CNC machining with robots

Can robots really replace CNC machining centers?

CNC machining has long been the domain of specialized machine tools. Boring mills, vertical turret lathes (VTLs), five-axis trunnion tables and even Swiss-style lathes feature specialized configurations meant to ideally solve one subtype of NC machining challenge. This is done by maximizing structural efficiency for a particular tool application, but in every case the most limiting factor is the work envelope. It becomes expensive to scale up these machines to large envelope sizes because their specialized structure has to scale as well.

Robot cells are a much more affordable way to cover large, multi-axis work envelopes. For a host of relatively low-force machining functions, such as trimming and grinding, deburring, polishing, linishing, gluing, light cutting and more, it is easy to expand the work envelope using robot arms that can reach a long way and contort to match any required tool axis.

These machining-style tasks are different from the more traditional robotic tasks, since continuous, precision motion relative to a workpiece is required. These contrast with more typical positioning tasks like part handling and spot welding. It can be challenging to program this type of motion for robots using a manual approach or some of the existing robotics programming software tools.

Siemens PLM Software has integrated its proven Tecnomatix® software for advanced robotic solutions with NX CAM software to provide the NX CAM Robotics Programming solution. This makes it easy to program a robot to cut, trim, linish, etc., using familiar NX CAM computer numerical control (CNC) programming methods. NX CAM Robotics Programming software lets you design, simulate, validate, optimize and offline program your industrial robots for machining-type tasks. This solution greatly increases the efficiency and quality of these high-precision, multi-axis robotic operations. Featuring the intuitive and widely-accepted NX™ software 3D environment, the software combines the simplicity of CNC programming with the power to accurately create, control and simulate complex robotic machining processes.

Read the complete NX CAM Robotics Programming fact sheet

View a 4 minute video, “Introducing NX CAM Robotics Programming,”  to learn how to use the software.


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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at