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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Subtractive Manufacturing: CNC Machine 101

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Numerically Controlled Machines first started to emerge back in the 1940s’, then from the late 60s, these eventually evolved into the forerunners of the CNC machines we see today.

So, what defines a CNC machine? What should you be looking for in a machine when it comes to subtractive manufacturing?

If you’re looking to up your precision engineering game, which tool should you be investing in? This article delves into everything you need to know about choosing the correct machine, including a brand comparison of Tormach vs SYIL.

What Are CNC Machines?

CNC machines combine the versatility of traditional manually operated workshop machines but can be programmed to incredibly high levels of precision.

The abbreviation CNC stands for Computer Numerically Controlled. They can produce items to a high tolerance in a wide range of materials. Machines range from small desktop devices which are great for hobby and enthusiasts, right up to large-scale industrial-sized machines for large manufacturing companies.

Examples of CNC Machines

There are dozens of types of CNC machines available now. Pretty much every machine in the workshop has a version that now can be programmed and controlled by a  computer. Some of the most common CNC machines are listed below.

  • CNC Mill
  • CNC Lathe
  • CNC Routers
  • Laser Cutters
  • Water Jet Cutters
  • Plasma Cutters

What Is Subtractive Manufacturing?

We know that the phrase “to subtract” means to take away from something. This is the same with subtractive manufacturing.

It involves cutting and removing unwanted material from the original piece you started with, this could include processes like drilling holes, cutting, milling, and hollowing out.

Stages of the Process

Before we go into the process of creating a project using CNC machines, it’s good to understand some of the abbreviations used.

  • CAD – Computer Aided Design
  • CAM – Computer Aided Manufacture
  • CNC – Computer Numerically Controlled

Any CNC project begins with creating a design. This is done through CAD software. It can be a 2D or a 3D design, depending on the item which is being produced. During the design process, keep in mind any limitations of the material and the machine.

Depending on the complexity of the project, a programmer may use CAM Software which will digitally manipulate the design so that the format can be ready by the CNC machine. The machinist will set up the machine with the correct tools, and prepare the materials to be cut.

Although for simple shapes, the CNC machine needs little extra input from the machinist. However, for complex designs or where a range of CNC machines is needed, the machinist will play a vital role. Also, the finishing touches and any clean-up will be done by hand.

Common Materials to Work With

CNC machinists have the benefit of using a wide range of materials to produce CNC Machined parts. To decide on the best material choice, the machinist will have to consider the final application. For example, if an item was for marine use, then they would have to choose a material that doesn’t corrode. Here’s a list of the most popular materials to create products and prototypes.

  • Plastics
  • Carving Foam
  • Woods
  • Metals

Tormach vs SYIL CNC Machines

For more information, take a look at this detailed Tormach vs SYIL comparison table. Overall choosing Syil is far superior to a similar model by Tormach. Where the Tormach does win, is that it’s a lot cheaper for a like-for-like machine, so this may appeal if you’re on a very strict budget. However, there are a lot of limitations to it, so it may not be the best choice in the long run.

Tormach Machine

The major plus point is that they are more budget-friendly from the first outlay, although they don’t come with many features. This could be a better option if you’re on a budget and you’re just starting with using a CNC machine. The entry base model of Tormach is the 1100MX.

Although sturdy machines, another drawback with Tormach machines is that they can be extremely slow and have spindle power issues.

SYIL Machine

Although at first, SYIL looks like the more expensive option, you do get multiple features as standard. SYIL machines are known for their reliability, and their abundance of features does make it better value for money. They have a high degree of accuracy and speed, making this the best choice for industry professionals.

The popular SYIL X7 is designed for heavy projects, thanks to its robust and innovative design.

Industries That Use CNC Machines

Because of their versatility, CNC machining can be used in a plethora of industries. They are the perfect solution for mass production, as well as intricate one-off and specialist items that require custom-made parts.

  • Medical industry
  • Aerospace industry
  • Transportation industry
  • Oil and gas industry
  • Military and defense industry
  • Electronic goods industry
  • Marine industry

Alternatives for CNC Machines

Depending on what material you plan on cutting, there are several alternative CNC machines you could use. We’ve included an alternative machine for subtractive manufacturing and additive production.


Laser cutters work particularly well for small detailed items. Especially for plastics and plywood. They are also great for adding decorative features to items, such as glass etching. laser cutters can not be used with metals, if this is something you’re considering doing then you may prefer to invest in a plasma cutter instead.


Depending on the product you are producing, this works by building an object through layers. This is often used in the world of rapid prototyping and 3D printing. There are several different ways of creating additive manufacturing items, including Electron Beam Melting, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and Fused Deposition Modeling.

What Else Do You Want to Know About Choosing a CNC Machine?

We hope we’ve given you plenty of things to think bout when it comes to choosing the correct CNC machine for you. Whether you’re an established manufacturer, or just getting started, take a look at the machining tips, product reviews, and advice at SYIL.


To summarize, in a Tormach vs SYIL Machine, upfront SYIL looks like the more expensive option. However, you do get a lot more features as standard. Tormach is a great option if you’re limited by budget, however, it requires you to pay extra for any added features which may end up costing more in the long run.

If you’re not sure which option is the best for you, speak to one of the professional and knowledgeable team members. They can arrange an online meeting to take you through our virtual environment, give you a demonstration of our machines, and answer any troubleshooting questions you may have.

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