What Is CNC Programming?
Are you good with numbers and computers? Would you like a career that combines programming with manufacturing? Computer numerically controlled (CNC) programming is used by manufacturers to instruct machines in producing parts. Read on to learn how CNC programming works and to find out the steps you can take to become a CNC programmer. Schools offering Industrial Automation Engineering Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
CNC Programming in Manufacturing
CNC programmers write the instructions for the computing module used to run CNC machines. CNC machines are used to shape and cut precision products, such as machine, car and aviation parts. CNC programmers plot out each step of how machines make these parts and convert that information into a form that's usable to the machine.
How It Works
To determine the sequence of actions needed to make a part, CNC programmers evaluate the specifications for a particular part that's to be machine-made. The programmers make calculations based on raw material and physical production, such as what kind of material is being used, how quickly it should be fed into the machine, where holes or other fabrications need to be placed and so on. CNC programmers then turn those specifications into a series of numbered, sequential instructions for the machine to follow.
Once a CNC set-up operator downloads the program onto a machine and tests it, any necessary modifications and improvements are made. According to the BLS, CNC programming may be performed by CNC programmers or in some companies, by machine operators. A CNC programmer will also typically keep an eye on the production process to intervene if any adjustments need to be made to the program.
Training and Credentialing Options
There are a number of ways you can become a CNC programmer. Some CNC programming professionals complete apprenticeships that include both classroom and shop training. Another option is to obtain a certificate or associate's degree in CNC operation and programming. While a bachelor's degree in engineering is preferred for some specialized programming positions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers also typically take into account your work experience (www.bls.gov). Another option is for you to major in machine tool technology, which exposes you to working with both hand tools and CNC tools, according to College Board (www.collegeboard.org).
You may voluntarily earn Machining Level I credentials from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, Inc. (NIMS) that include CNC programming tasks. A number of colleges and other training facilities now offer courses that incorporate NIMS standards. Testing in both theory and performance is required.
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