SUB CONTRACT ENGINEERING
Computer numerical control or CNC machines are now most commonly used in the manufacturing industry. Where as traditionally trained engineers would operate machines such as vertical mills, centre lathes, routers, shaping machines and drills, these have mostly been replaced by operator manned computer controlled machines.
The advantages and disadvantages of CNC against conventional machines can be seen here.
- CNC machines can be run 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year and only need occasional maintenance or re-setting.
- CNC machines are programmed with a design or component which can be machined hundreds and thousands of times and each one will be exactly the same.
- Less skilled/trained operators can man CNC's unlike manual milling machines and lathes which need skilled engineers.
- CNC machinery can be constantly updated with improved software used to control the machines.
- Training people to use CNC and programme them is done by virtual software much like a computer game plotting coordinates of the job into a computer.
- CNC Machines can be programmed by CADCAM advanced design software usually enabling the manufacture of products that cannot be made on conventional machinery even when operated by skilled designers/engineers.
- Prototyping can be done within the modern design software aloowing the simulation of an idea and its manufacture without the need for a model or prototype. Saving both money and time.
- One skilled person can monitor and supervise several CNC machines at one time, due to the fact that most of the time they can be left to work by themselves.
- A skilled engineer can make the same component many times, with very slight variations. A CNC machine will manufature each component as an exact match.
- CNC machines are an expensive investment intially, but prices are coming down slowly.
- With the advent of CNC machines operators only need basic training and skills, which would be enough to operate several CNC machines. With classically trained engineers having spent years achieving an apprenticeship, these old skills are now being lost.
- Because less people are required to operate CNC machines. So it means that investment in CNC can lead to unemployment.
- Many countries no longer train pupils and students how to use manually operated machinery so pupils no longer develop the detailed skills of engineers of the past. These also include mathematical and engineering skills.
The sub contract CNC machining department at Atkinson Engineering has a great mixture of skilled engineers along with advanced trained CNC machine operators.