NC vs. CNC Machines: What Is the Difference?

NC vs. CNC Machines: What Is the Difference?

Once upon a time, the idea of machinery-building tools, parts, and vehicles that are almost completely independent of human intervention sounded like something out of a science-fiction story. Even so, automatic machinery is a reality in most manufacturing companies these days.

When outfitting your plant with this type of machinery, you typically have to choose between two types: NC vs. CNC machines. What is the difference? The answer lies in how the machines function.

What Is an NC Machine?

NC stands for numerical control, and it was one of the original types of automated machinery. The “numerical” in the title refers to a series of numbers, letters, and other symbols that are printed on punch tape or a punch card.

This card is run through a machine control unit that decodes the card, translating the punches into a set of instructions called a program. The program is then translated into a set of actions that the machine tool performs.

The Difference Between NC and CNC Machines

CNC machines, or computer numerical control machines, use similar concepts as NC machinery. Rather than printing programs manually on a punch card that you insert into the machine, the programs are created digitally and stored in a computer. The computer sends the instruction to the machine tool.

Having a digitized program offers a few additional features. First, it allows operators to save multiple programs in the system. This makes it simple to switch between programs on the fly. CNC machines also tend to be closed-loop systems, which means the machine tool provides feedback to the CPU for greater accuracy. NC units are open-loop and don’t typically have this capability.

Choosing Between NC and CNC Machines

There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of machinery. Because NC machines are more manual in nature, they tend to be less costly and simpler to maintain. However, they are slower, less accurate, and require a more skilled operator to use them.

CNC machines, on the other hand, are more expensive and require some knowledge of computer programming. But they are the most accurate and efficient machines on the market. You can also run them 24 hours a day instead of in short bursts. Additionally, operators can switch between different programs with ease.

Automated machinery is the way of the future. Industrial Automation wants to help keep your automated machinery going with high-quality CNC machine replacement parts for all your major equipment.