Computer numerical control
Computer numerical control (CNC) is the operation of any kind of tool by a computer using commands stored on a tape or disk. Typical CNC machines consist of a plate capable of moving in the X and Y dimensions with a tool spindle moving in the Z dimension. Movement in each dimension is controlled by a computer operating highly precise step motors or, in older machines, motors connected to various transmissions capable of translating large movements into extremely small and precise movements.
Because of the great versatility of CNC machines, any number of tools can be attached to the tool spindle. When working with metal, the tool spindle may consist of a drill bit or other cutting tool, or even a laser or plasma cutter. When working with wood, the tool spindle can be a drill or router bit, or a saw. When working with fabric, the tool spindle can be fitted to pin, cut, glue, mark, sew, or embroider fabric. The CNC machines' versatility has made it ubiquitous in manufacturing applications, as it makes extremely complex operations cheap, accurate, and highly repeatable.