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How to use a CNC machine safely

In product design and many forms of modern manufacturing, CNC (which stands for Computer Numerical Control) is becoming an increasingly important part of product and component production.

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CNC machines can produce multiple types of complex component. The modern designer and manufacturer needs to know how best to use different types of CNC machine and different types of materials and most importantly, how to use them safely without compromising the safety of employees.

What is a CNC machine?

A CNC machine is one which is able to adjust its process of manufacturer according to the input fed into it via machine. CNC machines typically work in conjunction with Computer Aided Design (CAD), which utilises computers to design products or components which in turn can be created within a CNC machine. There are many different types of CNC machine. Typically they use tools to cut into a given material, often using either drilling or cutting devices. CNC machines which have been used in the industry for a long time include CNC cutters, drills, lathes, milling machines, routers, surface grinders and many others. CNC machines are increasingly becoming more sophisticated in terms of the materials they can manipulate and the types of product they can produce. The 3D printer is a variant of a CNC machine which, rather than cutting into a material, builds it up in layers using types of thermosetting plastics. This technology has the potential to revolutionise the way in which we create certain products.

CNC machines are great for creating new products and are invaluable within product design as they can be adapted to test out different designs. However they remain expensive and when carrying out large scale manufacture, it is often still cheaper and faster to use set moulds or specific cutting designs and more traditional manufacturing processes. Most workspaces now use a combination of CNC and traditional techniques, both of which carry specific risks and require stringent safety conditions.

Safety

It is obviously vital that those operating CNC machines, know the risks involved and have been properly trained to operate the equipment. Find the CNC safety guide here and ensure that operators follow correct procedures.

With most CNC machines, the cutting is carried out by machines inside a contained box. Modern machines are designed not to start cutting unless the guard is in position. However, one of the most important things to check is that the guard or glass door is fitted properly and is not faulty.

Extractor fans also need to be working properly to remove any dust or other potentially toxic by-products from the milling or routing process. In some cases, materials need to be heated during cutting and therefore should be left to cool down or only handled using gloves once the CNC machine has finished. Open CNC machines may require the use of safety goggles and other protective clothing. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has guidance on the rules and how to use CNC machines safely and it also publishes leaflets covering the operation of a variety of equipment. If your company uses CNC technology, it is essential that someone is responsible for ensuring that all workers are aware of the safety rules.

By Anderson L

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