What is CNC Milling
CNC milling, or ‘computer numerical control’ milling, is a simple and effect form of digital fabrication. This technology is often the most common type of digital fabrication found in many different kinds of shops. The CNC is essentially a drill, mounted on a multi-axial arm which cuts away at material from the top. It is accurate, straightforward and fairly fast. The CNC mill is a much different concept than a 3D printer, primarily because it cannot carve under the material it is milling. This means that there cannot be any cantilever like structure in the model, as the milling arm cannot reach underneath it.
Similar to 3D printers, CNC mills have become much more affordable, and therefore more accessible; which is a trend with a great majority of technology. It is not uncommon that people might have their own CNC mills.
The CNC milling bed at Slocum Hall, the School of Architecture building is 17” by 13”, and can mill wood and dense foam materials up to 2” deep. CNC milling can take up to 36 hours depending on certain variables. For example, the material, the complexity, and the amount of detail finishing requested can all make a huge impact in the time aspect. When CNC milling a slope, for example, one could either choose to make a very smooth slope, or a more stepped pyramid-like slope which takes shorter to mill.
The cost of CNC milling makes it one of the most affordable types of digital fabrication that is allowed to students. The mill charges $6.00 for an hour. Once again, the time lapsed is based on the kind of material used and the amount of detail and finish.
The CNC mill at the Warehouse is very advantages for students as it boasts a 4 by 8 foot bed, with a drill depth of 4”. This means that students can take large pieces of material and be able to make a model out of one pieces. The large bed is extremely useful for CNC mill. Similar to Slocum Hall, the CNC mill can mill a range of materials using different thicknesses of drill bits. The Warehouse also has a second CNC mill, which is almost exactly like the one found at Slocum Hall. However, the bed is larger at 24” by 30” by 3”.
The cost at the Warehouse is more expensive, directly due to the bigger bed size. While Slocum Hall charges $6/hour, the Warehouse charges $15/hour. Keeping in mind that in order to get a large project done, you would need to have multiple pieces cut at Slocum Hall, the more expensive price per hour at the Warehouse pays off in the long run for bigger projects. The cost of the second CNC Mill at the Warehouse is approximately $9/hour. This gives a third and flexible option for students who want to make projects at a medium size.
Examples of CNC Milling