As the manufacturing industry makes its way through the new digital landscape, CNC looks to be the future of machining. Coding and programming have become must-have skills for manufacturers who have moved to use computers to create parts for their company and customers. And while CNC does have its benefits and continues to grow in status among manufacturers everywhere, manual machining is still around and cannot be dismissed. Manual Machining still has a lot going for it even in this digital era, and I doubt that CNC machining will be pushing Manual machining out of the spotlight anytime soon. And I’ve got five reasons why!

  1. The Risks

It’s pretty hard to crash a manual lathe. You’re in direct control of everything at all times, and when it’s auto feeding, you can watch several clearance points at the same time from virtually any angle, with your hand on the kill switch. You can feel the vibrations of the machine/tool and stop cuts before insert failure. Even after a crash, they’re usually pretty reasonable to fix. Yet, it’s amazingly easy to crash a CNC anything. Before you run anything, you’d have to graph it and double-check every possible crash location. Will this tool holder clear my jaws at max Z? Does this boring bar have enough extension? Things that you can check and adjust on-the-go on a manual need to be planned for in advance on a CNC.

  1. Work holding

On a manual, you’d find jaws with the right radius, screw them down, and open/close jaws until they hold your part. Clamp as tight as you’d like by turning the chuck key. On a CNC you’d have to find jaws with the right radius. Attach bolts and t-nuts loosely. Slide them into the t-slot. Count how many serrations you have on each jaw, so they’re centered and tighten. Put your part in. Check if you’re centered. Might need to adjust 1 or more jaws by 1 or 2 serrations so they’re lined up. Check that you’re somewhat centered in your stroke and your hydraulic pressure is okay. Might need to adjust sensors in the back (on the stroke).

  1. Tooling

A CNC might be able to rotate the turret to T0707 faster than I can swap my multi-fix tool post, but… If your tools aren’t already installed in the CNC machine and the job is simple? I might actually have the cut finished on the manual before you’ve assembled your tools and touched it off.

  1. Flexibility

You sometimes need to re-thread parts that have been distorted (the “thread” is a square form thread, used a lot in the mining industry). You can clean up the thread on almost any square form threads with a simple ID grooving tool in minutes (most likely You’d just cutting a few thou deeper on the minor diameter). Re-threading on a CNC? I’ll be done before your younger brother even figured out how to pick up the thread entry point.

There you have it 4 reason’s that manual machining is here to stay for the long haul. Despite the rise of CNC in the digital age manual machining remains the indispensable method of manufacturing in the world. Nothing against CNC machining, it’s good, it just won’t be pushing manual machining out of the spotlight as fast as some think.