What Is The Accuracy Of A CNC Machine?


CNC machines that produce quality parts must be accurate. This means they must follow the program without making errors or deviations that could compromise the quality of parts production. What do you consider about precision optical components.

Accuracy, precision, and tolerance may seem unfamiliar terms to those unfamiliar with machine tools. This article will help to provide clarity as to their definitions.

Position Accuracy

Position accuracy in CNC machines refers to their ability to reach a specified point within a certain tolerance. Measurements can be made on either one or multiple axes and depend on an encoder resolution – the maximum number of measuring units read per revolution of an encoder shaft.

To achieve high position accuracy, all axes of a machine must be aligned perfectly. A laser interferometer can help assess this alignment; its readings show how close the actual position to the command position is; therefore, the lower the number is, the more precise the positioning accuracy of a CNC machine will be.

Geometric errors in a machine tool result from both internal and external influences that compromise its performance, such as thermal expansion/deformation, wear, heat generation, frictional forces, and friction. Some errors can be eliminated by using ball screws with improved geometry, reducing friction on the machine, and cleaning up its work environment.

If a machine tool is misaligned, it will be unable to execute its programmed path as planned and produce parts that do not comply with specifications and may even fall outside tolerance ranges. In such instances, production times may increase significantly while pieces may fall outside tolerance boundaries or may not even meet them entirely.

As part of an evaluation of machine accuracy, in addition to checking positional and geometric accuracy on both linear and rotary axes, volumetric accuracy must also be assessed by comparing dimensions of benchmark to process reference on CNC process drawings.

Repeatability refers to a CNC’s ability to reproduce identical precise cuts across multiple parts, so for maximum repeatability, it should be kept well-calibrated and regularly maintained. Regular use will cause it to shift out of calibration with its original calibration, so recalibrating may need to be performed with an optical comparator or laser interferometer in order to maintain maximum efficiency and ensure production-ready machines.


Repeatability refers to a CNC machine’s ability to repeatedly produce parts with tight tolerances – an invaluable characteristic for any manufacturer as it enables fast and economical replacement components production. To reach high levels of repeatability, machines should be equipped with appropriate tools and properly trained operators.

Laser Trackers provide an advanced device for measuring machine axes (x, y, and z). By analyzing these measurements, it is possible to assess whether their geometry and positioning accuracy meet production demands.

An efficient CNC machine should produce consistent results each time it executes the same program, while one with poor repeatability may fail to meet specifications and make inferior products, potentially costing money or causing injury in specific applications.

Temperature fluctuations are one of the most significant challenges to CNC’s repeatability, affecting its axes as it warms up due to thermal expansion. As this occurs, these axes will shift and produce parts with differing dimensions than intended, often delaying production start-up time and leading to decreased productivity. This can be frustrating, and waiting for start-up and production start times significantly, potentially losing valuable productivity, time, and resources.

Tool wear can also significantly diminish a CNC’s repeatability. As dulled cutting edges cause variances in dimension for machined surfaces and lead to inconsistent part production, creating conflicting parts from one machine run after another. A compensation map may help mitigate this issue and minimize error deviation at every point within its workspace.

An efficient CNC machine will remain accurate over time with proper care, maintenance, calibration, inspections, cleaning, and lubrication. Also important is keeping it at a stable temperature to reduce thermal fluctuations and ensure repeatability – these steps will all add up to improve both its efficiency and quality in the long run.


A CNC machine’s tolerances refer to how far apart it will deviate from its programmed coordinates, typically as a result of factors like tool wear, thermal growth, spindle wander, or backlash. As with most things related to accuracy in CNC machinery, tighter tolerances tend to correspond with higher accuracies – tighter tolerances require more significant effort from tools as they require increased inspection efforts if they must be maintained for materials like soft plastics; additionally, increasing tolerances will increase inspection costs which in turn results in increased costs overall.

Tolerances can be measured using a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM). The CMM takes multiple measurements across the surface of a part and compares them against its digital model to determine its tolerance limits; these are recorded and stored for later use when making decisions relating to that part. Dimensional variation for two identical parts serving the same function could reach +/-0.005″. Although noticeable, in most instances, this difference will go undetected.

It is crucial when designing CNC machined parts to understand the difference between tolerances and accuracy, even though they are often used interchangeably. While tolerances refer to allowable variations from an expected value, accuracy measures consistent results over time.

An effective rule for selecting tolerance values is selecting those with minimal restrictions while still meeting application-specific needs. A tolerance range of +/-0.005″ usually suffices in most instances and can easily be accommodated by most CNC machines.

Selecting appropriate tolerances can be challenging due to material properties like machinability and characterization. More complex materials, like aluminum or steel, can often hold tighter tolerances than soft plastics such as Nylon or HDPE; tighter tolerances also increase difficulty in inspecting features that could become more prone to chatter and stickiness during inspection.

Another critical consideration is whether to employ unilateral or bilateral tolerances. Unilateral tolerances provide for one direction of deviation and are easier to inspect, while bilateral ones allow both positive and negative variance.


Measurement accuracy in CNC machines indicates how close their measurements produced are to actual values, as determined by using either a coordinate measuring machine (CMM) or laser interferometer to compare positions on workpieces with points within their workspaces; this enables an operator to understand how precise the device is.

An accurate device produces repeatability in its performance if, for example, a code entered by a machinist into their CNC machine requires it to make an exact cut of 50mm each time it is activated – this phenomenon is known as repeatability.

Metrologists and machine tool designers use various forms of precision for measuring accuracy in machine tools, including geometric accuracy, which measures functional components that influence accuracy when in the final machining state; geometric accuracy also evaluates linear encoders and servo systems to gauge precision.

On the other hand, “working accuracy” refers to a machine’s ability to stay within its tolerance limits when cutting materials. This form of precision can be determined by factors like machine operator skills, clamping tactics, and workpiece quality; changes in ambient conditions also have an impact; therefore, it is best determined with statistical process control (SPC) systems.

Understanding each form of precision is essential when selecting a CNC machine that best meets your needs. Choose a manufacturer who prioritizes accuracy and carefully follows operating and maintenance instructions on the machine for maximum performance. An imprecise CNC machining process may result in scrap parts not meeting specifications that cannot be used, leading to more rework cycles and increased costs overall; a highly accurate machine can reduce these problems significantly and deliver a great return on your investment; after all, who wants to waste money on fancy new measuring systems only to be disappointed with results?

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