Part 2: Numerical Control Systems and the History of CNC Machining

This second part of our two-part blog covers the early beginnings of computer numerical control (CNC) and some of the first turning machines, which includes turning machines developed in the mid to late 1700s, lathes used in gun copying during the 1800s, and other preliminary forms of automated machining. Today’s CNC operations utilized in many fabrication industries were developed from John T. Parsons and Frank L. Stulen’s work in engineering punch card systems. Their abstract programming and numerical control designs were studied and tested in an U.S. Air Force funded research project through Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Modern CNC machining gives manufacturers a vast range of fabrication capabilities for machining, turning, lathing, milling, and more. As a contract manufacturer, MultiSource Manufacturing LLC utilizes over 140 CNC machines, including 3-axis and 5-axis indexed milling and Swiss turning equipment. Our CNC hardware and software technology helps us meet customer needs for parts, components, and full assemblies in the medical device, aerospace and defense, semiconductor, food and bakery, financial processing, and many other industries.

Joseph Marie Jacquard Memorial Award

After Parsons and Stulen finally received funding from the Air Force, they began to test and build their by-the-numbers automated machines. By that time, Parsons Corporation entered into a full collaboration with MIT Servomechanisms Laboratory to build experimental milling machines. In 1968, Parsons received the first Joseph Marie Jacquard Memorial Award from the Numerical Control Society. In 1975, he was given an honorary plaque by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers naming him “The Father of the Second Industrial Revolution.”

Computer Aided Design

During the late 1950s, the successful engineering and understanding of numerical control systems led to the potential of programmable language systems that would soon become the basics of what we know today as CNC. The first computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) incorporated into CNC systems came in 1959 when the MIT laboratory began the “Computer-Aided Design Project,” funded again through the U.S. Air Force.

CNC Machining

CNC machining developed further throughout the late 1970s and into the 1990s. Toyota car factories in Japan implemented many new systems of lean manufacturing with CNC practices, General Motors (GM) had used CNC practices since the 1960s, and large vendors like International Business Machines (IBM) began to stock standardized CNC and CAD/CAM supplies.

Software Systems

Advancement of software systems, coding, computers, and other digital capabilities also improved the precision and range of CNC processes. Data storage capabilities grew throughout the 1990s, allowing more versatile, extensive, and portable systems, and the growth of the Internet opened doors for direct communication between machines and other components of production.

Manufacturing Abilities

Contemporary CNC machining continues to develop with expanding additive and subtractive manufacturing abilities. Our CNC systems allow us to manufacture at close tolerances without compromising extreme precision. To learn more about our fabrication services and our equipment, contact MultiSource Manufacturing LLC at (952) 456-5500. You can also request more information, or request a quote to get started with our team.