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Alexa, tell me how CNC Machining has changed the tech in our homes.

August 22, 2019

You may not realize it, but every time you ask your smart device to read you the news or change songs, you’re directly benefiting from the wonders of CNC machining.

But before we get into a few details about how your Alexa, Google Home, Nest and the other half-dozen smart devices in your home are built on CNC parts, we thought this was an opportunity to tell one of our favorite CNC-related industry legends.

 

The 2008 MacBook: A Marvel of CNC Machining

Back in 2008, Apple decided that they wanted to change the game with a new MacBook design that was made entirely from one piece of aluminum. This would give them a much stronger, more robust and much thinner end product.

But to do that, they needed CNC machines. Lots of them.

So, of course, they bought 10,000 CNC machines and got to work.

(Apple doesn’t do things by halves, as you’ll see later.)

They then used those CNC machines to take 15” and 13.3” pieces of raw aluminium and run them through 13 separate milling operations.

They used CNC machines to precisely cut keyboard holes from the slab, to mill out the sleek recession that opens the lid and to machine out complex internal patterns to hold the hardware.

They also milled the front edges thin enough that they could use lasers to micro-perforate speaker holes and light holes.

But they hit a snag.

Only one factory in the world produced the laser drills they needed. And that company had other customers to take care of.

So they bought the company and all of its stock.

Classic Apple.

But it was worth it.

The end result still holds up as a marvel of CNC machining even a decade or so later. It’s a perfect example of Apple doing the things that, as Bolt’s Haje Jan Kemps said in TechCrunch, would have other manufacturers saying:

“The only way to accomplish what you’ve designed is to use a CNC mill. That doesn’t scale! We would need thousands of the damn things!”

Before we move on, let’s just take a minute to admire the process that went into making the 2008 MacBook…


We could watch that video for days.

“[CNC] Machining enables a level of precision that is just completely unheard of in this industry. We’ve been fanatical in the tolerances of how we machine and build these products”

Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer

And now, 10 years later, there are more CNC parts (or CNC-made parts) in our homes than ever before…

Of course, if you’ve got an iPhone, a MacBook, an iMac or a HomePod, you’re going to have some CNC-machined parts in there somewhere.

But Apple doesn’t have the monopoly on using CNC machining to create revolutionary tech.

In fact, your Amazon Echo or Google Home or Sonos, while primarily constructed from plastic-injection molding are formed using inverse dies constructed from CNC-machined aluminum billets.

Nest, the smart thermostat that allows you to tweak the temperature of your house from your phone almost definitely uses a CNC-machine set at the correct depth to create the smooth surface too.

Drones too contain parts that have gone from CAD to CAM to CNC machining to keep them buzzing around in the air.

 

But as amazing as some of these devices are, we do have a favorite use of CNC machining: Suntory Whisky’s CNC carved ice cubes.

As you may know, Prismier came into existence over a few glasses of whisky, so it’s only fitting that we end this post with a whisky-themed CNC application.

Suntory Whisky (for a relaxing time, make it a Suntory time…) used a CNC machine (which they’d chilled at -7 degrees Celsius to keep the ice from melting) to carve intricate ice cubes in the shape of landmarks from around the world as part of an advertising campaign a few years ago.


If you’re thinking about CNC machining your next prototype or production part and want quick turnarounds, high-quality parts and cost-effective pricing, get in touch!