In 2009, a pop video from North Korea celebrated a new national hero — one that outside experts would later realize was at the heart of the secretive state's banned nuclear and missile programs.

That hero, widely available in factories across the world, was the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine.

Big, gray and boxy, CNC machines use pre-programmed guides to produce intricate parts for everything from automobiles and mobile phones to furniture and clothes. They offer accuracy that human machine tool operators are unable to achieve.