creation.


The precision and accuracy of 3D print processes are helping the manufacturing industry reduce material wastage, save time, money, and efforts.


Rapid prototyping has become a crucial component used in R&D departments of leading businesses. It helps save time and money for the manufacturers.

Medical and Healthcare

This is one of the most promising sectors for applications of 3D printing. Some of the applications include prototyping for product development to creating actual patient solutions, such as dental crowns, prosthetics, implants, human tissues, and organs, as well as 3D printed surgical instruments.

What is 3D Printing?


3D architectural models enable businesses to showcase accurate details of projects. Architects also have greater design flexibility when they use 3D CAD models.

Aluminum 3D Printing


Lightweight aerodynamics parts are desirable in the automobile industry. This contributes to making cars more energy efficient. 3D printing in the automotive industry is used both for rapid prototyping services as well as for some end parts creation.


This industry was one of the earliest adopters of additive manufacturing. Rapid prototyping has become a critical component in the development of replacement and end parts in this industry.

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