CNC Machining vs. Manual Machining


When it comes to manufacturing different parts and goods, computer numerical control (CNC) machining is the method that many industries rely on. CNC machining is a process where programmed computer software works to move different tools and machinery.

A CNC machinist is an individual trained with the skills to work with these machines and software, ensuring they’re set up properly and running smoothly. Until CNC technology became the primary method used for this kind of work, industries relied on manual machining, which required one technician per machine.

Manual machining still has a place in the industry, even though it is less common. Keep reading to find out more about the differences between the two methods.

Differences Between CNC Machining and Manual Machining

One of the major differences between the two machining methods is the number of employees needed during the process. With CNC machining, a trained individual can operate several machines at once. With manual machining, there needs to be one technician per machine.

The history of CNC machining dates to the 1940s, when it was first developed by John T. Parsons, who was commissioned by the Air Force. Later, computer-aided design (CAD) was combined with CNC machining to make further improvements in the technology. These efforts were led by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

There are several advantages of CNC over manual machining, including:

  • Uniform results: One of the advantages of having a programmed machine producing tools and products is that it can manufacture the exact product time and time again.

    • Large-scale production: CNC machining is great for large-scale production, as it can manufacture thousands of pieces in a short amount of time and allow businesses to scale quickly.
    • Safety: The machines used in the CNC process are working behind a guard, and often a closed, transparent safety door, which helps eliminate the risk of injury.
    • Decreased labor: CNC machines can produce components with minimal intervention and effort, which is why one trained worker can operate and monitor several machines at once.

    While CNC machining is the method used by most businesses, there are still instances where manual machining can be a more appropriate approach. Here are some benefits of manual machining:

    • Cost effectiveness: For businesses starting out, saving money wherever possible is often high on the list of priorities. Manual machines are less expensive, making them a good option for those new to an industry.
    • Short turnaround: It takes less time to produce a component when manual milling is used, as there are fewer steps involved than in CNC methods.
    • No programming: Operating manual machines does not require programming beforehand, which can help save time. The person operating the machine does not need skills to be able to program and load computer software.
    • Great alternate method: If a facility is producing a large amount of goods and tackling big projects, having manual machining capabilities can be useful for smaller projects, which can increase the efficiency of the business.

    As you can see, when it comes to CNC versus manual machining, there are some benefits to both. Those needing machining capabilities would have to consider what they’d be producing and what best suits their specific needs when choosing one over the other.

    Learn Various Machining Methods at NASCAR Tech

    While CNC machining is the method of choice in most cases, getting foundational training in how to operate all types of machines can help you when pursuing a career in the industry.

    The 36-week CNC Machining Technology program offered at NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina, can provide the hands-on training and high-tech skills needed to prepare for a career as a CNC machinist.1 The program’s courses cover a range of machine types and operations, including manual machining.

    Specifically, there are three machine milling courses:

    • Manual Machining Basics: Students are introduced to and learn the skills needed to use manual lathe and milling machines to create various parts.
    • Manual Machining on the Lathe: During this course, an understanding of manual lathe threading and taper turning is covered. More skills are introduced so students learn to use manual milling machines for production.
    • Manual Machining on the Mill: Advanced manual milling processes are covered during this course, with an emphasis on angular and complex milling operations.

    Along with learning about manual machining, students gain a well-rounded knowledge of all CNC machining methods needed for an entry-level career in the industry.

    Are you interested in pursuing this career path? Be sure to request more information here, or call 1-800-834-7308.

    NASCAR Technical Institute Campuses That Offer CNC Training

With classes starting every 3-6 weeks, no need to wait to start your career.
Hands-on training.Get hands on experience with the industry's leading brands.
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1.4 ) NASCAR Technical Institute is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2 ) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit

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