The automotive industry has come a long way from the days of the “moving assembly line.” In the past few years, it has seen advances in design tech and manufacturing processes, which have brought improvements in vehicle performance. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at a process that is playing a key role in the transformation of automotive manufacturing: CNC machining.
What is CNC Machining?
CNC machining is a computer-controlled manufacturing process capable of building highly accurate parts from various raw materials. In the automotive sector, metal is typically used as the raw material for CNC production. The CNC machines rely on pre-programmed codes and software to send instructions to the tools like lathes or drills, ensuring they make accurate cuts to manufacture parts.
How CNC Machining Is Used in Automotive
CNC machining in the automotive industry involves producing different parts via turning, casting, grinding, milling, and drilling. CNC software is used to relay movement-based tasks to factory tools used for part manufacturing.
Although the process is highly automated, operators must input their designs into the machine. Once done, the CNC system will create the finished material, rendered to perfection. CNC technology has significantly increased production numbers, allowing manufacturers to meet demand and expand their supply footprint.
Vehicle Parts Produced with CNC Machines
CNC machining facilities produce various car parts. Below is a list of parts commonly manufactured using the process:
- Engine Blocks: CNC machines can easily create the perfect engine blocks by processing aluminum alloy blocks and converting them into cylindrical shapes. All you need is to program the machine for the specific product, and it will make several copies of the blocks that reflect both form and function.
- Mirrors: Once done the manual way, the mirror assembly is now largely carried out with CNC machines. The key reason for this is the CNC system’s ability to precisely cut the glass and place the components, which helps to create the best quality vehicle.
- Gearboxes and Drive Axles: Gearboxes are parts that help improve the engine’s torque or modify the speed of the motor. Drive axles are rods that connect the wheels. Both have complex designs and require tight tolerances to work efficiently, and CNC machines ensure these requirements are met within specifications.
- Cylinder Heads: CNC machines can also produce cylinder heads for the cylinder inside the internal combustion engine. The process involves removing material from solid, raw aluminum blocks. Additionally, manufacturers can use the CNC system to produce other components like fuel pump systems and brake system valves.
- Roof Panels: Before CNC machining, most auto parts manufacturers used steel to design interior and roof panels. But CNC technology has made it possible to use lightweight materials like polymers and plastic to create such parts. Moreover, operators can now make highly accurate-sized cutouts for components like a gas gauge, speedometer, etc.
- Starter Motors: Starter motors are one of the most critical parts of a vehicle – they rotate the internal combustion engine, allowing it to work on its own. Many automotive companies today use CNC machines to produce starter motors as well as engines.
- Lighting: CNC systems can help create a number of automobile parts for lighting. For example, CNC operators can make acrylic glass, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), and reflectors to precision. And it’s also possible to produce vehicle headlights, which ensure the light spreads to a point where the driver can comfortably see what’s ahead.
Benefits of CNC Machining Car Parts
CNC machining has several advantages over other car part production methods. The main ones are:
High Production Speed
CNC machining operates a lot faster than manual machining. The primary driver for this is the computerized-control system—it speeds up parts production by preventing fatigue issues faced by labor. Plus, it also removes the need to repeatedly enter the part design, making it quicker to produce several copies of that part.
As CNC technology uses CAM/CAD software to upload project specifications to the machine, there are no variances in the digital and real design. This offers a significant advantage to manufacturers because they can provide a consistent experience to vehicle users. And let’s not forget that besides offering design consistency, CNC technology allows you to produce parts and shapes that wouldn’t be possible with other manufacturing methods.
State-of-the-art CNC machines can facilitate mass production with precision and speed. Automation is the key here—once a part has been produced on a CNC machine, robotic processes assist in creating several copies of it without manual intervention. Therefore, operators have more time to do innovative tasks such as designing other car parts. Besides, plasma CNC machines can help make custom parts according to the customers’ specifications.