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Advice for Learning CNC Machining

Posted on March 15, 2016 by Institute of Technical Trades

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, which is how automated machine tools are operated. Examples of CNC machines include vertical millers, centre lathes, routers, and many other engineering tools. Modern CNC system designs are highly automated by using computer-aided design (CAD) programs, as well as computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs. Learning CNC machining is a unique and challenging endeavor, with many complex items to consider during training. Automated machining has gone through great advancements in recent years, with significant developments any engineer would find useful to be abreast of. Most numerical control is computer-controlled by now, so it can be essential to learn about CNC machining for a well-rounded engineering education.

Below are three core recommendations for learning CNC machining:

Get Some Background


When deciding to pursue learning CNC machining, it is highly recommended one is familiar with your current computer operating systems. As unique software and controls are used for CNC machining, a basic familiarity with common software operating systems would be ideal for learning CNC-specific tasks.

Common background education for CNC machinists includes mathematics, industrial arts, mechanical drafting, and other engineering-related disciplines. However, the computer-controlled accessibility of these tools means more and more people of varying skill and background can learn to use them. Manual tools of this nature require highly skilled engineers to operate them properly; CNC machining allows one supervisor to control several machines in a highly efficient manner.

Familiarize Yourself with the Process


CNC machining begins with a drawing either created in two or three dimensions using CAD, along with a code which can be read by the machine. Then, the appropriate program is loaded and the operator can a test to ensure there no problems ensue. This trial run is referred to as "cutting air" and is very important to complete; any mistake with speed and tool position could result in a scraped part or a damaged machine.

By familiarizing yourself with the basic processes of each machining project before beginning, these types of errors can be easily avoided.

Be Patient


CNC machining is constantly being developed and refined, so maintaining expertise with the most current processes requires a certain amount of patience and finesse. CNC machining is intended for very precise and/or repetitive actions, so it is easy for inattentive users to make errors. These types of errors are referred to as “crashing”.

Crashing is when parts of the CNC machine move in such a way damage is accumulated to the part being working (if not also the machine as well). The most modern CNC machines have the ability to anticipate whether or not a crash will happen within a cycle, but nonetheless, attention to detail in this role is essential. Many CNC tools possess no awareness of the table’s absolute position or the position of the tools when turned on. This has to be assessed upon each machine’s use.

The purpose of CNC machining is to create the most accurate executions of a design, so it is paramount to use the hardware and software effectively. The Institute of Technical Trade offers a wide variety of educational resources for learning CNC machining and much more. For more information, visit http://www.instituteoftechnicaltrades.com/ or call 1-800-461-4981 or 416-750-1950
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