How The IoT Will Change CNC Machining

How The IoT Will Change CNC Machining

An article by Marc Kavinsky, Editor at IoT Business News.

As various industries become more accustomed to the idea of mass, precision manufacturing, CNC machining* is gaining more prominence. Already an incredibly advanced process, it seems to be improving on a fairly constant basis, with methods becoming more exact and better able to handle a wider range of materials. It’s in part for this reason that, as another article here on our site pointed out, machine tools (including the likes of 3D printers, CNC machines, etc.) are expected to grow in revenues to $134 billion by 2030. And frankly, it wouldn’t be altogether surprising if that number turned out to be a low estimate.

As to what specifically will cause revenue growth for CNC machining, there are a few factors to consider. First and foremost is simple, natural expansion of interest and use. It stands to reason that as more businesses emerge, and more positive use cases of this type of machining become known, its applications will compound. Additionally there’s the increasing versatility of CNC machining to consider. As Fictiv makes clear in a helpful, overarching look at CNC machining, this is no longer a single process, but rather a type of manufacturing that can be conducted in numerous ways according to need: three-, four-, and five-axis machining, milling, turning, and gear hobbing, and so on, all capable of shaping a variety of plastics, metals, and other materials. This versatility should also lead to more use in the coming years.

Maybe more than anything else though, it will be the expanding and improving Internet of Things that will propel CNC machining toward greater revenues and more widespread utility. The IoT stands to revolutionize many manufacturing practices, in fact, as it further connects and digitizes our factories. But a few potential benefits stand out specifically as potential drivers of CNC machining growth:

Product Quality Control – With the IoT working in conjunction with CNC machining efforts, companies have the ability to outfit each and every part produced with a tiny sensor that connects it to a larger network. This makes it easier not only to track the products throughout any subsequent shipping and assembly efforts, but also to recognize and address production errors. If sensors detect a defect, the machining process can be halted if necessary until it’s sorted out.

Preventative Maintenance – Preventative maintenance is one of the most commonly cited benefits of the IoT in manufacturing, and it’s certainly a factor where CNC machining is concerned as well. As Particle put it, the IoT allows for real-time, remote condition monitoring – not only of products, as described above, but of the machines themselves. With CNC machining mechanisms essentially left alone to produce orders, IoT-connected sensors can make sure that they’re doing so adequately, alert management to any issues, and even give advance notice of any general maintenance or upkeep needs.

Automated Labor – This is a fairly large point that could make for a whole topic of conversation unto itself, but it’s also important to mention that the IoT stands to enable other robotic systems to work alongside CNC machining. Consider, for instance, something as simple as organizing products once they’re created. Right now this is more or less considered a human task, but with the IoT allowing various machines and systems to communicate with one another, we can also see this sorting and organization fully automated. This can reduce labor costs for one thing, but also prevent workplace injuries.

Given these benefits, and the positive impact they can have on related industries, we fully expect the IoT to play an ever larger role in driving CNC machining and other advance manufacturing processes forward.

*CNC machining is a manufacturing process in which pre-programmed computer software dictates the movement of factory tools and machinery.

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