How to become a CNC machinist

If you asked the average person what they thought the best training for becoming a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machinist would be, they would most likely say working in a machine shop. If you asked the average CNC machinist what they thought the best training they received before becoming a CNC machinist, they would most likely say CAD/CAM software and computer programming. The fact is it takes a combination of the two paths to emerge as a qualified CNC machinist at the end of the journey. A CNC machinist works much like the conductor of an orchestra. They must know which instruments to include in the symphony at just the right time and to the right degree. Like an experienced symphony conductor, a talented CNC machinist makes amazing and beautiful music from his orchestra of tools, technology, and training.

Challenges and rewards of being a CNC machinist

The backgrounds of most CNC machinists include time spent in shop or production floor environments. Many CNC machinists learn the basics of how to operate a machine or piece of production equipment and want to learn more. Through education at the vocational level as well as gaining knowledge in collegiate environments, CNC machinists can become valuable and indispensable team members in any of hundreds of thousands of production companies around the world. The most beneficial background for beginning a career in Computer Numerical Control machines involves exposure and experience with most of the following areas:

  • Metallurgy
  • Materials Machining
  • Production Processes
  • Tool Uses and Utilization
  • Mill, Lathe, Grinder, and basic machine functions
  • CAD/CAM drawings and blueprints
  • Basic CNC functions
  • Mathematics – Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry

Go to the next level

Once the basics have been learned, there are more lessons that round out a CNC machinist’s education and training. The skill sets of 21st century CNC machinists are constantly being augmented by the development of new technologies and production protocols. Professional CNC machinists know it is important to understand and apply the latest techniques and technologies to their production challenges. Further value is gained through knowledge in subjects like:

  • CNC controls and programming
  • CAD/CAM software integration
  • Inspection methods
  • Six Sigma, 5S, Lean, TPM, and other production protocols
  • Production floor management

Never a dull moment!

The challenges facing CNC machinists occur daily. New methodologies, tools, programming, and a myriad of other dynamics are improved upon and upgraded regularly. Keeping up with the latest tech, trick, and turnout will keep most CNC operators pretty busy along with monitoring a CNC machine or two along the way. Amazing new designs are possible because of the ongoing research and development in CNC machining. New materials, production efficiencies, and tool designs make CNC machining one of the most-advanced and most-rewarding careers in today’s tech-driven world.

People will always need what CNC machinists produce, and the more people there are, the more CNC machining that will be in demand. Whether you’re a beginner in the world of CNC machines or a veteran, there’s always something new, exciting, and innovative happening every day.

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