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Numerical control (also computer numerical control, and commonly called CNC) is the automated control of machining tools.The first NC machines were built in the 1940s and 1950s, based on existing tools that were modified with motors that moved the tool or part to follow points fed into the system on punched tape. These early servomechanisms were rapidly augmented with analog and digital computers, creating the modern CNC machine tools that have revolutionized machining processes.
CNC is a vast improvement over non-computerized machining that must be manually controlled (e.g., using devices such as hand wheels or levers) or mechanically controlled by pre-fabricated pattern guides (cams). In modern CNC systems, the design of a mechanical part and its manufacturing program is highly automated. The part's mechanical dimensions are defined using CAD software and then translated into manufacturing directives by computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. The resulting directives are transformed (by "post processor" software) into the specific commands necessary for a particular machine to produce the component, and then are loaded into the CNC machine.