Components and Functions of a CNC Machine

Since the mid-twentieth century Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines have revolutionized the manufacturing industry. They have done so by automating and enhancing precision in the production of various components. Industries that often use them include aerospace, automotive, and electronics to create intricate and accurate parts.

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A CNC machine is basically a sophisticated tool that translates digital instructions into precise physical movements. It allows the user to interface with

The primary functions of a CNC machine include:

  1. Digital Control: Computer programs that dictate the tool’s movements and actions. These programs contain detailed instructions for the machining process.
  2. Automated Precision: One of the key advantages of CNC machines is their ability to execute repetitive tasks with unparalleled precision. The automation eliminates the margin of error associated with manual operations, resulting in consistently high-quality products.
  3. Versatility: CNC machines can perform a wide range of tasks, from cutting and milling to drilling and engraving. Their versatility makes them indispensable in various manufacturing processes.


The roots of CNC technology can be found in the development of numerical control systems during the mid-twentieth century. Around this time, the aviation industry emerged as a significant catalyst for CNC innovation. Engineers sought a more efficient and precise way to machine complex components for aircraft. This led to the birth of numerical control as a solution to automate machine tools.

Early example of a CNC Machine

The 1940’s kicked off the history of the CNC machine with the introduction of punched tape systems. These systems allowed engineers to input numerical instructions into machine tools, automating certain aspects of the machining process. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the concept of CNC truly began to take shape. John T. Parsons, often regarded as the father of CNC, played a pivotal role in advancing the technology. Parsons, along with Frank L. Stulen, developed the concept of controlling machine tools through punched cards, laying the groundwork for the CNC machines we know today.

During the 1960s, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) introduced the concept of direct numerical control (DNC). As the technology matured, industries beyond aviation started adopting CNC machines. The 1970s saw the integration of computers into CNC systems, allowing for more sophisticated programming and control. This integration, allowed the machines to become increasingly versatile and accessible. This led to widespread CNC adoption across various manufacturing sectors.

Example of modern CNC machine. Note the digitalized control panel

CNC machines evolved beyond milling to encompass a wide range of machining operations. This includes turning, grinding, and electrical discharge machining (EDM). Presently, CNC machines are at the forefront of advanced manufacturing, shaping industries ranging from automotive and aerospace to electronics and healthcare.


While there are varying models and designs, CNC machines generally are made of several different parts. These parts are crucial to the function of the CNC.

  1. Control Unit:
    • Computer: The brain of the CNC machine, the computer processes the instructions from the program and translates them into electrical signals.
    • Control Panel: Operators use the control panel to input data, set parameters, and monitor the machine’s performance.
  2. Drive System:
    • Motors: Drives the movement of the cutting tool along the specified path. Common types include stepper motors and servo motors.
    • Ball Screws/Rack and Pinion: These components convert the rotational motion of the motors into linear motion, guiding the tool precisely along the desired path.
  3. Tooling System:
    • Cutting Tool: The cutting tool is an essential component that physically shapes the material. Different tools are used for various machining operations.
    • Tool Changer: In machining processes that require multiple tools, a tool changer automates the process of switching between tools.
  4. Work Holding Device:
    • Vise or Chuck: The workholding device secures the raw material in place during machining. It ensures stability and accuracy throughout the cutting process.
  5. Coolant System:
    • Coolant Tank and Pump: Machining generates heat, and a coolant system helps dissipate this heat, preventing damage to the tool and workpiece. It also aids in chip removal.
  6. Axis System:
    • Linear Guides: These guides facilitate the smooth movement of the machine’s axes. They play a crucial role in maintaining accuracy during machining.
    • Axis Motors: CNC machines typically operate in three or more axes (X, Y, Z), and each axis has its motor for precise control.


Understanding the functions and components of a CNC machine is essential for those involved in the design and operation of these advanced manufacturing tools. As technology continues to advance, CNC machines are likely to play an even more pivotal role in shaping the future of manufacturing processes.

Surge Protectors Vs Power Strips

In a world full of misinformation and misconception, people tend to overlook one bit of knowledge. This specific misinformation manifests in the form of two specific objects, commonly found at home and at work. These objects hide under your bed. They lie forgotten about in the crevice behind your office desk. Heck! You may even find two to three of them daisy-chained together by some rabbel-rouser rebelling against OSHA!

Of course, I am talking about power strip and surge protectors. At a glance they both look and function in a similar way. However, once you get the past the surface level similarities, the differences begin to reveal themselves. At this point the importance of knowing the difference becomes very clear.

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Power Strip

The history of the power strip traces back to the early 20th century. The increase demand for electricity in homes and workplaces made it necessary to have a way to power more devices. The earliest patent for a power strip dates back to 1929. As more electronic devices and appliances became integral to daily life, the need for additional electrical outlets became apparent. The earliest power strips were simple extensions of existing electrical wiring. They offered a convenient way to power multiple devices from a single wall outlet. These early versions were rudimentary, often lacking safety features and surge protection.

Advancements in electrical engineering led to the integration of safety features. These included circuit breakers and individual switches for each outlet. The 1970s saw the update and release of the power strip type that we all know today. With the rise of computers, home entertainment systems, and an increasing number of electronic gadgets, power strips became ubiquitous in households and offices. They played a pivotal role in managing the complex web of cords. They also provided a centralized power source for various devices. Power strips continue to evolve, incorporating smart technologies and energy-efficient designs.

Surge Protector

As more sensitive electronic equipment like computers and televisions became commonplace, the vulnerability of these devices became evident. Surge protectors emerged as a response to this challenge, aiming to mitigate the risks associated with power fluctuations. Early surge protectors were rudimentary. They often utilized devices like metal oxide varistors (MOVs) to redirect excess voltage away from connected devices. However, these early models lacked the sophistication and comprehensive protection features seen in modern surge protectors.

As technology advanced and electronic devices became more intricate and expensive, surge protectors evolved to offer enhanced protective mechanisms. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st century, surge protectors integrated advanced technologies, such as transient voltage suppressors and thermal fuses, to provide more robust defense against power surges. The growing awareness of the importance of surge protection has led to the widespread adoption of surge protectors in homes, offices, and industrial settings. Today’s surge protectors not only shield devices from voltage spikes. They also often include additional features like USB ports and smart functionalities to meet the diverse needs of contemporary users.

So What’s the Difference?

As mentioned above, at an initial glance power strips and surge protectors may seem like interchangeable jargon for the same item. However, the difference between them lies in their functionality and purpose. Power strips function as a tool for allowing power to multiple devices at once. The modern conception used today comprises of a multi-outlet strip with a power switch installed. Power strips serve multitude of uses across various industries. Shops utilize them for being able to use multiple power tools at the same time. Offices use them to hook multiple computer components. In the home they are often found in the living room powering the entire family entertainment system.

While the surge protector essentially finds itself used in the same way that the power strip does. Unlike the power strip, the surge protector has the added bonus of being able to actually protect devices if there is a voltage spike. Often these spikes (more commonly referred to as surges) come from things lightning strikes or power outages. It is often advised that all expensive and sensitive devices be connected to a surge protector as to ensure their longevity.


Understanding the disparity between power strips and surge protectors is vital for making informed decisions about the safety of your electronic devices. While power strips offer convenience, surge protectors provide essential protection against unexpected voltage fluctuations, ensuring the longevity and functionality of your valuable electronics. Finally, if you are trying to buy a surge protector make sure to read the box fully to ensure you are not buying a power strip.

High Medium Low Voltage

Understanding low, medium, and high voltage is considered to be crucial knowledge in industrial automation.  Not only does this knowledge facilitate a safer environment, but also promotes efficiency and functionality within the working systems.  Here is a breakdown that covers the differences in voltages, the safety aspect, and how knowing about them proves important in the field of industrial automation.

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What is Voltage?

Voltage refers to the force that moves electric charges through a conductor. It’s a fundamental aspect of electrical systems, crucial for powering devices and transmitting electricity across various distances. Industries categorize voltage levels into high, medium, and low. Industries base this on their magnitude and the applications they serve.

Low Voltage

Generally, low voltage refers to voltages below 1000 volts (V). Common examples include household outlets in many countries operating at 120V or 230V. Additionally, low-voltage systems might involve voltages as low as 12V or 24V used in electronics, small appliances, and LED lighting.  

Low-voltage systems are prevalent in everyday devices and smaller-scale electrical applications. They power household electronics, chargers, small motors, and many portable devices. Low voltage remains relatively safe for direct human contact. Furthermore, it remains widely used in residential, commercial, and industrial settings due to its lower risk of electrical hazards.

While low voltage is generally safer to handle, improper handling or faulty wiring can still pose risks of electrical shock or fire hazards, necessitating proper installation and adherence to safety standards.

Medium Voltage

Medium voltage typically ranges from 1000 volts to 35,000 volts. This level of voltage is commonly used in industrial settings, power distribution systems, and larger facilities.

It plays a crucial role in power distribution. They transport electricity from power stations to transformers, which then step down the voltage for use in commercial and residential areas. Medium voltage powers heavy machinery, large motors, and equipment in industries, hospitals, data centers, and universities.

Medium-voltage systems require specialized equipment and trained personnel for installation, maintenance, and operation due to increased risks of electrical accidents. Safety protocols, protective gear, and comprehensive training are essential for handling and working with medium-voltage systems.

High Voltage

High voltage refers to voltages exceeding 35,000 volts and can extend to extremely high levels used in power transmission lines, reaching hundreds of kilovolts (kV) or even megavolts (MV) in some cases.

High-voltage systems primarily serve the transmission of electricity over long distances. Power generated at plants is stepped up to very high voltages for efficient transmission across power lines. High-voltage systems are crucial for delivering electricity from power plants to substations, where it is then stepped down to medium or low voltage for distribution to end-users.

Working with high-voltage systems requires rigorous safety measures, specialized equipment, and highly trained personnel. The risks associated with high-voltage systems are significantly higher, including severe electrical shock, arc flashes, and other potentially fatal accidents.

Reasons to Know the Difference

Workplace Safety

In industrial or commercial settings, where medium or high voltage systems are common, employees must be well-versed in safety protocols specific to each voltage level. Proper training, understanding of safety procedures, and equipment usage reduce the risk of accidents, ensuring a safer work environment


Efficiency and Integrity

Each voltage level serves specific purposes within an electrical system. Low voltage is suitable for smaller-scale applications, while medium voltage is crucial for efficient power distribution across larger areas. High voltage is indispensable for long-distance power transmission. Understanding these distinctions ensures that the right voltage is used for the intended application, optimizing efficiency.

Mismatching voltage levels or using incorrect equipment can compromise the integrity of electrical systems. Understanding the correct voltage requirements helps prevent equipment damage, system failures, and electrical fires, ensuring the longevity and reliability of the electrical infrastructure.

Compliance and Standards

Proficiency in handling different voltage levels is often a prerequisite for certifications and licensing in electrical work. Electricians, engineers, and technicians must demonstrate knowledge and competence in dealing with specific voltage levels to obtain the necessary credentials.


During emergencies such as electrical faults, fires, or accidents involving electrical systems, responders need to quickly identify and manage the voltage level involved. Knowledge about the voltage level enables them to take appropriate actions to mitigate risks and ensure a safe resolution of the situation.


In essence, knowledge of the differences between high, medium, and low voltage levels is foundational for maintaining safety, ensuring efficiency, complying with regulations, and responding to emergencies. It stands as the pinnacle standard for safe and efficient utilization of electrical power across various domains. This ranges from everyday household electronics to large-scale industrial infrastructure.

The Coding Languages of Industrial Automation

Over the decades the communication between operator and machine has been the driving force behind efficiency and safety. Without this crucial communication, manufacturers would come across a plethora of wasted cost as well as dangers situations. Giving precise commands and execute them instantaneously is crucial to making sure any automation facility operates at its best. PLC languages are very important, for their ability to allow the operator to communicate complex tasks to machines. Not only that, but their ability to automate tasks takes allows the operator to focus on other important tasks.
There exist a multitude of challenges that come with performing these tasks with a diverse scenario of situations. Because of this, there are multiple coding languages that become involved when discussing PLCs.

Read more: The Coding Languages of Industrial Automation

Traditional PLC Languages

Ladder Logic (LD)

The OG of programmable languages, Ladder Logic was created by Modicon Corporation in the 1970s for their PLCs. The industry needed a programming language that could effectively mimic the wiring diagrams used in relay-based control systems. These systems were prevalent in industrial settings for controlling machinery and processes.

Ladder Logic’s graphical representation consists of horizontal lines (rungs) with vertical lines (rung rails) that represent control circuits. This is much like the rungs on a ladder. The visual resemblance to electrical wiring diagrams made it intuitive for personnel accustomed to working with relay logic. This eased the transition from hard-wired systems to programmable control.

Today, Ladder Logic’s simplicity and visual nature makes it a fundamental programming language in industrial automation.

Structured Text (ST)

For intricate algorithms and mathematical operations within industrial automation, Structured Text emerges as a prevalent choice. Resembling high-level languages like Pascal or C, ST allows engineers to articulate complex control strategies with ease. Its readability and versatility make it an ideal choice for implementing algorithms in industrial settings.

Function Block Diagram (FBD)

Employing a graphical approach, Function Block Diagrams break down complex systems into interconnected blocks. This visual representation simplifies the design and maintenance of systems, facilitating easy comprehension and troubleshooting in industrial environments.

Sequential Function Chart (SFC)

In scenarios requiring a structured approach to depict sequential operations, Sequential Function Charts come into play. This graphical language represents a sequence of operations in a state-based manner. It offers a clear depiction of complex processes and control flow.

Instruction List (IL)

Instruction List, akin to assembly language, operates at a low level using mnemonic codes. Ideal for detailed control in PLCs, IL enables engineers to create precise instructions for control systems, making it indispensable for fine-tuning operations.


C++ became integrated into industrial automation and PLC during the late 90s and early 00’s. However, C++ was slow to be integrated due to lack of optimization to work in a real time setting. Another factor for its slow adoptions, was compatibility. At the time languages like Ladder Logic and Function Block Diagram were more widely used in industry. However, C++ made up for this early setback with its ability to compute complex tasks.

Future Languages

Python and Java

The advent of Python and Java in industrial automation signifies a shift toward versatility and broader system integration. Python’s ease of use, coupled with its capabilities in data analysis, scripting, and interfacing with various systems, has positioned it as an increasingly popular choice. Java, with its platform independence and object-oriented approach, finds a place in larger-scale industrial applications.

The choice of programming language in industrial automation hinges on a multitude of factors, including system requirements, hardware compatibility, existing infrastructure, and the expertise of the programming team. Each language brings its own strengths to the table, catering to different facets of control and automation.


As industries evolve and technology advances, the landscape of programming languages in industrial automation continues to expand. Understanding and leveraging these languages empower engineers to build robust, efficient, and adaptive systems that drive the future of manufacturing and industrial processes.

Single Pole vs. Double Pole Switches: A Complete Guide

In the realm of industrial automation, the choice between single pole (SP) and double pole (DP) switches plays a crucial role in designing reliable and efficient control systems. Single pole and double pole switches serve as fundamental components determining how electrical circuits open and close. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of single pole and double pole switches, their applications in industrial automation, and the considerations involved in making the right choice.

Single Pole vs Double Pole

Single pole switches (SP) and double pole switches (DP) are fundamental electrical components that control the flow of electricity in circuits, yet they differ significantly in their functionality and applications.

In terms of installation and physical appearance, both single pole and double pole switches share similarities. They are often available in similar sizes and designs, making them interchangeable in certain situations. However, the difference lies in their internal structure and functionality, impacting their capacity to manage electrical circuits.

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Safe Torque Off – MRO

Industrial automation systems have revolutionized manufacturing and processing industries, improving efficiency and productivity. However, with the increasing complexity of machinery, ensuring worker safety has become a significant challenge. Safe Torque Off (STO) is an essential safety feature in industrial automation system. Its key design is to mitigate risks and protect personnel and machinery.

What is Safe Torque Off

Safe Torque Off (STO) is a critical part of the overall functional safety framework compliant with international standards such as IEC 61508 and ISO 13849. The primary purpose of STO is to ensure the controlled and safe deactivation of the torque produced by electric motors. This stops the motion of machinery in a controlled and secure manner. It allows for the decoupling of the motor from the load, ensuring that it cannot generate any motion or torque.

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Surge Protectors – MRO Electric


The under evaluating of surge protectors is not something that is exclusive to the world of industrial automation.  People tend to buy them for their multiple outlet utility overlooking their actual value.  However, surge protectors play a very pivotal role in the function and protection of our devices.  Often their importance goes unrecognized until of course disaster strikes.  In the world of industrial automation, the importance of surge protectors is just as important yet overlooked as ever.

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