Tape Recording Guides Milling Machine (Dec, 1955)

For a much more in depth discussion of early computer controlled milling machines check out this excellent 1952 Scientific American article: “An Automatic Machine Tool”. It’s amazing to think that people are building these things in their garage now for a few hundred bucks.

Tape Recording Guides Milling Machine

Guided by orders stored on magnetic tape, a new milling machine makes all the intricate cuts necessary to turn out wing and skin panels for jet planes. An engineer converts the plans for a panel into decimal numbers, which then are perforated into a paper tape. The paper tape then is run through a computer, which coordinates the information into precise time-and-motion orders to the machine. It also records these orders on magnetic tape. The magnetic tape is used to control all functions of the machine. One advantage of the system is that the magnetic tape can be prepared thousands of miles from the machine tool if necessary. No templates are required and no sample must be cut in order to make the tape recording. Such recordings can be stored indefinitely, then brought out for use whenever they are needed to produce more parts of the same type, an important factor in production for national defense.

  1. jayessell says: June 12, 200710:08 am

    Not only building them, but showing them running on YouTube!


    As an example. There are several of varing degrees of sophistication, from near professional to obviously home built.

  2. jayessell says: June 12, 20073:44 pm

    Prepare to be amazed!


    Dang! Can’t find the one of Texas shaped wood bowls!

    (He makes them in a shed and a friend sells them at swap meets.)

  3. jayessell says: June 12, 20074:02 pm

    Can’t comment!
    Go to YouTube and search for CNC.

  4. Charlie says: June 12, 20074:07 pm

    Sorry Jay, Akismet is acting really weird this week and making a lot of things marked spam. If anyone is having trouble with comments that don’t appear, please email me. This blog gets a few thousand spam comments a day.

  5. jayessell says: June 19, 200711:35 am

    Here’s a YouTube of a home made machine that makes wooden bowls shaped like Texas.
    I guess you’d put in nuts or pretzels.


    Reminds me just a little of the World’s Fair cartoon where tables and chairs were punched out of huge logs.


  6. ALI AOLI says: November 23, 20075:40 am


  7. NikFromNYC says: January 13, 20081:38 am

    I actually own a CNC milling machine (big bed so really called a CNC “router”), and back in the late 90’s the old expert boys on Usenet (Google Groups) still talked about “tape drive” vs. what is the modern computer equivalent called forevermore G-Code. G–Code is simple. G0 X1 Y2 Z3 means “move to” an inch to the right, two inches back, and three inches up. But these old dudes had these old machines, and had to figure out how to interface/re-fit their “tape-readers” to use computer input, and it wasn’t cheap.

    Advice to new folk? Ballscrews and servo motors. Don’t get stepper motors and ACME screws or gear/pinion machines, nor adhere to any homebrew or even “poor mans” version of a real CNC machine that does not use rubber covers to shield the critical linear motion components from the dust your machine will make.

    Techno-Isel rocks. With shims to square the thing, I get 0.001″ accuracy with 0.0001″ repeatability.

    I suggest BUYING Rhino, and pirating (bay.org) RhinoCAM or Surfcam ’99 (since Velocity III 2003 is no different and COSTS $12K for a frickin’ computer program?!). But buy Rhino. Not just because the cracked version no worky (serious display issues and slow start up constipation X 10), but that Rhino is a *real* company instead of some sort of MBA run BS operation. But they have REAL, as in unreal copy protection. If you pirated it for too many years, download Rhino 3 and install it, then buy a mere minor hundreds instead of mega hundreds “upgrade” version.

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