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CNC programming software creates program codes and instructions used to run a machine tool controlled by a computer. Each unique part requires its own CNC program. In general terms, CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control and has been around since the early 1970’s (often referred to as NC programming).

The term “CNC” is an acronym for “Computer Numerical Control“. CNC differentiates between a machine that has a “Controller” on it from one that is manually run. The machines we are referring to in the world of metal cutting would be a Mill, Lathe, Router, Water Jet, Laser, Plasma, Wire EDM or Burning machine. Therefore, a CNC Machine is one that can read in a numeric code/language that contains data about cutting, axial coordinates, tool information and much more.

While CNC Machines have revolutionized the way we have been manufacturing since the 40’s, the methods that have been developed for programming these machine tools has evolved dramatically in the last 25 years. This leads us to “CNC Software” which is also known as CAD-CAM Software (Computer Aided Design & Computer Aided Manufacturing). While this is not an article on CAD Design Technology, we will say that CNC Software refers more to the machine tool programming and automation side of the manufacturing process.

Basically CAD-CAM software is for taking a CAD drawing/part geometry (wireframe, surfaces or solid models) and turning it into a program that involves cutting or machining toolpath and then posting it in a highly organized NC machine language that the machine controller will understand and execute. Post processors are used for turning toolpath information and simply converting into a numeric language that can be transmitted from the CAM or CNC Software to the CNC controller and then used to make the machine motors run in accordance to there the toolpath or cutting should take place on the part material itself. In many cases the CNC/CAD-CAM is in a different location that the machine controller. Generally, RS 232 communications is used to send G-Code from the CAM to the machine controller.