A CNC controller controls each and every movement of the CNC machine by issuing commands through the CNC software. In essence, it is just like a human brain that controls each movement of the human body. The controller is made up of components such as a circuit board with various electronic components, and the software which is passed on to the controller from the computer that executes the command once it is deciphered and the appropriate motors are activated.
Job of this piece of Equipment
A CNC machine consists of one section that actually does the desired job-work, be it drilling, milling, cutting, etc. However, it needs to get the commands and co-ordinates before it can start the job. A CNC controller is assigned the work of converting a computer program, which essentially is a set of commands that is fed into it by a programmer or controller into actual physical motion. The controller then deciphers these commands and proceeds to activate the related mechanical part of the CNC machine such as the driller, cutter, etc.
Evolution of the CNC controller
This CNC equipment have evolved from the earlier NC or Numerical Controllers that were essentially instructions entered in alphanumeric code. But with the advent of computers and sophisticated software such as Computer-Aided-Design or CAD and computer-Aided-Manufacturing or CAM, CNC controllers have evolved into tools that can initiate and control extremely complex moves of the CNC machine. CNC controllers are now directly interfaced with the related machine and a programmer can manipulate the entire machine with the help of commands.
Construction of This CNC Equipment
The CNC controller is made up of an electronic circuit that receives power from its own power supply unit. The circuit also has an inbuilt circuit protection system that protects the circuit board and the motors from electrical power surges and also contains fuses that can cut off power in case of a short-circuit. The circuit converts the commands or program into electrical output and initiates action by giving the right signal to the motor driver, which in turn activates the drive motors.
Open loop versus closed loop motors controlled by the controller
These motors run on either the open loop system where the motor simply receives the signal from the driver and does the required job without providing any feedback, or the closed loop system where the motor communicates back with the motor driver. The closed loop system has a programmed set of values within which the motor can do the job, but in case there is an error where those values are exceeded then the CNC controller can be programmed to stop the job-work thereby preventing any damage. This system is intelligent but also costlier since it offers protection to the machine and the job-work too. Stepper motors are usually used with open loop systems while servo motors are used in closed loop systems.
In modern CNC machines, a CNC controller usually acts as a translator or a middleman between the computer and the machine by converting CNC programs into actual motion with the help of the motor drives. It generates and amplifies signals to put the desired action into motion and can also accept feedback to take evasive action in case of a problem. As computers get faster and machines manage to perform increasingly complex actions, future CNC controllers too will have to keep pace and ensure that the commands pass faster through its circuits and quickly get converted into the desired pulses.
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