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CNC Machining & the U.S. Air Force

We all learned how much World War II changed the political landscape, but what’s often overlooked is the bright light it shined on manufacturing high-quality parts. In 1947, the need for speed and accuracy led to the invention of modern numerical control, the forerunner of computer numerical control (CNC) machining.

It all started at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, where John Parsons and Frank Stulen first demonstrated numerical control by developing a helicopter blade fabrication system using an IBM multiplier and feeding data points directly into a jig borer. After impressing the Air Force, the pair soon started their own company, winning numerous contracts not just for the helicopter blade, but also for a wide range of products, including 3D shapes and innovative wing designs.

cnc machining service

Source: Traverse City Record-Eagle

Advancing toward full numerical control

Taking what was learned from Parsons and Stulen, the Air Force commissioned a series of research projects at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which culminated in the first numerically controlled machine prototype.

As the system was further refined, a prototype — using a Friden Flexowriter with an 8-column paper tape, tape reader and a vacuum-tube control system — became the basis for all successive machine developments by 1953.

Even now, all of the most sophisticated CNC machining systems employ three systems to operate — a command function system, a drive system and a feedback system. This concept comes from the early days of development in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of computer-aided design and the miniaturization of components as technology moved, sometimes slowly, toward true CNC machining. Of course, modern PCs made systems faster and more affordable, giving rise to a burgeoning industry.

CNC machining technology continues to advance, and manufacturers are continuously searching for better ways to increase speed and efficiency in their products. PDS stays at the forefront of the industry with state-of-the-art laboratories and experts who know their way around. Call us today for a fast quote on your next project.

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