The History of CNC Machines

CNC machining or Computer Numerical Control originally came from NC or just Numerical Control. NC machines didn’t necessarily use computers, they could be controlled by other factors. CNC machines control tools through a computer program.

When these machines first came on the scene, there was a large increase in productivity for machine tools because they could be run without requiring constant attention.

The first commercial NC machines, which ran from punched tape, were slow to catch on with manufacturers. To make them more popular, the US Army bought and loaned out 120 of these machines to manufacturers.

Even though the manufacturers began to familiarize themselves with these machines, there was a problem. Each manufacturer was pushing its own language for defining part programs, because a universal language didn’t exist.

During the 1960’s many developments helped to better these machines:

  • G-code language became standardized for part programs
  • CAD replaced paper drawings
  • Minicomputers became available making CNC cheaper and more powerful

The next decade brought slower economies and rising employment costs. This was a platform for CNC machines to begin replacing older technologies. Eventually, the Germans and Japanese caught on and became successful in the CNC machine industry.

Over the last few decades CNC machines have become even more advanced and easier to work with. Microprocessors have made CNC controls even cheaper. Learn more about the newest CNC machine technologies by visiting the Brooks Associates website.

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