CNC (computer numerical control) prototyping is a comparatively new process in the machining world that allows for greater efficiency through higher levels of automation, and by having the machine and its computer controls perform all the work. While CNC prototyping machines are pricey and complex, they rather quickly pay for themselves by minimizing the workload and preventing errors.
The first key advantage of CNC prototyping is that it improves automation, removing the need of an operator for all but a few parts of the work. CNC prototyping machines could be left unwatched for hours or, if necessary, even days, allowing operators to spend time on other tasks. As well, this allows a company to employ less operators, hence saving on overhead. Safety is increased when there is no operator, because then any damage occurring after a potentially hazardous machining error will be confined to the machine itself. CNC prototyping machines can also work considerably faster than human machinists, being stronger and able to continue without breaks. They can also be operated late at night, when most of the workers would have gone home, since machines do not need to be bothered about being sleepy or getting paid for overtime.
The second most significant benefit to CNC prototyping is that it produces the same exact result each and every time. Even the best human operator will have trivial variations among finished outcomes, but a CNC machine will bring exactly the same result all the time. This is highly important in the modern time of homogeneous and exchangeable parts, where a single defective cut can render the machine entirely unusable. All that is needed is a single program to be created and fed into the machine. Then the machine can work away at however many work pieces are needed, producing an exact replica down to thousandths of an inch each and every time.
The third considerable advantage to CNC prototyping is the machine’s flexibility. Though humans are a lot more flexible and trainable in comparison to machines, a CNC machine can be totally reprogrammed in a matter of hours to manufacture a completely different product. Therefore, it is possible to revert back to old programs or install new programs if a new work piece is needed. This gives CNC prototyping machines a large advantage over other machines, as they are quick to shift to producing an entirely different output without needing new part installations or an overhaul of key components. This also ensures that CNC prototyping machines will be able to keep up with customer demand, knowing how they can very quickly switch from producing a part in surplus to one that is lacking, if ever there is a need.