Computer numerical control

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What is CNC Machining?

CNC machining is a term commonly used in manufacturing and 

industrial applications, but exactly what does the acronym CNC 

stand for and what is a CNC machine?

The term CNC stands for \\\'computer numerical control\\\', and the 

CNC machining definition is that it is a subtractive 

manufacturing process which typically employs computerized 

controls and machine tools to remove layers of material from a 

stock piece—known as the blank or workpiece—and produces a 

custom-designed part. This process is suitable for a wide range 

of materials, including metals, plastics, wood, glass, foam, 

and composites, and finds application in a variety of 

industries, such as large CNC machining and CNC machining 

aerospace parts. When speaking in terms of the machine itself, 

the CNC machine definition is that it represents the actual 

programmable machine that is capable of autonomously performing 

the operations of CNC machining. Note the contrast between the 

process (CNC machining definition) versus the machine (CNC 

machine definition).

Subtractive manufacturing processes, such as CNC machining, are 

often presented in contrast to additive manufacturing 

processes, such as 3D printing, or formative manufacturing 

processes, such as liquid injection molding. While subtractive 

processes remove layers of material from the workpiece to 

produce custom shapes and designs, additive processes assemble 

layers of material to produce the desired form and formative 

submits machine commands dictating the tooling’s actions and 

movements to the machine’s integrated computer, which operates 

and manipulates the machine tooling. Initiating the program 

prompts the CNC machine to begin the CNC machining process, and 

the program guides the machine throughout the process as it 

executes the necessary machine operations to produce a custom-

designed part or product.

CNC machining processes can be performed in-house—if the 

company invests in obtaining and maintaining their own CNC 

equipment—or out-sourced to dedicated CNC machining service 


Types of CNC Machining Operations

CNC machining is a manufacturing process suitable for a wide 

variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace, 

construction, and agriculture, and able to produce a range of 

products, such as automobile frames, surgical equipment, 

airplane engines, and hand and garden tools. The process 

encompasses several different computer-controlled machining 

operations—including mechanical, chemical, electrical, and 

thermal processes—which remove the necessary material from the 

workpiece to produce a custom-designed part or product. While 

chemical, electrical, and thermal machining processes are 

covered in a later section, this section explores some of the 

most common mechanical CNC machining operations including:




CNC Drilling

CNC Milling

Milling is a machining process which employs rotating multi-

point cutting tools to remove material from the workpiece. In 

CNC milling, the CNC machine typically feeds the workpiece to 

the cutting tool in the same direction as the cutting tool’s 

rotation, whereas in manual milling the machine feeds the 

workpiece in the opposite direction to the cutting tool’s 

rotation. Operational capabilities of the milling process 

include face milling—cutting shallow, flat surfaces and flat-

bottomed cavities into the workpiece—and peripheral milling—

cutting deep cavities, such as slots and threads, into the 


CNC Machining Equipment and Components

As indicated above, there is a wide range of machining 

operations available. Depending on the machining operation 

being performed, the CNC machining process employs a variety of 

software applications, machines, and machine tools to produce 

the desired shape or design.

Types of CNC Machining Support Software

The CNC machining process employs software applications to 

ensure the optimization, precision, and accuracy of the 

custom-designed part or product. Software applications used 





Course Contents

Basic Math & Trigonometry


Safety & First Aid

Fundamentals of CAD

Conventional Machine Shop Operations

CNC Machine Shop Operations

Manual Programming

CNC Software Programming (CAM)

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