From Manual to CNC: The Evolution of Precision Machining Services

The field of CNC machining has undergone significant transformations since the days of punch-tape-controlled machines. Modern CNC machines have advanced to include up to five axes that utilize multiple tools to perform a variety of tasks. One of the main applications of these machines is CNC metal machining. Nowadays, the majority of tasks are automated, whereas in the past, they were predominantly performed manually. If you’re interested in learning more about the history and evolution of CNC machining, read on.

The Early CNC Machines

The first precision machining services and machines were developed in the early 1940s. This machine was initially referred to as the NC machine. Before the advent of NC machining, the fabrication and metalworking industries used simple manual tools. The primary goal of the NC machine was to make aircraft parts with complicated dimensions. During the 40s, computers were not invented, so the machine had to use punch tape for moving the tools.

In the past, NC machines were operated by G-codes that were fed into the machine via punched tape. These codes were responsible for directing the machine’s movement and adjusting its position. Unlike modern CNC machines, NC machines required a significant amount of manual labor since automated codes were not feasible due to their hardwired design. Despite this limitation, the NC machine was still capable of improving production accuracy and laid the groundwork for the precision machining services that we have available today. 

Purpose Of NC Machines

During the Second World War, there was a surge in demand for metal products, and as a result, the USA Air Force required a more efficient method of production without compromising on accuracy. This led to the development of NC machines, which ultimately fulfilled both requirements.

Although complete automation was not possible as NC machines still required some human input, today’s CNC machines are incredibly sophisticated. While engineers still need to supervise operations, production speed has significantly increased, and errors have been reduced.

Despite the ongoing evolution of technology, CNC machinery has surpassed its predecessors, the NC machines, in terms of speed and performance.

Evolution Of Today’s CNC Factory

The highly automated precision machining services are possible due to the technological advancements we leverage today. These automated motion-control systems are still used based on the three major components of their predecessors. They need a common function, whether through a digital or analog system, a flap handle, or a cam follower, to activate it. The drive motion system, such as the cylinder, motor, valves, or clutch, provides feedback like the encoder. 

The early NC machines had a control level that would ride on the cam. With this, the motor would rotate to work the machine. However, if the feedback cable broke, there was no way of stopping the fluid flow.

Additionally, novel forms of precision machining services were also developed. They used the same concepts as CNC machining, including electrical discharge, an electron beam, and photochemical machining. These and many others were selected based on the material used for the mass-production process. Moreover, other common processes are laser, plasma cutting, oxy-fuel, and water-jet machines.

In the early 1950s, the demand for enhanced efficiency and productivity in making weapons and machines increased even more. Hence, Richard Kegg was the one who made the world’s first ever CNC machine, called Cincinnati Milacron Hydrotel, in 1952. Later, Kegg filed a patent for his CNC machine in 1958. 

CNC machining gained popularity worldwide in the late 1960s, largely due to the development of computer-aided design and machining in the early 1970s. The inclusion of CAM and CAD in CNC machines also revolutionized precision machining services. However, initially, these were not considered standard parts of manufacturing.

Fast forward to 1976, and the incorporation of 3D CAM and CAD further enhanced CNC machining capabilities. By 1989, software-controlled machinery had become the industry standard, marking another significant milestone in the evolution of CNC machining.

The precision machining services of today are based on machines that are controlled electronically, resulting in highly predictable outcomes. Additionally, they are versatile in that they can work with a wide range of materials including wood, plastic, metal, foam, and fiberglass

Also Read- The Evolution of CNC Turning and Milling: Past, Present, and Future

Application Of Today’s CNC Machines

The evolution of CNC machines over time has been significant, resulting in a surge in popularity as companies recognize the benefits they offer for manufacturing processes. Precision machining services, which are essential for achieving precise and accurate results, are not only crucial in the industrial sector but also play a vital role in other industries.

As a result, precision machining services are utilized across various industries, including:

Industrial Applications

  • Automotive

CNC machines play a critical role in the automotive industry. The automotive and car industries rely on CNC machines for producing prototypes and in production.

  • Consumer Electronics

While it may be surprising, the consumer electronics industry also uses the CNC machine process. Companies like Apple use these machines for their device production processes. For instance, the MacBook’s chassis is acquired from aluminum which is performed with CNC machineries.

  • Military

The military and aerospace industries are two of the primary users of CNC machining due to its high accuracy and precision capabilities. CNC machines are the best option for these sectors as they have the ability to manufacture replacement and updated parts on-demand, ensuring critical equipment is always functioning optimally.

Manufacturing Applications

  • Prototyping

These machines are considered an ideal option for making prototypes since they are autonomous. After getting the CAD file, you can easily send it to the CNC machine, and fabrication can be done shortly. 

  • Production

Because CNC machines provide higher accuracy and precision, they are best suited for producing high-quality machine components. The material support of the process also enhances its use in part fabrication.

  • Tooling

Precision machining services are also an ideal option in the direct manufacturing process and have helped many industries immensely. However, it is also used for indirect manufacturing processes to help different processes like injection molding.

Also Read- The Art of Precise Machining and Manufacturing: Meeting Needs of Discerning Buyers


Throughout the transition from NC to CNC technology, the machinery has enhanced its speed and accuracy. However, there is still significant room for further enhancement of this technology. Engineers continue to adapt CNC machines to make them even more precise and efficient, resulting in widespread recognition of the benefits of precision machining services across various industries and businesses.