History of CNC Machines


In the past, manufacturing industries used milling machines and lathes. However, many have since adopted the use of CNC machining for milling and lathing purposes. Why is CNC essential? CNC benefits manufacturing industries in numerous ways. The technology eases operations, decreases labor costs, and saves time. For example, you can use the X-Carve Pro software to design woodwork projects and boost production.


If you’re new to the technology, here’s a quick gist of CNC machines’ evolution.

How did numerical control originate?

The concept of CNC is traced back to the basic numerical idea (NC). This great idea began with the automation of machine tools that were used in multiple processes. They initially incorporated distinct concepts of programmable logic. The invention of the first NC machines was in the 1940s. However, the 1950s saw the advent of more machines – and these were somewhat superior.

These devices were mostly used in manufacturing and were constructed based on existing tools. All the instruments were modified with motors to move the different controls in the machines. The machines were later improved using analog and digital computers, which led to what’s now referred to as numerical control. 

How did the first CNC machine come about?

After World War II, a researcher named John Parsons researched to improve the aircraft’s functioning. He created stiff skins for the aircraft, which prompted many other research projects in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The study was launched in 1949, and a MIT professor designed an experimental milling machine.

Before the projects, a system was designed to help in the production of helicopter blades. John Parsons discovered airfoil coordinates computation on an IBM multiplier and later fed the information into a Swiss jig borer. This is then believed to be the first NC machine since it manufactured different helicopter blade templates. And it accomplished this by feeding punctured cards in a torn system that would read and generate parts based on this information preprogrammed.

What was the impact of digital technology on the CNC machine?

With time, numerical control technology kept o advancing, and the familiar shape of the modern CNC machine started taking shape in the 1960s and 1970s. Digital technology-enhanced automation and production processes became faster and more accurate. With advanced computers and other tech gadgets, individuals can now design their own CNC machines. What’s more? Most companies own one or more CNC machines, and this is particularly true for woodworking industries.

What are the major components of CNC technology?

There have been colossal changes in the evolution of CNC technology. However, some aspects of technology have remained the same over time. All automated manufacturing machines of the early days still feature three significant components. These are a command function, a motion system, and a feedback system.

Final thoughts

CNC technology has undergone enormous changes throughout history. With advances in technology, you can now use a CNC machine to ease production processes, save time and reduce most production errors. CNC machines can execute various tasks, and as we expect more advancements as most industries embrace CNC technology and automation.

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Communicator. Alcohol fanatic. Entrepreneur. Pop culture ninja. Proud travel enthusiast. Beer fan.A real dynamo when it comes to buying and selling sheep in Nigeria. Spent 2002-2007 licensing foreign currency for fun and profit. Spent 2001-2007 selling heroin in the financial sector. Developed several new methods for buying and selling jungle gyms in the UK. Prior to my current job I was investing in pond scum in Hanford, CA. Garnered an industry award while working on jump ropes in Salisbury, MD.