What is CNC machining?

CNC Machining is the process of removing material from a solid piece by either drilling, turning or milling until only a desired shape remains. The workpiece is manipulated on either 3 or 5 axis as the tools subtract material according to a pre-determined program. Complex precision shapes can be created from metal by using CNC machining.

An overview of Machining facilities at Alpha Manufacturing:


What is metal turning?

Metal turning is the process of removing material from a rotating part using a single blade to create a cylindrical part. As the piece is rotated, the cutting tool is moved in a direction parallel to the axis of the workpiece.

What is metal drilling?

A rotating tool with either two or four cutting edges is forced down into the workpiece to create a hole.

What is metal milling?

A rotating tool with many edges is moved in various directions along the face of the workpiece to create a new plane or face.

What machinery is used to machine metal?

There are numerous turning, drilling and milling machines available offering varying degrees of flexibility.

At Alpha Manufacturing our machining department consists of:

  • Nexus 250 Lathe machine for precision milling
  • Nexus Quick Turn Smart machine for milling and drilling
  • Mazak VTC 300 for vertical machining

The VTC Machine is a highly versatile 3 axis machining centre which can machine more complex profiles at a fast rate thanks to sophisticated features.

What is involved in machining programming?

Online programming for machining involves using a design drawing or model and manually working out a machine path using x, y and z axis. This is often a complex and drawn out process which requires experience and expertise.

At Alpha Manufacturing, we recently purchased a new offline programming software called “One CNC” which allows a 3D model to be imported and manipulated on screen. It allows the operator to easily select a surface and apply a process to it. The software will then calculate all of the angles and mathematics which the operator would previously have done.

We currently operate both online and offline forms of programming for machining, depending on the complexity of the parts.

What materials can be CNC machined?

At Alpha Manufacturing, we predominantly machine:

  • Mild steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Phosphor bronze
  • Alluminium
  • some plastics such as Nylon and Acetal

An example of 3 axis machining:

What are the limitations of CNC machining?

The primary limitation in machining is the manipulation of the workpiece and accessibility of the tools at various angles. Depending on the complexity of the profile, the machine head may need to access the workpiece at multiple angles or Axis.

At Alpha Manufacturing, we currently operate 3 axis and 4 axis machines which offer enough flexibility for the majority of products that we produce. 5 axis machines are available which allow the machine to access the workpiece at more angles along 5 different axis.

If you have a question regarding CNC Machining or any other sheet metal processes, please get in touch

Make an enquiry, upload a technical drawing

We work with businesses in a wide variety of sectors with capabilities to offer short and long runs of metal products.