Incremental Coordinates

As a CNC machine works on a part, the machine guides either the cutting tool or the workpiece from one location to the next. Depending on the operation, a CNC machine will use either incremental coordinates or absolute coordinates to determine this movement.
FIgure 1 shows a blueprint with dimensions that reflect incremental coordinates. With incremental coordinates, a new location is calculated from the current position. Once the tool reaches the new location, it becomes the base for the next position. In other words, the current position always acts as the origin for the next position. If you were driving down the street, incremental directions would be similar to traveling three streets north, two streets east, one street north, etc.

A potential problem with incremental coordinates is that an error can be carried from one dimension to the next. Let’s say that, while driving, you missed a street. All the rest of your distances would be inaccurate, and you would have to correct your instructions to reach your final destination.


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