A beginner’s guide to CNC machining


CNC machines are used extensively on a day-to-day basis, across a diverse range of industries. In fact, anything that needs to be designed and engineered in a precise way is likely to involve the use of a CNC machine. It is a tried and tested method of fabrication, dating way back to the 1960s; however, if you are new to the industry, it can be difficult to understand exactly how it works.

In the following blog, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about CNC machining and explore how acrylic CNC machines apply to our projects – here at Talbot Designs.

What is CNC machining?

Essentially, a CNC machine is an electro-mechanical device, which takes precise instructions from a computer and uses these instructions to manipulate a set of factory tools (e.g. mills, grinders).

CNC is short for computer numerical control and, when it comes to the CNC machining process, there is no need for human intervention. Specialist software on the computer simply tells the machine what to do and the machine kicks into action – transforming a raw material, such as metal or plastic, into a fully fabricated product or part. It may sound complicated, but in reality, it is designed to simplify the fabrication process and it makes the mass production of precise parts a significantly easier task.

What are the benefits of using a CNC machine?

Using a modern CNC machine, particularly within the plastic fabrication industry, can provide you with a range of benefits. For example, thanks to its exact and high-speed movements, the machine significantly improves the speed and accuracy in which prototype parts can be made. It is possible to create a large volume of identical parts, in a relatively short period of time and – as a result – this can help to reduce costs for both manufacturing and supply companies.

Acrylic CNC machines also demonstrate much better capabilities than humans and, therefore, can be used to make a wider range of products. You may be a skilled engineer or an imaginative designer with a keen eye for detail; however, the CNC machine will still be able to do things that you cannot, and it can help to eliminate many of the ‘human’ challenges found with manual engineering.

What can be made using CNC machining?

CNC machines are compatible with a diverse range of materials, including everything from aluminium, steel and titanium to acrylic, perspex, polycarbonate and more. As such, CNC machining has countless applications and the process is currently employed in the aerospace, agricultural, automotive, construction, electrical, dental and food packaging industry to name just a few.

It is possible to manufacture any shape or size part that you desire, and in most cases, you are only limited by the specific nature of your CNC machine. For example, basic machines move along one or two axes, and therefore can only be used to create relatively simple parts. By contrast, some machines move laterally and rotationally along 4-5 axes and – as a result – they are capable of producing highly complex three-dimensional shapes and intricate prototype parts.

CNC Machining at Talbot Designs

Here at Talbot Designs, we have over 70 years’ experience in the plastic fabrication industry and – during this time – we have got to grips with the CNC machining process. We currently have a range of large 3-axis acrylic CNC machines, each installed with the latest software, and these machines have been used to complete a diverse range of ambitious plastic fabrication projects.

Take, for example, our most recent project with the Royal Airforce Museum in London – which involved using specialist CNC machine techniques to create donation boxes from perspex and Hi-Macs. Hi-Macs is a material that we have rarely used in the past; however, our team of experts rose to the challenge and the end result was deemed ‘impressive’ by everyone concerned.

We have also recently worked with emerging artist Zachary Eastwood Brown, using his 3D designs to programme the acrylic CNC machines and produce a unique centre-piece table for Adobe HQ. When it comes to this method of plastic fabrication, we believe that we are ‘limited only by our imagination’ and our team of CNC machine experts are always on the look-out for a new challenge.

Contact Talbot Designs today

If you would like to find out more about acrylic CNC machining and the services currently available, here at Talbot Designs, please feel free to get in touch. Either send an email to sales@talbotdesigns.co.uk or call us today on 020 8346 8515 to discuss your plastic fabrication needs.