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Radmot May 7, 2024 9:05:55 PM

Artificial intelligence (AI) in CNC machining

2023 is the year of artificial intelligence. There is no week without news related to the Chat GPT or similar tools based on the Generative AI. Although many might think artificial intelligence (AI) is something new such informatics systems have been at the core of Industry 4.0 since the beginning. AI-based solutions effectively supported many industries for years but the most recent milestones of that technology development pushed many companies to introduce AI, especially in manufacturing processes.

How does AI support manufacturing processes now and what are the most possible directions of its development?

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What is artificial intelligence in CNC machining?

The working definition of AI was created by John McCarthy and can be described as algorithms, models, and programs that can simulate – to some extent – intelligent actions. In other words – AI is a process that could be executed automatically, based on programmed sets of commands, but also adjusted in response to the gathered data, without human intervention. 

Under 'AI in CNC' we can find automatized algorithms focused on process optimization based on gathered data, predefined events, or the boundary conditions that trigger the execution of programmed actions. The development of AI and machine learning and, the increase in computer's calculating power makes contemporary CNC controllers potent to execute very complex tasks without human involvement. Such applications make artificial intelligence in CNC machining even more visible, mainly due to the usage of machines and software that allows it to execute actions that can effectively imitate intelligence. But the numerically controlled machining from its beginning had such 'an artificial element'. 

The CNC controllers execute sets of movements of the machining tools – even the first such devices (numerically controlled, without 'a computer' part) based on the perforated cards, has to some extent such an 'artificial' part. Especially at the time (1950s and 1960s) the development of the first microcomputers and the fast increase of calculating powers allowed such drivers to handle more and more complex processes. In addition, a growing amount of precise sensors delivered more data to process and adjust whole manufacturing processes. 

That is why the contemporary introduction of more advanced AI algorithms for CNC is more a form of evolution than a revolution that provides higher quality processes and cuts the time of execution.


Contemporary applications of AI in CNC machining

Contemporary CNC machining lines use many types of AI-based solutions. Among the most important applications it is worth mentioning: 

  • significant increase in the production speed of the whole line due to a decrease in required machine operators' maintenance. It is the result of advanced CNC machines that on top of the execution of complex move sequences also gather real-time data related to the process itself. From the machining tools parameters to the environment (internal and external for the CNC machining center) and self-diagnostics and self-calibration process. In addition, many modern AI-enhanced machines also can control the status of feeders, and available amounts of material and can automatically order new batches. These are the technologies that allow to achieve almost non-stop manufacturing capacity, without active operator control, 
  • increase the overall efficiency and quality of the manufacturing process – AI algorithms can automatically adjust work parameters based on the gathered data. Temperature, ventilation efficiency, chips removal, tools degradation, calibration quality (estimated on time and working environment), or – with some CNC devices – even automatized quality control of material in the feeder: each of the mentioned has a direct impact on the manufactured products, 
  • improvement of the safety inside CNC machine shops and plants – automatization provided by AI and reduction of human maintenance of manufacturing processes makes machining (especially potentially dangerous materials, eg. some polymers of metal alloys) safer. Such manufacturing processes can be executed in sealed and/or well-ventilated chambers, 
  • increase of manufacturing processes launch, especially already performed – one of the most important steps in starting any CNC manufacturing process is device calibration. One of the AI applications that increases efficiency and productivity is the automatized adjustment of working parameters based on the gathered data. Such a solution makes a requirement of manual calibration of devices – in many applications – redundant. AI-enhanced CNC controllers can adjust parameters (to some extent) to known processes and even auto-calibrate during machining, 
  • algorithms support in the preparation of the production files – CAM software more often allows for the thorough verification of files and their verification. Not only from the perspective of the CNC machining process but also from final part compliance with loaded specification and order, 
  • decrease of the machining maintenance cost – automatization and provided by AI technologies 'self-monitoring' of computer numerically controlled devices status can help to optimize the time required to maintain each device. That can lead to better time optimization of CNC operators. 

It is worth mentioning the listed 'AI for CNC' applications are only the tip of the iceberg and can be seen also in other numerically controlled processes, such as 3D printing. Practical applications of artificial intelligence in the CNC process are possible in almost every step of the manufacturing process. 


Not only machining: AI is a real support of the whole manufacturing process

The drastic increase in computing power allows the processing of large data sets and makes AI algorithm execution more visible in CNC and its overall availability – higher. Looking from a bigger perspective we can estimate the future of CNC machining – enhanced by AI – in many directions. On top of already implemented algorithms – in areas such as robotics, medical, and automotive industries – artificial intelligence will be visible even more in the following areas: 

  • even further automatization of manufacturing and CNC machining – companies that will use AI in day-to-day manufacturing processes are (even now) more competitive on the market. Faster manufacturing, fewer stoppages, and lower unit cost are the values that are important for every client, just as the quality of machined parts, especially tolerances between batches, 
  • decrease of human maintenance requirement – AI allows to maintaining efficient control of the same amount of operators among more CNC devices, 
  • further robotization of the processes – areas such as automatized quality control or finishing processes (including galvanic processes) that are most often executed by operators, 
  • decrease of the production cost – thanks to automatization provided by AI solutions or an increase of tools' operational time due to slower wear thanks to working in a more optimal environment, 
  • increasing speed of drawing, automatized CAD to CAM conversion, or real AI-enhanced support during parts designing – currently, most professional CAD system for CNC machining uses some kind of artificial intelligence to optimize the whole process. Further algorithm development can significantly increase the speed of designing and conversion of CAD files or technical drawings into G-Code. On top of that – the AI itself can speed up the designing process by providing automatized verification of stages even during initial 3D modeling in computer-assisted design software, 
  • optimization of the logistics processes in CNC-focused shops and plants – more and more AI-related solutions are focused on optimization of logistics or contact with clients. Automated ordering of material batches, sending related order information to clients, or signalization of the need to change some components of CNC devices – these are the processes that are right now executed by AI algorithms. In the near future, such solutions most probably become more and more popular and accessible, especially in the companies focused on the highest quality CNC manufacturing. 

These are only a few of the areas that will be transformed due to the broader introduction of AI technologies.Such directions are often suggested by CNC professionals – just like the overall feeling that new possibilities (such as higher computing power) create new solutions. But still: CNC manufacturing processes are from the beginning strongly connected to some forms of AI. Computer numerical control from its beginning was a form of automatization and current trends in AI-powered CNC machining are more part of a longer evolution than a singular revolution. 


One order, many benefits – this is how you collaborate with RADMOT

At RADMOT, we offer CNC milling services, CNC turning services, as well as a variety of additional services including washing, aluminum anodizing, laser marking, and assembly. We have over 80 modern machines at your disposal in our machine park, all from reputable manufacturers. Download the presentation and check on which machines we produce parts.

Contact us and tell us what you need. We have been providing CNC services for almost 40 years. Our quote is completely free. And if you have doubts about which technology will work best for you, our expert knowledge is at your service.

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