A Guide to the CNC Process for Architectural Work

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CNC machining processes have made it easy for companies to create accurate, quality products for various applications. Can these processes be combined with the creativity in the architectural world? Of course they can. This article looks at how you can incorporate the techniques in your architectural projects.

These processes are popular for their potential for automation and precision. They have been around since 1950 but started gaining prominence in the world of architecture early in the 1990s. Let’s learn how it works and how to use it in architecture.

What is Computer Numeric Control (CNC)?

These are a set of instructions and coordinates given to a computer. At the start, the technology was used to punch cards. However, it grew to CNC programming languages and software programs. The coordinates sent to the machine are called G-code. They enable the operator to pre-program the entire cutting processes into the CNC machine, telling it what to do at each step and where to stop.

The use of these procedures have several advantages. First, you can repeat a procedure several times and get the same, consistent results. Second, they run automatically and do not require up-to-the minute supervision. These two benefits add to the precision that the process delivers.

How to Use Them in Architecture

The CNC process has several stages that creatives follow to reach their goal as listed below.

Creating a Concept

The architect comes up with an idea that he or she wants to transform to a product. He creates the idea either manually or digitally. In most organisations, this idea is debated upon and changes made by the team accordingly. They also check the feasibility of the idea technically and commercially.

CAD Drawing and CAM Package

If the idea was not in a digital format, then it has to be rendered into one using Computer-Aided Design (CAD). This idea can be rendered in 2-dimension or 3D models. Once the idea is completed in CAD, this data is taken for the Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) process. The CAM package is the process of converting the data into coordinates so that the CNC machine understands them. During this process, technicians add flanges, stock and run out to the data.

Creating a Toolpath

Once the information is created in the CAM program, it moves to the next stage that involves creating a tooth path. This process converts three axis (X, Y, and Z) into five- axis coordinates (X, Y, Z, B and C) for the machine.

Once the tool path is created, it is then customised according to the CNC machine that will be working on the project. From this point, the information can be sent to the machine for execution.

Modelling Using CNC

Architects can use CNC machines –like refurbished routers, mills, and lathers– as they are more suitable for rapid prototyping and modeling their ideas. They can then use the models to check areas of weaknesses and design flaws that should be worked on before the project can commence. This is of immense benefits for these professionals as they make designs fast and polish them before they are commercialised.

Models are a high accurate representation of the idea that the architect had in mind. Builders and designs are able to understand the same and put it into action. This reduces instances of miscommunication or poor interpretation of ideas by people executing the idea. The CNC process is an architect’s best gift to quality design.