CNC control of machine tools made it possible to cut a variety of complex three-dimensional shapes that were previously difficult or impossible to create. That was then. This is now. Though CNC still is the main controller of choice for machining centers, other options such as PLCs, PACs and PC-based controls are drilling into the CNC's dominance.
Some proprietary control architectures are utilizing dual kernel platforms to integrate PC functions in a Windows environment, which some developers prefer because it's easier to use and program.
Standard PC or PLC controls can be expanded by integrating dedicated CNC controls into software, as well. This, in theory, eliminates the need for a CNC controller and allows the builder to use the same hardware for control, visualization and motion.
Most machine builders agree there’s no definitive substitute for CNC, but in those applications that require both CNC and PLC for different control applications, a combined platform can mean significant cost savings in training and spare-parts inventory.
Finally, if a PAC has the essentials for CNC tool compensation and interpolation built-in, a typical NC program can be executed. So is there really any limit to the options available? Or is the controller choice a slave to the application.