Basics of CNC Machining: Most Common Machines

For someone new to CNC machining, it can feel overwhelming. They may have heard of lathes and drilling machines, but there’s an entire world of different types of CNC machines used for various purposes. So, it’s time to break down the basics to learn more about CNC machining in Birmingham, AL:

Drilling and Tapping Machine

A drilling and tapping machine is a tool that automates the process of drilling holes in metal, wood, or plastic parts. Drilling and tapping machines are helpful for quickly creating small holes in parts at regular intervals.

Drilling and tapping are typically done with a drill bit, simply an auger that spins as it moves through your material (most often wood). On its way down, this bit slowly grinds away at your material as it cuts out a hole. The result is a cylindrical hole with straight edges that allows the user to thread it using nuts or bolts easily.

The benefit of using this machine over manual drilling tools like drills, screwdrivers, and awls is speed: because they’re automated, they can create hundreds or thousands of uniform holes in just minutes instead of hours! A simple hand-operated drilling/tapping machine may be worth considering, too — though these tend not to be quite as fast as CNC versions since there is less room for error when making decisions about how far into each piece should go before stopping.”

Horizontal Machining Center (HMC)

A horizontal machining center (HMC) is a machine tool that allows the user to perform both vertical and horizontal machining operations. HMCs are used in various industries, including automotive, aerospace, and medical. They are typically made up of a table, column, and spindle head that can be moved in both directions by the operator.

Lathe Machine

A lathe machine is a cylindrical tool that spins the workpiece around its axis, allowing the user to cut and shape it. Lathes are used for metalworking, woodworking, and plastic molding. They can be used to create small or large objects with intricate detail—from rings to bowls!

Injection Molding Machines

Injection molding is a manufacturing process that uses a mold to shape raw plastic material into a specific shape. The machine injects the molten polymer into the mold cavity using a rotating screw or piston and then cools it to form the shape.

This machine can be used for many geometries, materials, and properties, from simple blocks to complex shapes with moving parts like hinges and gears.

Water Jet Cutters

Water jet cutters use high-pressure water to cut through metal.

The most common water jet cutter is the CO2 laser, which uses a laser to heat up and melt the metal. The water cools down this molten metal and solidifies it into a shape. Water jet cutters can also be used for many other materials, such as wood and plastic. Water jet cutters have many applications in all industries, from manufacturing to aerospace.

EDM Machines

Electro discharge machining (EDM) is a process that uses high-voltage electricity to cut through metal by removing material from the workpiece. The operator controls the machine to create complex shapes in subtractive manufacturing.

Benefits of EDM:

  • Very fast cutting speeds compared to other CNC machining processes.
  • High accuracy, making it ideal for small part manufacturing and prototyping.
  • Can be used on thin materials without losing control of them due to their small size or low weight.

Plasma Cutters

A machine that cuts plasma uses high-voltage electricity to turn a conductive material into a molten liquid. The molten liquid then hardens and becomes an arc, traveling from the tip of the torch to cut through any material it touches.

A plasma cutter is used for cutting all kinds of metals, including aluminum and steel, as well as non-ferrous metals like copper and brass. It can also be used to cut stone and other non-metallic materials and things made out of plastic. Plasma cutters are best suited for tasks where precision isn’t necessary or where users want the work quickly without needing precise control over cuts.


CNC machining in Birmingham, AL, can be of great help when it comes to solving industrial problems. For different types of needs, there is a unique solution to make the overall process streamline and smooth.