NC Machine: Definition, Parts, Types in detail, Working Principle, Advantages, Disadvantages, Application

What is NC Machine?

NC stands for Numerical Control, and an NC machine is a type of machine tool that uses programmed commands to operate the tool. NC machines were first introduced in the 1940s and have been widely used in manufacturing and industry ever since.

NC Machine: Definition, Parts, Types in detail, Working Principle, Advantages, Disadvantages, Application

In an NC machine, the operator enters commands into a computer program, which then controls the machine's movements. These commands can specify the exact position and movement of the tool, as well as the speed and feed rate. The computer program can also include other instructions, such as tool changes or coolant flow.

NC machines have many advantages over traditional machine tools. They allow for much greater precision and accuracy, as well as faster and more efficient production. They also reduce the need for skilled operators, as the computer program can take care of many of the tasks that would traditionally be done by hand.

There are many different types of NC machines, including milling machines, lathes, grinders, and routers. Each type of machine is designed for a specific set of tasks and can be programmed accordingly. Overall, NC machines are a vital component of modern manufacturing and have revolutionized the way that products are made.

Parts of Numeric Control Machine:

The major components of a numerical control (NC) machine include:

  1. Control Panel: This is the interface between the operator and the machine, where the operator can input commands, set parameters, and monitor the machine's operation.
  2. Machine Bed: This is the base on which all other machine components are mounted.
  3. Spindle: This is the rotating component of the machine that holds the cutting tool or workpiece.
  4. Axis: NC machines typically have at least three axes (X, Y, and Z) that allow for movement in different directions. Additional axes, such as A, B, or C, may also be present on some machines.
  5. Servo Motors: These motors provide the power to move the machine along its various axes.
  6. Feedback Devices: These devices provide feedback to the control system on the position and motion of the machine, allowing for precise control and accuracy.
  7. Cutting Tools: These are the tools used to cut, drill, or shape the workpiece.
  8. Coolant System: This system is used to lubricate and cool the cutting tools, reducing wear and tear and improving the quality of the finished product.
  9. Workholding Devices: These devices hold the workpiece securely in place during machining operations.

Overall, each component of an NC machine plays a crucial role in its operation and performance, enabling high precision and accuracy in manufacturing processes.

Classification of NC Machine:

Numerical Control (NC) machines can be classified into several categories based on their configuration, size, and function. Here are some common classifications of NC machines:

  1. Based on the number of axes: NC machines can be classified as 2-axis, 3-axis, 4-axis, 5-axis, or more, depending on the number of axes of movement they possess. The number of axes determines the degree of freedom that the machine can achieve and, hence, its versatility and complexity.
  2. Based on the type of motion: NC machines can be classified as linear or circular, depending on the type of motion they produce. Linear NC machines are designed for straight-line movements in the X, Y, and Z axes, whereas circular NC machines are designed for circular or curved motions.
  3. Based on the type of machining operation: NC machines can be classified as milling machines, lathes, drilling machines, grinding machines, or other specialized machines, depending on the type of machining operation they perform.
  4. Based on the level of automation: NC machines can be classified as fully automated or semi-automated, depending on the level of human intervention required in the operation of the machine.
  5. Based on the size: NC machines can be classified based on their size, such as small, medium, or large, depending on the size of the workpiece they can accommodate.

Overall, the classification of NC machines allows for a better understanding of their capabilities and limitations, which in turn helps in selecting the most appropriate machine for a particular manufacturing task.

Basic Components of NC Machine

The basic components of a Numerical Control (NC) machine are as follows:

  1. Program Input: The program input is where the NC program is entered into the machine. This can be done via various methods, such as manual data entry or data transfer from a computer.
  2. Controller: The controller is the brain of the NC machine, responsible for interpreting the NC program and converting it into commands that control the machine's motion. The controller typically consists of a computer, software, and hardware components such as servo motors and amplifiers.
  3. Drive System: The drive system includes the motors, gears, and other mechanical components that drive the motion of the cutting tool along the NC machine's axes.
  4. Machine Tool: The machine tool is the physical structure of the NC machine that holds the workpiece and performs the cutting operations. The machine tool can include various components such as spindles, chucks, and tool changers.
  5. Feedback System: The feedback system consists of sensors that provide information on the machine's position, velocity, and other parameters. This feedback is used by the controller to ensure accurate positioning and motion control.
  6. Operator Interface: The operator interface is where the operator interacts with the NC machine, providing input and monitoring the machine's operation. This interface can include displays, buttons, and other input devices.
  7. Power Supply: The power supply provides the energy needed to drive the machine's motors and other electrical components.

Overall, these components work together to allow the NC machine to accurately and precisely control the motion of the cutting tool and perform complex machining operations.

NC Machine Working Principle:

The working principle of a Numerical Control (NC) machine involves the use of a computerized control system to guide the machine's movements and perform specific machining operations. Here's a general overview of the NC machine working principle:

  1. Programming: The NC machine operator creates a computer program that specifies the desired machining operations, including tool path, cutting speed, and feed rate.
  2. Data Input: The computer program is input into the machine's control system using a standard data input device, such as a USB drive, network connection, or direct data transfer.
  3. Control System: The control system receives the data input and translates the instructions into machine movements. The control system includes a processor, memory, and input/output devices, such as a display screen, keyboard, and control panel.
  4. Servo Motors: The control system sends signals to the servo motors that drive the machine's movement along its various axes. The servo motors are precise, high-torque motors that can move the machine's components with high accuracy and repeatability.
  5. Feedback Devices: The machine's feedback devices, such as encoders or linear scales, provide position and motion data to the control system, allowing it to monitor and adjust the machine's movements in real-time.
  6. Cutting Operation: The machine's cutting tool is positioned and oriented according to the programmed instructions, and the cutting operation is initiated. The control system continuously monitors the machine's movements and adjusts the cutting parameters as necessary to ensure accuracy and consistency.
  7. Workpiece Removal: After the cutting operation is complete, the workpiece is removed from the machine, and the process may be repeated for additional workpieces.

Overall, the NC machine working principle relies on the precise control of the machine's movements and cutting parameters to achieve accurate and consistent machining results. The computerized control system enables high automation, precision, and flexibility, making NC machines ideal for a wide range of manufacturing applications.

Advantages and Disadvantages of NC Machine:

Numerical Control (NC) machines offer several advantages and disadvantages. Here are some common advantages and disadvantages of NC machines:


  1. Precision: NC machines are capable of producing highly precise and accurate workpieces, with tolerances as small as a few microns.
  2. Flexibility: NC machines can be programmed to perform a wide range of machining operations, making them versatile and flexible for various manufacturing tasks.
  3. Automation: NC machines are highly automated, reducing the need for human intervention and minimizing errors.
  4. Productivity: NC machines can perform machining operations quickly and efficiently, resulting in higher productivity and reduced production time.
  5. Consistency: NC machines can produce consistent results from one workpiece to another, ensuring uniform quality and reducing the likelihood of defects.


  1. Cost: NC machines can be expensive to purchase and maintain, requiring specialized training and equipment.
  2. Programming: Programming NC machines requires specialized skills and knowledge, making it challenging for small businesses or individuals to operate.
  3. Maintenance: NC machines require regular maintenance and upkeep to ensure proper functioning, which can be time-consuming and costly.
  4. Complexity: The high degree of automation and precision of NC machines can make them complex and challenging to operate, requiring skilled technicians to maintain and repair them.
  5. Limitations: NC machines may not be suitable for all types of machining operations, materials, or workpiece sizes, limiting their range of applications.

Overall, the advantages and disadvantages of NC machines depend on the specific manufacturing task and the resources available. While they offer many benefits, the cost and complexity of NC machines may be prohibitive for some businesses or individuals.

Difference Between NC and CNC Machines:

The main difference between Numerical Control (NC) machines and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines is the level of automation and programming sophistication. Here are the key differences between NC and CNC machines:

NC Machine: Definition, Parts, Types in detail, Working Principle, Advantages, Disadvantages, Application

  1. Control System: NC machines use a pre-programmed set of instructions, while CNC machines use a computerized control system to execute the machining operations.
  2. Programming: NC machines use G-code or other simple programming languages to specify the machining instructions, while CNC machines use advanced programming languages, such as ISO, APT, or G-code.
  3. Automation: NC machines are partially automated, with some manual operations required, while CNC machines are fully automated, with little or no manual intervention required.
  4. Precision: CNC machines are generally more precise and accurate than NC machines, as the computerized control system can make minute adjustments to the machining parameters in real-time.
  5. Flexibility: CNC machines are more flexible than NC machines, as they can be programmed to perform a wide range of machining operations, while NC machines are limited to a set of pre-programmed instructions.
  6. Complexity: CNC machines are more complex than NC machines, requiring specialized programming, maintenance, and operator training.
  7. Cost: CNC machines are generally more expensive than NC machines, due to the added automation and programming sophistication.

Overall, CNC machines offer greater precision, flexibility, and automation than NC machines, but also require more specialized training and expertise. The choice between NC and CNC machines depends on the specific manufacturing task, budget, and resources available.

Application of NC Machine:

Numerical Control (NC) machines are used in a wide range of manufacturing industries and applications, including:

  1. Aerospace: NC machines are used to produce complex aircraft parts, such as turbine blades and engine components, with high precision and accuracy.
  2. Automotive: NC machines are used to produce automotive components, such as engine blocks, transmissions, and brake parts, with high efficiency and consistency.
  3. Electronics: NC machines are used to produce electronic components, such as circuit boards and semiconductor components, with high precision and repeatability.
  4. Medical: NC machines are used to produce medical devices, such as surgical instruments, implants, and prosthetics, with high accuracy and reliability.
  5. Mold and Die Making: NC machines are used to produce molds and dies for various manufacturing processes, such as injection molding and stamping, with high precision and durability.
  6. Woodworking: NC machines are used to produce custom furniture, cabinetry, and other wood products, with high precision and detail.
  7. Metalworking: NC machines are used in metalworking processes such as milling, turning, drilling, and grinding, with high precision and efficiency.

Overall, NC machines are widely used in manufacturing applications where precision, accuracy, and efficiency are critical. Their versatility and flexibility make them ideal for a wide range of industries and products.

Steps For Creation of Program For NC Machine:

Creating a program for Numerical Control (NC) machines involves the following steps:

  1. Design: The first step is to design the workpiece to be machined using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software. The design must be precise, with the required dimensions, tolerances, and specifications.
  2. Tool Selection: Once the design is finalized, the next step is to select the appropriate cutting tools for the machining operation. The tools should be suitable for the material being machined, and capable of achieving the desired surface finish and accuracy.
  3. CAM Programming: The next step is to create a Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) program using CAM software. This involves specifying the tool path, cutting parameters, feed rates, and other machining parameters. The CAM program must be optimized for the specific machining operation and workpiece geometry.
  4. Post-Processing: After creating the CAM program, it needs to be post-processed to generate the NC code that will be used to control the machine. Post-processing involves converting the CAM program into machine-specific code, such as G-code, that can be understood by the NC machine.
  5. Transfer and Verification: Once the NC code is generated, it needs to be transferred to the NC machine using a suitable data transfer method. The NC code should be verified for accuracy and correctness using simulation software or other verification tools.
  6. Machine Setup: Once the NC code is loaded onto the NC machine, the machine needs to be set up for the machining operation. This involves installing the cutting tools, workpiece, and fixtures, and configuring the machine settings, such as spindle speed and feed rate.
  7. Machining: Finally, the machining operation can be executed by running the NC program on the machine. The machine will follow the specified tool path, cutting parameters, and other instructions to produce the workpiece as per the design.

Overall, creating a program for an NC machine involves a series of steps that require specialized skills, knowledge, and software tools. It is critical to ensure that each step is executed accurately and correctly to produce high-quality workpieces.

Types of NC Systems

There are mainly two types of Numerical Control (NC) systems:

  1. Point-to-Point or Absolute NC System: In this type of NC system, the machine is programmed to move from one point to another in a straight line, stopping at each point to perform the machining operation. The machining operations are performed at fixed points, and the machine does not perform any interpolation or contouring. Point-to-point NC systems are simple and easy to program, but they are limited in their capabilities.
  2. Continuous Path or Contouring NC System: In this type of NC system, the machine is programmed to follow a continuous path or contour, performing the machining operation as it moves along the path. The machine is capable of performing interpolation and contouring, allowing it to produce complex shapes and curves. Continuous path NC systems are more versatile and flexible than point-to-point NC systems, but they are also more complex and require more advanced programming skills.

In addition to these two basic types of NC systems, there are also various subtypes and variations, such as:

  • Multi-axis NC systems: These systems are capable of controlling multiple axes of motion, such as X, Y, Z, and rotary axes, allowing for more complex and precise machining operations.
  • Adaptive control NC systems: These systems use sensors and feedback mechanisms to monitor and adjust the machining parameters in real-time, improving accuracy and efficiency.
  • Direct numerical control (DNC) systems: These systems use a central computer to control multiple NC machines, allowing for centralized programming and data management.
  • Open architecture NC systems: These systems are designed to be more flexible and customizable, allowing for easier integration with other software and hardware systems.

Overall, the type of NC system chosen will depend on the specific manufacturing requirements and the capabilities of the machine and operator.

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NC Coordinate System

The NC coordinate system, also known as the machine coordinate system, is a Cartesian coordinate system used by Numerical Control (NC) machines to control the motion of the cutting tools during machining operations. The NC coordinate system is relative to the machine's physical structure, and its origin is usually located at one corner of the machine's work table or chuck.

NC Machine: Definition, Parts, Types in detail, Working Principle, Advantages, Disadvantages, Application

The NC coordinate system has three axes of motion:

  1. X-axis: The X-axis is the horizontal axis that runs from left to right when facing the machine.
  2. Y-axis: The Y-axis is the vertical axis that runs from front to back when facing the machine.
  3. Z-axis: The Z-axis is the vertical axis that runs up and down.

The NC coordinate system can be defined in various ways, but the most common method is to set the origin at the machine's home position and define the positive direction of each axis based on the machine's physical structure. For example, the positive X-axis direction may be defined as moving from left to right, while the positive Y-axis direction may be defined as moving from front to back.

Once the NC coordinate system is established, the NC machine can use it to move the cutting tool to the desired position and perform the machining operation. The NC program specifies the desired position in terms of the NC coordinate system, and the machine's controller converts these coordinates into motor commands that move the tool along the appropriate axis.

Read More: What is CNC Machine? Definition, Processes, Components & More

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