Since the 1860s, the automotive industry has been growing rapidly worldwide. On the whole, China is counted among the largest automobile markets in terms of sales and production of road vehicles. Moreover, according to stats, the global automotive market has reached 2.95 trillion USD in 2022.
To meet such high demands for vehicles in the market, the automotive industries must take specific steps to increase their productivity. Fortunately, CNC machining has made the auto parts manufacturing process fairly quick and efficient. Today, almost more than 40% of the CNC industry is availed by automotive industries for manufacturing different automotive parts.
However, this post will let you learn more about the role of CNC machining in the automotive industry and its various applications plus advantages. Let’s dive in!
What is CNC Machining and Its Role in the Automotive Industry?
CNC machining is a computer-controlled procedure that plays a crucial role in manufacturing various products made up of metal, plastic, wood, and others. Typically, the CNC machines use different pre-programmed software and codes to send instructions to the tools such as lathe or drill, ensuring the production of precise parts without any flaws. For this quality, CNC machines are highly applicable in the automotive industry.
CNC automotive machining features a variety of operations, i.e., CNC milling, turning, drilling, etc., which allow the CNC auto parts manufacturers to create complex auto components.
What Automotive Parts are Manufactured using CNC Machining?
Automotive CNC machining gives rise to the production of many CNC car parts. Below are some of them;
1. Engine Blocks
You might have observed a block covering a car’s engine; including this cylinder block, many other components of car combustion engines are manufactured using CNC machining. The aluminum alloy blocks are processed into cylindrical-shaped blocks to produce these engine blocks. It is the area where moving pistons travel up and down.
All you need is to program the CNC machine pretty carefully to get a perfect part. No doubt, it can be a time-consuming process as it requires a high level of attention and efficiency. However, once you have set the machine according to the product, it is quite easy to make several copies of cylinder blocks that resemble both form and function.
2. Gear Boxes
The gearbox of a vehicle comprises various gear components that aid in increasing the output torque and alter the speed of the motor. They possess pretty complex designs and need tight tolerances to outperform in a specific vehicle, i.e., cars. Thus, slight negligence during manufacturing may cause failure.
That’s why automotive industries use CNC milling, turning, and drilling tools to create highly precise gearboxes for their vehicles.
3. Interior and Roof Panels
CNC experts create the shape and design of your vehicle using CNC machining to fabricate the interior and roof panels. Currently, most CNC auto parts manufacturers are using plastics and polymers instead of steel to design interior and roof panels for their lightweight properties.
For instance, a dashboard panel needs to fix a number of components, like, a speedometer, indicator lights, radio, gas gauge, etc. Therefore, numerous highly accurate-sized cutouts are to be made while manufacturing to make sure all the components fit best in them.
4. Cylinder Heads
Automotive CNC machines also play a role in producing cylinder heads to cover the cylinder present in an internal combustion engine. Typically, these cylinder heads are designed by removing the material from raw aluminum solid blocks. In addition to cylinder heads, you may manufacture other components, including brake system valves, fuel pump systems, and alternator housings by CNC machines.
5. Drive Axles
Drive axles let the wheels turn at different speeds while making turns. Generally, drive axles consist of short rods connected to a wheel by constant velocity joints at each end. The flexible rubber boots cover the constant velocity joints to hold the grease inside and avoid dirt so it can function effectively.
Thus auto CNC machines help make the hypoid and bevel gears to improve the drive axle mechanism.
6. Automotive Lighting
Another important CNC car part is the lighting. Undoubtedly, headlights and interior lighting matter a lot in a vehicle. Mostly, they are made up of acrylic glass and poly methyl methacrylate. Fortunately, in addition to other materials, CNC machines are also capable of dealing with acrylic glass and PMMA.
However, after their production, you need to perform some surface treatments in order to provide the final finish. Even after spending time grinding and polishing the lighting, the process is relatively fast with CNC machines than with other manufacturing methods.
7. Other Parts
The application of CNC machining in the automotive industry doesn’t end with the above-mentioned auto parts. Instead, the list goes pretty long. You may also make:
- Exhaust components.
- Suspension parts.
- Fluid system components.
- Valves and bushings.
- Carburettor housings.
On top of that, CNC custom automotive machining leads to customization of the numerous components of vehicles. These customized parts allow you to experience excellent drives with great comfort.
What are the Advantages of CNC Machining in the Automotive Industry?
There are various advantages of using CNC machining in the automotive industry. Let’s have a look at some major ones!
1. Precision and Accuracy
The automotive industry demands highly accurate auto parts because a little flaw in any critical component of the vehicle may lead to severe consequences for the users. Thus, the automakers always struggle to produce quite precise and accurate parts. They can only meet this goal by adopting CNC machining in their manufacturing process as it can offer high tolerances of 0.001″. For example, piston rings located inside the combustion engine of a car demand tolerance of 4 micrometres.
In short, the addition of CNC machining in the automotive industry has reduced the probability of producing errors.
Compared to manual machining, CNC machining operates way faster, resulting in a fast production speed. The computerized-control system is the primary reason for speeding the production of the parts because it prevents refreshment breaks and fatigue issues faced by employees.
Though, it takes some time to create the computer instructions when setting the machine for manufacturing the part for the very first time. Later on, you can produce copies of that specific part quickly.
The automotive industry manufactures the exact vehicle multiple times to meet the market demands. In such circumstances, a CNC machine is best since it allows you to create millions of copies of the previously manufactured product without further effort. Therefore, you may repeat the operations as many times as you need for manufacturing large volumes of auto parts without any inconsistency.
Automation is another significant advantage of CNC machining in the automotive industry. It not only speeds up the production process but also spares the workers for tasks other than the operation of the machine. The workers should dedicate their time to designing and innovation.
5. Ease of Use
It is easy to manufacture auto parts while using CNC machines. There is almost no human involvement; you just need to provide commands to the machine in the form of speed or some other parameters. Ultimately, the process will take place on its own.
As discussed earlier, CNC machines have deprived the need of humans; hence the automotive industry may save on labor costs. It’s better to spend the saved money on increasing the production of parts to grow your business.
What are the Future Trends of Automotive CNC Machining?
Automotive CNC machining is undergoing constant revolutions. So far, most automakers have switched to lightweight aluminum to produce their products. Furthermore, the following are two major expected future trends of auto CNC machines;
1. Artificial Intelligence in CNC Automotive
Once you start to work on a material, the CNC machine operates continuously without a break. This may lead to some minor faults that are difficult to detect on the spot, and as a result, productivity is affected. Luckily, the artificial intelligence in CNC machining has improved the performance of machines as they can now self-diagnose errors. Consequently, the quality of CNC auto parts improves.
2. Application of CNC machining in Self-Driving Cars
You might be aware that self-driving cars use different sensors to sense their surroundings without human input. In order to meet such fantastic features, these autonomous cars must have remarkably designed mechanical and electrical components. Thanks to CNC machining, which has played a vital role in achieving highly precise and tolerated CNC car parts.
CNC machining is quite popular in the automotive industry for prototyping and making auto parts due to its high precision, accuracy, and tight tolerance qualities. Hence, if you are struggling to increase the productivity of your automobile business, the addition of CNC machining can help you a lot.
In the end, let me be clear, manufacturing of auto parts does not only include CNC machining. Instead, other processes, such as die casting, stamping, painting, etc are also involved.