Atec’s CNC Machine Shop

Caroline Bennitt Around Atec

Ever wish you could draw an item and then have a machine produce it for you? That’s essentially what a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine does.

These advanced machines are able to produce shapes with more efficiency than traditional manual machines. It’s easiest to think of a CNC machine as an industrial 3D printer, in the sense that it can take a chunk of raw material (aluminum, plastic, titanium or steel) and—using computer instructions, precise drawings and automated drills/cutters—manufacture a fresh part.

machined parts
The Atec CNC machine shop currently houses many different types of CNC machines, ranging in sizes and capabilities. These machining centers can be used for all types of cutting, drilling, threading, and hole-making to produce a wide array of very complex pieces.

CNC Machinist Adil Khureshi, provided a good example of the type of components Atec manufactures using CNC machines:

“For instance, we use the machines to make the struts for the FOD cones that are used during engine tests.”

Once these struts are made, they are wrapped in a durable swath of fabric to produce a protective cone that is then placed over the bellmouth of an engine during testing.

Khureshi asserts that when optimal precision is at stake, CNC (as opposed to manual machining) is the best route.

Generally, the work-piece of a CNC Machine moves on a horizontal plane with an X axis, a Y axis and a Z axis (which represents vertical movement). While typically most CNC systems are 3-axis systems, Atec has some machines used for intricate machining that utilize 3 linear and 2 rotary axes of movement.

An example of one of these more complex CNC machines is Atec’s Makino a51. According to Mark Cummings, Atec’s Machine Shop Manager, this machine is Atec’s first and only horizontal machining center. Atec acquired this machining center – complete with a 60 tool magazine and work table pallet changes in 2014. It is mostly used for producing critical components used in rocket engines, such as the housing for valves.

Makino a51 Horizontal Machine Center
“The main thing about this machine is its versatility due to the quick repeatability of the pallets” said Cummings.  The quick interchangeability of the pallets/or tables ensures that no time is wasted in between pieces.

Another feature of the Makino a51 that Cummings praised is the 5 decimal resolution, which is precise enough to slice a sheet of paper down the middle lengthwise into two halves.

As with all of Atec’s equipment investments, the acquisition of the Makino a51 will further drive Atec’s mission to support the aerospace and energy industries with state-of-the-art, failsafe precision.