History of Precision CNC Machining

Precision CNC Machining marked a big technological revolution in the manufacturing industry. The revolution has been so big, that since the birth of this industrial process, scholars have also talked about the Third Industrial Revolution. However, the history of Precision CNC Machining is very ancient and digs its roots into the half of the XVIII century. Are you ready to hear more about this history? It is very interesting and has already gone viral. 

Let’s talk about the true facts

Precision CNC Machining is the process of the so-called aided computer manufacture, where milling and cutting machines stopped being driven by a human operator and started working through the instructions of a computer. Indeed, CNC machines work through Computer Numerical Control. A computer sends a code to a microprocessor which controls the machining tool. The code can have several graphical forms, such as points or numbers. Due to the fact that the most of codes are described as numbers, the system was called CNC machining. But before the arrival of the CNC, what were the early predecessors of the current process? These predecessors were machine tools, punched cards and a loom used in the textile industry.

The first machine tool was invented in 1775 by John Wilkinson. This inventor discovered the solution to accurately create cylinders for steam engines. In those years, James Watt invented the first steam engine and opened the way to the Second Industrial Revolution in England. 

 Initially, Mr. Watt met several obstacles in finding precision cylinders for his steam engine, until the arrival of the tool invented by Mr. Wilkinson, who, for this reason, is still regarded as the father of Precision Machining. The work of machine tools was empowered thanks to the usage of punched cards. They were invented in 1725 by French textile worker Basile Bouchon. This worker invented a way to control looms, by sending them data encoded on paper tapes punched by holes. Unfortunately, the method of punched cards was challenging and required the assistance of an operator.

The true automatic process arrived thanks to Joseph Marie Jacquard, who, in 1805, adopted the advanced method to tie punched cards in sequence among them, inventing, de facto, the first predecessor of modern computing. With the encoded and tied punching cards, the precision machining became more accurate and easier and simplified the weaving process of looms. The innovative process met the initial resistance of the silk weavers of the time, but, fortunately, in 1812, the usage of automatic looms spread throughout France. Afterwards, punched cards were used for telegraphy, self-playing pianos and in many other industries. These cards marked the mechanical control of machine tools. The electromechanical control of machines was invented by American Herman Hollerith, instead, who developed an electromechanical punched card tabulator in 1889. This invention led to the creation of IBM in 1924 and the modern sequence of five, six or seven rows of holes stored on a computer which controls machine tools.

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