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Computer numerical control (CNC) machines play very important role in the advanced manufacturing industry for rapid prototype, high precesion mould tooling, complex geometry parts from 1pcs to high volume production. These high precesion machines are controlled by a computer system and provide high level of efficiency, accuracy and consistency to replace manual machine in most circumstance.

A lots machined parts that were impossible to be made years ago due to high cost and low efficiency, or complex geometry, but now we can make any complex parts easily with CNC machining. We can see there are many different custom parts that CNC machines can make with various types of CNC machines. Each cnc machine differs in construction, the way they operate and the types of product they can make.

Keep reading to learn all about the 7 main types of CNC machines and their unique functions. 


CNC machining can be defined a subtractive manufacturing technique that uses computer numerical control (CNC) machines to cut, drill, or shape materials using high-precision tools, it is a process of manufacturing by which workpieces are made with the use of computer numerically controlled machines. As a result, manufacturers can produce parts in less time, reduce waste and eliminate the risk of human error.

This precision manufacturing process is used to control a wide variety of simple and complex machinery, which will be discussed in this article. Essentially, CNC machining makes it possible for three-dimensional cutting to be completed by following one set of prompts.

The Different Types of CNC Machines

If you want to know what is a CNC machine, here we break down the different types of cnc machines for you. These high precesion machines are designed to manufacture a wide variety of custom machined parts with different type of materials but mainly for metal material. As such, there are 7 main types of commonly used metal CNC machines.

It’s important to know that different types cnc machines required same basic knowledge and technique before operate these machines. They require the skills of a trained professional to be able to produce high quality machined parts. All of the following machines use G-code, which is the language that a CNC machine understands. Each type of CNC machine caters to a specific purpose.

1. CNC Lathe Machine

A cnc lathe is a CNC machine that functions to cut work pieces as they are rotated. CNC lathes can make precise cuts quickly by using various turning tools.

These CNC machines are quite effective in the precision they offer compared to manual lathes. They often have fewer axes than CNC milling machines, and are therefore smaller in size and more compact.

1. CNC Lathe Machine

The movement characteristics of CNC lathe processing are: the rotary workpiece rotates around its own axis, and the tool does the forming feed movement. The workpieces it processes are usually rotary workpieces. The machined forming surface is usually a plane, a surface of revolution, a threaded surface, etc.

2. CNC Milling Machine

A CNC milling machine is a computer-controlled machine tool that uses a milling cutter to remove material from the surface of a workpiece. The CNC milling machine is one of the most versatile and widely used machine tools in industry today.

2. CNC Milling Machine

CNC milling machine can be used for both industrial and commercial purposes. A CNC milling machine includes a computer-controlled cutting tool that moves vertically or horizontally with the help of motors and lead screws. The table on which the material to be milled rests can move in three directions – X, Y and Z.

3. CNC Router Machine

CNC router is a machine that is used for cutting, shaping and routing wood or other soft metal material. It is a type of computer-controlled machine tool that can be used in various industries.

The CNC router machine works by using a software to create the design which will be transferred to the CNC router. The software will then use this design to cut out the desired shape from the wood or other material.

CNC Router Machine

A CNC router is similar to a CNC mill. The CNC router machine works by using a software to create the design which will be transferred to the CNC router. The software will then use this design to cut out the desired shape from the wood or other material.. CNC routers reduce waste and increase productivity by producing various items in a much shorter amount of time than other machines.

4. CNC Plasma Cutter Machine

A CNC Plasma Cutter machine is a machine that cuts metal sheets by using a plasma torch. The plasma torch is operated by an electric arc, which melts the metal and leaves it in a molten state. The plasma cutter then forces this molten metal through a nozzle to form the shape of the cut.

CNC Plasma Cutter Machine

The CNC Plasma Cutter has been used in various industries for cutting sheet metal and other metals. It is mainly used for cutting out shapes from flat pieces of metal, such as car bodies or steel beams.

With a CNC plasma cutter, gas is blown at a very high speed from a nozzle. While this is being done, an electrical arc forms through the gas coming out of the nozzle to the surface that is being cut.

This converts some of the gas into plasma, and these plasma temperatures range from 10,000-50,000 degrees. The plasma is hot enough to melt whatever material is being cut, and it blows away any molten metal from the site of the cut.

In terms of shape and size, CNC plasma cutters are very similar to CNC routers. These machines only work with two-dimensional shapes.

5. CNC Electric Discharge Machine (EDM)

The CNC Electric Discharge Machine, also known as the EDM, is a machine that cuts metal by using an electric discharge.

The EDM is a type of computer-controlled machining tool that is used to cut metal. It works by using an electric discharge to create a spark on the surface of the metal. The spark erodes and melts the material away from the area being cut. In this process, the material is removed from a specific work piece by a series of recurring electrical discharges between two electrodes. These electrodes are separated by a dielectric fluid, which often receives an electric voltage. In this machine, the material is placed in between two electrodes and the machine then calculates to see the amount of electrical discharge each electrode needs to produce.

CNC Electric Discharge Machine (EDM)

EDM process mainly suitable for machining groove, logo which cnc milling and cnc wire cutting can’t machine.

6. CNC Laser Cutter

The CNC laser cutter is a machine that can cut almost any material, with precision, which allows it to work in a variety of industries.

The CNC laser cutter is an important tool in the manufacturing industry. It is used for cutting out shapes from materials like wood and metal. This machine is also used to create prototypes for companies and products because it can cut out shapes with precision.

This machine works by using a computer to tell the laser where to cut and how deep to make the cuts. The computer sends these instructions through a controller that then operates the CNC laser cutter’s axes, or motors, which move the linear rails that guide its cutting head around on the material being cut.

CNC Laser Cutter machine

These types of machines are similar to CNC plasma machines—the only difference is that lasers are mostly used for cutting and are great when it comes to cutting metals, plastic or hardwood. Depending on the density and strength of the material, the intensity of the laser can be adjusted.

7. CNC Drilling Machine

A CNC drilling machine is an automated device that can be programmed to drill holes in different shapes and sizes in a variety of materials. The process of CNC drilling involves the use of a computer-controlled drill that makes cuts on the material surface by means of rotating bits.

7. CNC Drilling Machine

The movement form of the drilling machine is relatively simple, and the hole processing is generally carried out through the point movement form. The CNC drilling machine can complete multiple processes of hole processing, such as drilling, reaming, reaming, etc. The tools used in each process are also different, corresponding to the roughing, semi-finishing and finishing stages of the hole respectively. 


More other machining machines

More other CNC machining machines

In addition to the seven types of machine tools mentioned above, there are also many special-purpose machine tools at 3Q MACHINING, such as slow-moving wires for processing high-precision contour dimensions, grinding machines for processing flatness and surface finish, gear hobbing machine tools for processing gears, and thread rolls for processing threads. Pressing machines, sawing machines used in the preparation of blanks, and water jet cutting machines, various complex forms of multi-functional compound machine tools, turning and milling compound machine tools are the most representative one.

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Author: Mose Li

Author: Mose Li

Director of Project Engineering at 3Q Machining

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