Computer Numerical Control

CNC Operator


    A cnc operator must keep safety in mind at all times, a CNC operator must understand how tools function and how to use them in a safe manner. The CNC Operator must understand imperial and metric measure and know basic mathematics.

The CNC Operator must know how to read Blueprints and drawings, a CNC operator must have an eye for detail, and must understand tolerances, typically a CNC Operator takes information provided from the engineering, programming, or drafting team to operate a CNC Machine, CNC programming is not a requirement and is often done with the computer.

The information provided can be in the form of ".DXF" ".DWG"."STL" or even "G" and "M" code, these are the most common formats, ".DXF DWG" are "AutoCad" and "STL" is Solidworks. The "G and "M" code is industry standard, "M" being the later of the two machine standards. The information obtained by the engineering, programming, or drafting team and loades it into a CAM software or in the case of "DXF, DWG or STL".

In the case of "G or M" code the information is loaded directly into machine software like "EMC". All of these files information can be stored on a flash drive and is uploaded to the machine using the computers USB port. In the case of older machines the information is loaded using other methods.

The CNC Operator is also responsible for loading and unloading material from the machine in most cases, some machines just require supervision because material is added and removed as work progresses, these machines are found on automated production lines. The CNC operator also measures material as it's machined, the operator uses precision measuring tools like "Callipers" and "Dial Indicators".

The environments machines and Machine Operators are found in vary greatly, some shops machine material weighing tens of thousands of pounds, where cranes are needed to load the CNC machine, usually a "Boring Mill" in extreme environments like this. Other locations only machine small parts found in every day things. The CNC machine and CNC operator produce most of the things we see today, most we don't even think of.


Wages are tiered because this is a trade that requires four years to obtain a certificate, the certificate is known as a "Red Seal". A CNC Operator is considered to be a "Machinist" and you commonly see "Mill Wrights" performing the job. Today a Red-Seal CNC Operator will earn between $30 - $40 in the city, and more in urban areas.

Other cases, the operator owns the CNC machine and the CNC machine earns the operator a great deal more than the average pay rate. History: A CNC Operator in the past would program a CNC by performing the work, the machine would then mimic the machine operator and perform the same operation time and time again, these people where highly skilled.

The only downturn to this old and still used method is a lack of accuracy, the machine is only as good as the operator in this situation. Fortunately today computers do all the work, a Vector image is used to generate machine code by using trigonometry.

A CNC (Computer Numerical Control) operator is responsible for loading and unloading work pieces, checking work pieces, setting program datum's, setting up jigs and fixtures, replacing worn or broken tooling, cleaning swarf from the machine and basic machine maintenance. A cnc programmer takes images and uses computer software to generate tool paths and code for machines.

G code is a standard and can be used with any CNC machine. Today the open source 3D printer uses Solidworks Drawings (.STL) and generates tool paths and machine code with the click of a button. Anyone can program a CNC, don't let thge word "Program" scare you, the cose is also very easy to understand. Many people operate CNC machines at home, and even construct there own machines, making everyone who touches CNC today an Operator.

To Recap a CNC machine operator must understand the following:

1. Shop safety

2. General machine usage

3. Shop math

4. Blueprint reading

5. Tolerance interpretation

6. Measuring devices

7. Cutting tools

CNC programmer.

The CNC programmer today uses a computer to convert images to machine code, the industry standard for this code is "G-Code" also common is "M-code", "G" being short for "Go". and "M" being short for "Machine" In the past programming was a little different, machines would mimic movement from data stored on a tape, this tape would have been created when an operator performed the initial operation. Since the machine was programmed by copying a humans movements errors would also be duplicated, although trivial or seldom these errors and extra run time equated to less efficiency.

CAD (Computer Aided Design) and CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) programs are used to program a CNC Machine. CAD programs include and are not limited to "Solidworks" and "AutoDesk" for proprietary programs and "Sketchup" and "Inkscape" for "open-source" software. Many formats can be used and many programs can be used, for example "Adobe Illustrator" will convert PNG format images into .DXF format for a CAM program.

CAM is used for generating a tool path and for exporting the image to the industry standard G-code. Open source programs can be used for CAM, and they include Skeinforge, Slic3r, ReplicatorG, and others, these open source packages require .STL image format files opposed to the traditional .DXF or .DWG Autodesk image file format.