CNC Machining Trends Impacted by the Pandemic

Fortune Business Insights found that the global CNC machining market in 2020 was 81.95 billion USD, and was projected to grow from 83.99 billion to 128.41 billion USD between 2021 and 2028.  This growth rate proves that while the demand for CNC machining did drop briefly in 2020 due to the pandemic, its resiliency is still quite strong. 

Part of the reason for such market durability is that the CNC machining industry is rapidly evolving by adopting new efficiency-boosting trends. Here’s a look at a few.  

Digital Twin Modeling

The practice itself dates back as far as on-earth simulations of malfunctioning NASA spacecrafts while they were still in flight, but computing advancements have taken digital twin modeling to new heights. 

A complete virtual replica of the physical product, engineers use digital twins to simulate operating conditions and analyze their effects. This enables them to plan for difficulties in the machining process before they occur. For example, singularities are spaces along a tool path where the primary rotating axis of the machine can no longer control the object’s orientation, resulting in vibrations and poor surface finish called “chatter marks”.  The result is a need for further machining — or even wasted product. 

By creating a digital twin beforehand, programmers can predict where singularities will occur. Once they do, they can modify their code to avoid them, helping them manufacture their parts according to spec on the first try. Other benefits include the use of testing conditions to enable predictive maintenance, so that parts may be prepared before they ever break. 

Empowering greater efficiency and anticipation, expect digital twin modeling to become a critical part of the CNC industry in 2021 — and well beyond. 

IoT Integration 

Though hardly new, the IoT is permeating every industry and uniting the digital and physical world. CNC machining is not exempt from this trend, as IoT integration has a lot to offer automated manufacturing as a whole. A few ways IoT integration can improve CNC machining are:

  • Greater quality control. With sensors embedded into the bulk material, CNC machines can be alerted or shut down by the IoT if a malfunction occurs. This means better quality control over CNC processes, ensuring that the part is manufactured correctly the first time.
  • An automated workforce. Machines are better at performing repetitive tasks than people, but they often must be accompanied by human workers in a manufacturing setting. The IoT enables CNC machines to communicate with other robots, enabling all digital workers to work together.
  • Remote visibility. By building sensors into products that relay information to other systems through the web, the IoT helps manufacturers understand the condition of their parts without a physical view. That means workers may be able to remotely upload their G-code into CNC machines, even monitoring them with remote support.

The purpose of the IoT in nearly every sector is to connect devices to drive better performance. When this happens for CNC machines, the result is higher productivity, fewer errors, and a more efficient build.

MaaS Digital Platforms

The pandemic has created a prolonged surge in demand, and some manufacturers have struggled to keep pace. Some products like medical devices have been urgently needed and require expedited fabrication, leaving little time for redesign or quotes from other suppliers. This rush has led companies to look to Manufacturing as a Service (MaaS) companies which use digital platforms to supply manufacturers with the components that their products need.

Businesses that have used MaaS platforms have experienced many benefits, some of which are:

  • Faster feedback. The design process always takes time, and when companies feel the need for an outside manufacturing expert’s insight, they may find that delays in feedback prolong the product journey. MaaS digital platforms offer instant design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis, which speeds up the design process.
  • Manufacturing methods. Just because a company has an idea to build a product doesn’t mean they have all the facilities and equipment in place to build it. For example, a company that usually employs 3D printing may not have all the milling capabilities for a new part that a CNC machining company has, so they may use a MaaS digital platform to find a facility that’s equipped for their build.
  • Quicker quotes. Material selection, manufacturing method, order quantity, and a host of other variables go into determining the cost of manufacturing a part, and the length of the process can hinder a company’s ability to meet demand. MaaS digital platforms streamline communications, delivering manufacturing quotes faster.

Companies with products that require CNC machining in Pittsburgh for their build can find the subtractive manufacturing they need by using MaaS digital platforms — and they can build their products faster if they do.

CNC Machining: The Future is Under Control

The pandemic has imposed many hardships on the manufacturing industry, but the market for CNC machining is still going strong — and is only expected to grow. Digital twin modeling coupled with IoT integration will give engineers unique insights on how both their CNC machines and the products they build are performing, and components requiring CNC fabrication will be sourced to MaaS digital platforms rather than built in-house. These and other innovations like 5 and 6-axis machining and cooperative robot (cobot) interfacing will help drive the long-established field of CNC machining into new levels of ingenuity and productivity — and who knows where we’ll go from there.