Are you excited about beginning projects using your brand-new CNC milling machine?
You may have just purchased your CNC milling machine, and you might be looking forward to building some amazing stuff.
Be it custom signs, clock parts, wall art, or photo frames; you can build just about anything with a CNC machine. In fact, with regular practice and effort, you can master CNC machining and successfully build even complex projects over time.
So there are enough reasons to be keen on using your milling machine and showcasing your creativity.
However, there’s a catch.
You can have the best ideas to use your new CNC machine and carve out some impressive art pieces. But as a beginner with limited knowledge about CNCs, you’ll find these highly sophisticated machines much more challenging to use. And since you’re unable to use CNC machines efficiently, it can make your personal and professional projects take the back seat.
You don’t want a lack of machining know-how to get your projects delayed, especially after you’ve acquired a CNC machine. Do you?
That’s precisely why we have compiled ten beginner tips to help you begin with CNC milling, so let’s dive in.
Here’s how you can make the most out of your CNC milling machine:
#1. Get some high-performance cutters for your machine
Cutters are vital components that determine your project’s overall quality and finishing.
You want your projects to be the best of their kind. Don’t you?
So you should never settle for the cheap and low-quality cutters, as you get what you’re paying for.
You may have to pay a whopping price to buy high-quality CNC components for advanced industrial operations. But that’s not the case with beginner-level CNC milling machine cutters.
You see, some heavy-duty cutters from renowned manufacturers are readily available at reasonable prices, which means top-notch cutters don’t necessarily break your bank.
These cutters will make a significant impact on your production quality and get rid of the problems that cheaper tools inevitably cause.
Take carbide cutters, for instance, that can last nearly 100 times longer than their counterparts in the market. You can pick different sizes of them, like ½” and ¼,” among others, and rest assured of high-quality manufacturing.
You should always wear safety goggles when working around the CNC milling machine since there are always chances of cutters breaking up, no matter how good their quality is.
#2. Buy good quality vise, clamping kit, and parallels set for your CNC milling machine
For any CNC milling machine, work holding is key to holding your workpiece firmly while you’re machining it.
You won’t want the workpiece or part to shift beyond its position during milling. Would you?
By installing a good quality vise, you can ensure that your parts hold still, thus allowing for high-precision machining operations.
Also, a low-end vice needs to be changed frequently, which hampers work and delays your projects. On the contrary, a vise made from quality materials lasts easily for years and brings in unmatched efficiency.
After you’ve installed the vise, you need a good clamping kit to mount it upon the T-slots of your milling table. And just like the vise itself, a heavy-duty clamping kit will keep the vise stable and hold it tight.
Next up, you need a set of parallels to keep your workpiece evenly raised or parallel so that the spindle or cutting tool can pass over it.
With some good quality CNC machine tools, you can rest easy as your workpieces will be 100 percent accurate.
#3. Go for a misting setup that prevents chip build up
In order to prevent chip build-up, you need to have a correct misting setup for the coolant of your CNC milling machine.
To understand how it works, you should look at the two misting systems, namely siphon-based and micro-drop.
A siphon-based misting system atomizes the coolant entirely and turns it into an aerosol, making the whole method messy and inefficient. So it’s hard to stop chip build-up in a siphon-based system.
A micro-drop misting system, on the contrary, pressurizes the coolant and keeps it away from air in a separate chamber till it hits the tip of your tool. That means when the coolant hits the workpiece, it vaporizes completely, thus preventing chip build-up and making the misting system highly efficient.
There it is, the perfect misting system for a benchtop CNC mill.
#4. You need a speed calculator for greater CNC milling machine accuracy
A CNC milling machine is all about accuracy, which is why you switch from manual to CNC machining in the first place.
Precision is your highest priority when cutting your workpiece, and you want to ensure it’s being done accurately.
That’s exactly where the speeds and feeds calculator comes in handy, as it ensures that your feed rate and spindle speeds are precise from the first cut itself.
You see, when compared to manual machining, CNC is a different beast altogether. So it is essential that you get the speeds and feeds precise right from the beginning. And there’s no other way to do that than installing a speed calculator.
#5. You should get familiar with Manual Data Input (MDI)
By familiarizing yourself with Manual Data Input, you can make CNC milling machine operations much easier.
A Manual Data Input will increase your productivity manifold and save you a lot of time. And the best part is that you can easily learn MDI.
There’s more to it.
You can effortlessly access Manual Data Input through the MDI keypad on the control panel of your CNC machine. From setting some generic g-codes to adjusting your X, Y, and Z coordinates, to moving your axes, you can do just about anything using MDI.
In fact, after you input the information via MDI, your CNC milling machine cutters start moving the way you want.
Interesting, isn’t it?
#6. For accurate cuts tram your CNC milling machine
The squaring of CNC machines from head to table is called a tram. It can be parallel to the x-axis or the y-axis of your CNC milling machine.
It’s important that you check the tram on your CNC milling machine whenever you begin working on a new workpiece. That’s because your mill needs to have the perfect tram for you to have accurate cuts and precise finishing.
So as a CNC machinist, you should learn the basics of tramming to get the most out of your projects.
Make sure you’ve trammed the vise so that the jaws align well with either axis. You see, it’s the vise that holds your workpiece in place, which means the level of precision hinges on it.
#7. Equip your CNC milling machine with a touch tool measuring device and edge finder
To achieve better accuracy in CNC machining, it’s vital that your machine knows where the tip of your tool is.
A touch tool measuring device will tell your CNC machine the exact length of your tool. Also, it will let you know where the tip is on the Z axis, so you can have precise measurements of the Z-heights.
Next up is the edge finder, which is a must-have CNC milling component as it sets the X and Y axis in the right position.
You’ll need these two essential measurement tools to set the zeroes after inserting your workpiece in the vise and fixating tool in the spindle.
#8. As a beginner you should keep away from stainless steel
You might be ready to start making cuts after getting CNC conversion or acquiring a brand-new milling machine. But before you begin, you should know that stainless steel is not the right option for you as yet. That’s because there’s always a likelihood that you may break the cutters or cause premature wear while cutting stainless steel.
So to start with CNC milling, you can pick softer metals like brass, aluminum, or mild steel and hone your cutting skills. And once you’re confident enough in soft milling metals, you can go on and master stainless steel cutting too.
Not to forget, the catch with using a CNC milling machine is that you’ve to aim for precision finishing. That’s precisely why beginning with easier projects and gradually shifting to the advanced stuff makes sense.
#9. Step up your game with CAD/CAM
Once you’ve mastered the basics of CNC machining, you should start learning and using g-code on your milling machine.
To begin with, you’ll have to attain proficiency in CAD.
You see, even though it isn’t an easy-to-learn program, it is totally worth your time and effort.
And once you’ve got fair know-how of CAD to the extent that you can draw quite many parts, you can start with CAM.
In fact, it’s better to learn one program at a time since grasping both programs at once can be quite overwhelming.
Where can you learn these programs?
There are plenty of places to learn about CAD/CAM, the most common being your local training centers. You can also gain in-depth know-how about these programs online, as there are reliable resources readily available at your fingertips.
How exactly does CAD/CAM scale up your business?
To put it simply, while CAD streamlines your design process, CAM makes your production faster and more accurate. Together, they both ensure that you can mass-produce things with the highest level of precision.
#10. You can also use your CNC milling machine without CAD/CAM
It is possible that you’re short of time to learn advanced programs like CAD/CAM. Or you’re probably looking to manufacture simple parts that don’t require much sophistication.
In either case, a conversational CNC milling machine is your go-to option, as it lets you cut your workpieces much more easily and simply.
So how does a conversational CNC work?
A conversational CNC lets you choose an operation for your milling machine and prompts you to answer some questions. After that, you can simply press the insert button and have a g-code ready to aid your manufacturing.
That sounds awesome for sure, doesn’t it?
Wrapping it up
A CNC milling machine lets you create nearly everything with high precision and much ease. And even as CNC machining is commonplace in large industries, it is also apt for small workshops.
However, when beginning with CNC milling, you should focus on gaining expertise in smaller and basic projects. And only after you’ve honed your skills enough on small projects can you shift to the advanced and complex workpieces.