1.4.1 Development of CNC machine tools
In the middle of the 20th century, with the advent of the information technology revolution, the machine tool has gradually evolved from the previous manual mapping and simple operation to the digital control and fully automatic forming parts.
In 1946, the world’s first electronic computer was born, which shows that human beings have created tools that can enhance and partially replace mental labor. Compared with those tools that are only used to enhance physical labor in agricultural and industrial society, it has made a qualitative leap and laid a foundation for human beings to enter the information society.
Six years later, in 1952, computer technology was applied to machine tools, and the first CNC machine tool was born in the United States. Since then, traditional machine tools have undergone qualitative changes. For more than half a century, CNC system has experienced two stages and six generations of development.
The following describes the development process of CNC machine tools in detail.
Numerical control (NC) stage (1952 ~ 1970)
In the early days, the computing speed of the computer was low, which had little impact on the scientific calculation and data processing at that time, but it could not meet the requirements of real-time control of machine tools. People have to use digital logic circuits to “build” a special computer for machine tools as a numerical control system, which is called hard wired NC, or NC for short
1st generation CNC system
Since the early 1950s, the system has adopted electronic tube components, and the logic operation and control are completed by hardware circuits.
2nd generation CNC system
It began in the late 1950s, marked by the wide application of transistor elements and printed circuit boards in CNC systems
3rd generation CNC system
Since the mid-1960s, due to the emergence of small-scale integrated circuits, their volume has become smaller, power consumption has been reduced, and reliability has been improved, which has promoted the further development of CNC systems
Computer numerical control (CNC) stage (since 1970)
4th generation CNC system
By 1970, small computers had appeared and were mass produced. So it was transplanted as the core component of the CNC system, and entered the stage of computer numerical control (CNC). By 1971, Intel company of the United States had integrated the two core components of the computer, i.e. the operator and the controller, on a single chip using large-scale integrated circuit technology for the first time in the world, which was called the microprocessor, also known as the central processing unit (CPU).
5th generation CNC system
In 1974, microprocessors were applied to numerical control systems. This is because the function of the small computer is too strong, and the ability to control one machine tool is rich (so it was used to control multiple machine tools at that time, called group control). It is not economical and reasonable to use microprocessors. Moreover, the reliability of minicomputers at that time was not ideal. Although the speed and function of early microprocessors were not high enough, they could be solved by multiprocessor architecture. Because microprocessor is the core component of general computer, it is still called computer numerical control.
6th generation CNC system
By 1990, the performance of PC (personal computer, commonly known as microcomputer in China) had developed to a very high stage, which could meet the requirements of being the core component of CNC system. Since then, the CNC system has entered the stage based on PC.
Note: although it has been renamed computer numerical control (CNC) in foreign countries, it is still used to be called numerical control (NC) in China. So the “numerical control” we talk about in our daily life actually means “computer numerical control”.
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