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Building Custom Parts With CNC

What is CNC and can it be used in your garage?

When you’re working on your own reproduction or replica, finding efficient ways to manufacture parts can make a big difference. You don’t always know where you’ll be able to find parts for sale, and engineering them on your own — while sometimes an enjoyable part of the process — can be quite a challenge. It’s for these reasons that we’re taking a look at how tech-driven manufacturing methods like CNC might help with the building of custom parts.

What Is CNC?

Literally, CNC stands for “computer numerical control.” More to the point though, this is a machine tooling method in which the machinery is guided by computer input. Essentially, a design is plugged into a computer system, dictating how a given object should be cut and shaped. The machine then responds to these directions automatically and exactly, cutting, turning, and shaping the material (typically metal) and ultimately producing the desired result on its own.

While it seems fairly advanced, we should also note that CNC isn’t new. Engine Builder Mag took a look at this machining method with specific regard to auto parts and described it as having been “the backbone of virtually all manufacturing” for the past 40 years. This is true to some extent, though CNC has also gotten better and more accessible over time.

What Parts Could You Make?

As we just mentioned, CNC has been part of automotive production for a long time, which as you might imagine means by now it can be used in the production of all kinds of parts. It can be used to create many components of a modern engine; it can create exhaust and suspension parts; it shapes aluminum casings for lighting features; and it can assist with various interior parts. For reproduction purposes though, CNC can also, in theory, be used to craft replicas of uncommon parts. Our post Rare Parts Available on the RCN Classifieds from last March may give you some ideas in this regard. Some of the parts listed there could perhaps more easily be replicated than actually acquired.

Do You Have The Ability To Use CNC?

One reason a lot of people building their own replicas might not have considered CNC already is that it can appear to be a process reserved for large companies or production plants. It may in fact be easier on the industry level, but it’s not the case that CNC machining is inaccessible to individuals. Fictiv outlines that instant quotes for designs of all kinds can now be acquired in a matter of minutes through professional providers; parts (depending on the nature of the designs) can be constructed in just a few days. To be clear, it’s still a complicated process, in that you have to either acquire designs or make them yourself before you can outsource the actual machining process. But it’s still an option for those who are interested.

Are There Similar Options?

Once you really look into CNC machining for auto parts, you’ll quickly come to understand just how helpful the process can be. However, there are some similar, automated methods you may be able to use either to replicate parts you can’t acquire or to add custom touches to your projects. The Drive highlighted some 3D-printed seats for a Porsche 911 just recently, calling them “as custom as you get,” and this should give you some idea of how this technology, too, might benefit you. While CNC is perhaps more reliable for internal parts and essential components, 3D printing has become an invaluable tool particularly for aesthetic touches and smaller additions.

Given all of this, CNC machining is certainly something to keep in mind the next time you’re looking into building custom parts. It won’t necessarily solve all of your needs or fix all of the issues you run into, but it can be a very effective part of your process, and may even enable you to make certain parts you might not be able to find or build otherwise.

Jared Collins is a freelance writer based in Dayton, Ohio. He writes primarily about a range of modern technologies, including advanced manufacturing, automation, and the Internet of Things.

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