These machines are awesome. Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) machining allows engine builders to achieve almost unbelievable levels of accuracy and consistency.
The programmability of a digital computer not only automates the operation of the equipment but also provides a level of repeat-ability that can’t be matched by manual equipment. That’s why CNC has been the backbone of virtually all manufacturing for the past 40 years.
CNC-controlled lathes, mills and machining centers can be used to machine a wide variety of industrial and automotive parts. Most engine builders who have CNC equipment, however, use it primarily for engine block and cylinder head machining. Even so, the possibilities don’t end there. Some engine builders are using the capabilities of their CNC machining equipment to do all kinds of things, including engraving valve covers and other parts, making carburetor adapter plates, custom engine parts, motorcycle parts, even industrial parts.
The software digitizes the dimensions of parts that will be copied, and determines the machining strategy and tool paths to make the part. The information is then exported into G-Code, which is used to run the CNC machining equipment.
“If you can dream it, you can machine it,” said one CNC equipment supplier. In other words, if you can design, map and program a part for a CNC machine, figure out a way to fixture it and acquire the right machine tools to cut it, the only limitations on what you can do are the physical dimensions of the part you want to machine and the size limitations of your CNC equipment. 3-axis and 4-axis machines are also able to do many jobs, but a full featured 5-axis CNC machining center obviously offers the widest range of capabilities.