Thanks to technological advancement, many machines that are vital in producing mass quality industrial and manufacturing applications are created every day. As a result, businesses have gone from manual to computerized machining. 

One of the most popular processes nowadays that industrial companies use is the CNC machining process. That’s why you have to know how the CNC machining works; it’s vital to learn more about plastic CNC machining so that you’ll know what CNC machines to use.

What is CNC Machining?

Computer numerical control machining or CNC machining is how manufacturing companies create custom-designed materials from a workpiece or blank materials. In this process, manufacturing companies use machine tools and computerized controls to perform a subtractive manufacturing process. As its name implies, the subtractive manufacturing process involves removing the layers of the blank material following the design set on the CNC machine. 

The CNC machine is programmable while the blank materials vary from composites, foam, glass, wood, metals, and plastics. There are also various types of CNC machining which includes the following:

  • EDM – Electrical discharge machining uses sparks or electrical discharges to produce a preferred shape. It’s also known as wire erosion, die sinking, spark eroding, and spark machining. 
  • Turning – This process is to create axially symmetric end products using stationary cutting tools. The process involves rotating a tool held in a chuck so that it’ll remove materials to produce the desired shape.
  • Milling – This process uses a cylindrical milling cutter that can rotate in various ways. As a result, the process can produce multiple impressions, holes, slots, and shapes. 
  • Laser-Cutting – In this process, it uses a laser to cut out hard materials. CNC machines usually use yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd: YAG), neodymium (Nd), and CO2 as lasers. Using a laser allows you to achieve accuracy at its highest level. 
  • Plasma-Cutting – Aside from laser-cutting, plasma-cutting also cuts out hard materials using plasma torches. These torches can create up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit temperature.

To perform the different types of CNC machining processes, you must use various types of machine tools, machines, and software applications. It’s vital to familiarize yourself with these components and equipment so you’ll know what to buy and use depending on the output you desire. Here are some of the common CNC machining components and equipment:

  • CNC Machine Models – There are two types of CNC machines that industrial companies use, namely the desktop and standard CNC machines. The desktop CNC machines are made for light to moderate production and use smaller parts, plastic foam, and other softer materials. On the other hand, the standard CNC machine is to operate multiple or specific machine operations. These operations include turning, milling, drilling, pressing, and other typical industrial operations.
  • CNC Drilling Machines – This type of machine is to perform precise holes of materials. With a programmed and stepwise procedure, drilling holes in thick materials are made possible and more accurate.
  • CNC Milling Machines – Aside from putting holes in a material, you also need to slice, cut, or shave off parts of the material. But to ensure greater precision, you need to program it according to its direction, angle, and depth of cut. 
  • CNC Plasma Cutters – For cutting two-dimensional shapes like sheet metals, you need to use a CNC plasma cutter. 
  • CNC Grinders – Although you don’t need greater precision in grating or grinding materials into your preferred shape, you need to use a CNC grinder for easier abrades. 
  • CNC Lathes – If you’re working on cylindrical, conical, or spherical shapes, then use CNC lathes. This CNC equipment allows you to cut the material even when it’s turning.
  • CAD Software – Before creating your CNC output, you need to create your vectors and designs using computer-aided design (CAD) software. From art to mechanics to architecture, you can choose the ones that’ll match your industry. 
  • CAM Software – After designing your CNC project, it’s time to produce G-codes. You use these G-codes to run your CNC machine. G-code is equivalent to the CNC machines’ language. That’s why using a CAM software can help you create lines or circles that you can feed into your CNC.
CNC Machining

Stages of CNC Machining

So after knowing what CNC machines, equipment, and software are vital for your CNC project, you should understand how the CNC machining process works. The stages can help you understand why it’s crucial to have the CNC software and equipment to produce a high-quality plastic CNC machining output. 

Here are the stages of the CNC machining process:

  • Design The CAD Model – Every project needs a plan, so don’t waste your plastic materials without first having a CAD model design. The CAD model design allows you to specify the geometries, dimensions, and other technical specifications of your output. Your CAD model design will depend on your CNC machine tools, as well as the materials you’ll use. 
  • Convert The CAD File – After your CAD design, you need a CNC-compatible file format so it’ll run in your CNC machine. In this stage, you need the CAM software to generate the G-code and M-code from the geometry extraction. The miscellaneous function code or M-code consists of the extra operations of the machine, like replacing and removing the machine cover. On the other hand, the G-code operates on the path the tools take, speed travel of the tools, start and end time, and other machine tools movements. 
  • Set-up The CNC Machine – When you’ve done converting the CAD file, it’s time to prepare your CNC machine. You must attach the tools to the proper machine component and affixing such a machine before running the CNC program. 

Key Benefits of Plastic CNC Machining

Now that you’re familiar with the tools, equipment, machines, and stages of CNC machining, you may be ready to purchase your own CNC equipment. However, one question that may be hindering you from using CNC machining is why use it when you have manual machines, right? 

Well, not only are you slowing your business growth, but you’re also not getting the benefits of using plastic CNC machining. That’s why you need to check the following benefits of plastic CNC machining to enlighten yourself:

1. Minimize Exposure To Safety Risks 

Generally, CNC machines are built for safety purposes; thus, they have features that are safer than the manual ones. With any machine, it can become a safety hazard without proper training and usage. But with CNC machines, the features have been designed to decrease incidents of machine and equipment hazards like amputation and caught-in hazards, chemical hazards, and the like. 

Because of the following features of CNC machines, you can avoid harming your employees at work:

  • The operator can work outside the CNC machines because most of these machines work on a transparent closed safety door. That’s why your operator can avoid flying hot or sharp materials that can harm them. 
  • CNC machines use residual circuit breaker (RCB) to keep your machines safe from faulty electrical outbreaks. If there’s an electrical fault, the RCB automatically shuts off the electrical power to avoid damages. 
  • Also, most CNC machines have built-in extraction units. These units automatically remove dust from shaping your plastic materials. Moreover, the extraction unit won’t allow the dust to escape because of its enclosed feature. As a result, you won’t expose your operators to eye irritation or from inhaling the dust. 
  • As with the cutting tools of CNC machines, it has a guard feature in which the latter automatically locks the cutter when not in use. Thus, the CNC cutting tools will only start when you set the guard in place.

2. Produce Complex Shapes

While you’re safely working with CNC machines, you can also produce intricate designs of your plastic material. Thanks to highly advanced pieces of equipment that you can control using a computer, creating complex designs are not that hard anymore. 

So if you want to produce complex plastic CNC machining outputs, your CNC machines must have three-, four- and five-axis machining centers. These machines have complex shapes like turbine blades, wing ribs, and other kinds of mold cavity or core.

While 3-Axis machining has been popular and most familiar to manufacturers, it’s limited to work on three axes. Thus, it’s best for not too deep parts as it only moves in three basic directions. 

On the other hand, 5-Axis Machining has two more axes aside from the three traditional axes. With such, the tool can move in five sides or all directions in a single operation. Thus, you can create parts with more complicated designs.

3. Work Precisely And Accurately

With complex designs, achieving an accurate and precise plastic CNC output is easy with the use of CNC machines. Because of CAD software, you only load your model into the system, and the CNC machines automatically produce the exact measurements of your model.

Because the movements of the tools rely on the programmable blueprint designs, cutting, milling, and designing the plastic materials are made perfect. For instance, if the blueprint has designated a specific measurement, it follows the exact measurement. 

After producing an exact model, the CNC machines can also create another output with accurate measurement and design. This capability of the machine allows you to produce plastic outputs without errors in measurements.

4. Results In Higher Efficiency

As a result of precision and accurate CNC machining, you’re increasing your business efficiency. So instead of focusing on one project for hours, just set up your machine, and it’ll do the work. Since you also set the timer, you can just visit it from time to time. While you’re away from the machines, you can do other miscellaneous tasks.

Imagine if you let all your CNC machines operate simultaneously. You may double the number of products you produce. Since they’re computer-operated, the production process is automatic and faster. Thus, you can create many outputs without wasting any effort, time, and materials. 

That’s why plastic CNC machining allows you to multi-task. You only need to set-up the machine then wait for the output while focusing on other business matters.

5. Decreases Material Wastes

While manufacturing companies produce bulk products, they also face environmental issues. With the material wastes that they create during the manufacturing process, polluting the environment became phenomenal, too. That’s why many companies are going green not only to help the environment but also to increase customers because eco-friendly businesses are more popular with consumers.

Well, if you’re in the plastic production industry, you can also help decrease environmental challenges by using a CNC machine. With the precision and accuracy of plastic CNC machining, you only produce little to zero raw materials from each project. 

Since you don’t need any guesswork, you won’t waste plastic materials from trial and error. For some, just a single mistake can significantly affect the finished product. As a result of manual plastic production, you’re creating more wastes. 

But with plastic CNC machining, you won’t waste materials because you already programmed the design. 

6. Reduce Expenses

Lastly, one of the most significant contributions of plastic CNC machining is saving businesses from high expenses. No matter how high your sales are, if you’re expenses are also high, then you’re not maximizing your profits. But if you want to keep your business thriving, you must decrease your costs.

One way to do this is to invest in CNC machines. They may be expensive nowadays, but because of the many benefits that CNC machining has, people are creating more CNC machines. With such, the price could drop lower as time passes by. 

Don’t worry about buying such CNC machining tools and equipment because you’re reducing costs on wages, material wastes, and training. Since you can operate the CNC machines single-handedly, you won’t need to employ too many operators. One operator can oversee more than a couple of CNC machines. 

With regard to reducing costs on materials, you’re not wasting materials because of precision and accuracy. Most importantly, your operators can train CNC machining virtually so you won’t need to spend much on training expenses.

As a result, your business can produce more plastic CNC outputs without too many expenses.


To sum it up, plastic CNC machining is both advantageous on your part as well as the environment. Fully understanding how plastic CNC machining works helps you maximize your production rate while lessening your expenses. Moreover, because you can produce precise outputs, you can save on wasting your materials.

As long as you’re using the right CNC machining tools for every project, you won’t worry about wasting time, effort, and materials.

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