If you are pursuing a career in manufacturing, you will be able to advance further if you have specialist knowledge of machining methods and specific types of machinery. Computer numerical control machines are now widely used in the manufacturing industry, particularly in sectors like shipbuilding and car manufacturing. So, by learning the skills required to become a CNC machine operator, you can further your career.
What are CNC machines?
Computer numerical control machines are used to produce a wide variety of components made of metals, plastics, and other materials. There are all kinds of CNC machines, including milling machines, lathes, presses, grinding machines, metal spinning machines, and welding machines. So, when it comes to operating a new or second hand machine, there are dozens of types of CNC machines you could work with. If you want to become a successful CNC machinist, the more types of machines you become skilled in using, the more of a CNC master you will become.
Gain Basic Machining Skills
While it helps to learn how to use a variety of CNC machine types, you cannot run before you can walk. Before you can become a CNC machine operator, you will need to have experience with standard machinist equipment like manual mills, lathes, and band saws.
You Need Strong Mechanical, Mathematical, and IT Skills to Become a CNC Machine Operator
Before looking at the precise skills you need to become a CNC machine operator, you need to know whether you have the right type of general skills. Unlike many machine operation jobs, CNC machinists need to have strong mathematical skills as well as mechanical skills. CNC machines are sophisticated pieces of equipment that are driven by software, so you need to have excellent IT skills too. You will need to learn detailed information regarding the characteristics of specific machines, be able to understand technical drawings and blueprints and know how to correctly finish components to meet the relevant tolerance specifications. If you do not have a strong aptitude for IT and math as well as mechanical manufacturing, a career as a CNC machine operator might not be the best career path for you. Still, there are plenty of other opportunities for machinists within the manufacturing industry.
Learn Basic CNC Machine Skills
The longer you work with CNC machines, the more knowledge and skills you will acquire. But when you first start working as a CNC machine operator, you will need to learn basic skills to:
- Load programs into CNC machines.
- Enter initial settings into CNC machines, such as positioning materials and selecting parameters.
- Load workpieces into CNC machines.
- Monitor machining operations.
- Finish workpieces.
- Perform quality control checks.
- Know what to do in the event of an error or breakdown.
- Perform basic maintenance tasks.
Learn About CAD, CAM, and G-Code
Even though you need to learn about different CNC machines, the CNC manufacturing process is actually mostly automated. That is why CNC machines are so popular. They provide accurate and consistent results of high quality for each component being produced. They are able to do that because the production is based on the instructions in G-code that are first created by a programmer using CAD and CAM software. So, you need to understand how the process works for creating components using CAD, CAM, and G-Code if you want to become a skilled CNC machine operator.
Gain In-depth Knowledge About CNC Machine Operations
In addition to learning how to make parts with a CNC machine after being given a G-Code, there are lots of specific skills you will need to learn in order to fully operate any kind of CNC machinery. For instance, you will need to learn how to set up work and tool lengths, inspect parts, deburr, and ensure the computer program will not crash and damage tooling. You will also need to master operating several machines at once.
Further Your Knowledge and Skills
Once you attain your goal of becoming a CNC machine operator, you could climb the career ladder more by expanding your skills and knowledge. That includes knowing how to operate an overhead crane safely and how to handle the tractability of parts. It could help to gain knowledge about things like vacuum fixturing too. Basically, the more knowledge and skills you gain for CNC machinery operation, the further you will be able to go in your manufacturing career.
How to Become a CNC Machine Operator
Many CNC machine operators train on the job working for a manufacturing company or as an apprentice. However, you could alternatively complete an associate degree program in manufacturing technology, which you can do via technical schools and community colleges. You also have the option to do a certificate program, which is offered by various vocational schools, commercial trade schools, and community colleges.