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CNC machines are invaluable manufacturing tools across many sectors, including the medical device industry. These solutions are used to craft parts and components out of plastics, metals and other diverse materials. “CNC” stands for Computer Numerical Control, a technology that automatically controls machining tools by means of a computer. But how exactly do these computer-driven tools work—and what can CNC machines make?

As a medical device contract manufacturer, Marshall Manufacturing Company provides a range of precision CNC machining processes. We collaborate with each customer to implement state-of-the-art CNC solutions to shorten lead times, reduce costs and maximize quality. To help you understand this technology—and whether it’s the best choice for your project—let’s take a few minutes to explore how CNC machines work:

What is CNC Machining? 

CNC machining is a unique manufacturing process that uses pre-programmed computer software to create parts. CNC machining is a form of subtractive manufacturing, where all needed components are cut out from a larger workpiece of metal, plastic or other materials. 

One core appeal of CNC machining is its consistency. Because this process uses computer software to produce parts, it can replicate the same design with extreme accuracy. This advantage makes CNC machining a natural choice for industries in need of high-precision parts, such as medical device manufacturing.

Another key benefit of CNC machining is its versatility. Computer Numerical Control software can be reprogrammed to accommodate different types of parts, materials and features—giving manufacturers remarkable flexibility across their prototyping and production processes. 

How Do CNC Machines Work?

Now that we have a basic definition of CNC machining, here’s some insight into how CNC machines operate:

At its core, CNC machining is all about using digitized instructions to monitor, control and automate a machine’s movements. For CNC machines, those instructions come in the form of CAD files (computer-aided design). CAD files contain digital 2D and 3D designs that specify the features and dimensions of a part. These files are read and interpreted by the computer program on the CNC machine, creating an automated cutting process based on the desired features of the part.

Once a CAD file provides instructions (or code) to follow, the CNC machine uses several axes of movement to bend, cut or manipulate the workpiece. Many CNC machines use a combination of rotary and linear movements to match the exact dimensions required, allowing them to produce complex parts with superb accuracy. 

To review, CNC machines work by manipulating various tools around a varying number of axes (typically three to five). Because these machines follow exact instructions from a computer program each time, they can produce multiple components or parts with excellent precision, speed and consistency. CNC machines follow a subtractive manufacturing process, where material is removed from a stock (or workpiece) and cut into the desired part. 

Frequently Asked Questions on CNC Machines

What is the definition of a CNC machine?

A CNC machine is a manufacturing tool that uses computerized controls to remove layers of material from a workpiece and create precision parts. 

What can CNC machines make?

CNC machining is an incredibly flexible manufacturing process, making it ideal for a wide variety of use cases. A few examples of parts that CNC machines can produce include the following:

  • Precision surgical tools
  • Dental devices
  • Orthopedic products
  • Introducers
  • Aerospace equipment
  • Automobile parts

How many types of CNC machines are there?

CNC technology can be used to support a wide variety of machining operations, ranging from turning and milling to CNC Laser Welding, CNC Swiss Machining and more. Here’s a general overview of the primary CNC machine types:

How are CNC machines so accurate?

CNC machines rely on computer-aided designs, which tell them where and how to cut the workpiece into its desired shape. These digital instructions allow CNC machines to manipulate the workpiece across multiple axes with unmatched precision—supporting more dependable and cost-efficient machining operations. 

CNC Machining at Marshall Manufacturing

Marshall is a premier medical device contract manufacturer, serving our customers through technical expertise, value engineering and powerful machining capabilities. Our advanced CNC machines help medical device companies realize significant cost savings, faster production and consistent quality. From CNC Wire and Tube Bending to CNC Swiss Machining, Marshall can provide the guidance and expertise your company needs to leverage CNC machines.

Ready to learn more about CNC machines and how these powerful tools can support your next manufacturing project? Then contact Marshall Manufacturing Company today. You can also connect with us for more insights into our unique CNC machining capabilities—or advice on whether CNC machines are the ideal choice for your prototyping or production needs. We look forward to working with you.