Computer numerical controlled machines cut, grind, drill, shape, and finish various raw materials, such as metal, wood, and plastic, into manufacturing components. They are complex machines, which means they must be operated with acute precision and thorough knowledge. CNC machines are widely used in a vast array of manufacturing sectors. If you are good with your hands and have an excellent eye for detail, you could consider becoming a CNC machinist.
What does a CNC machinist do?
CNC machinists are crucial members of an engineering team. They work with CNC machinery from setup through to operation. As a CNC machinist, you would be responsible for overseeing the machines and adjusting things like the material feed, the control speed, and the path of the precise cut. You could be operating brand new machines or ones from a used machinery vendor. CNC machines include lathes, lasers, shears, presses, press brakes, and machining centers.
Although CNC machines are a lot smarter than ever before, they still require machinists to program them, monitor their performance, and ensure that output is entirely accurate. Typical tasks of a CNC machinist include:
- Ensuring the equipment is working correctly.
- Monitoring capacity and materials stock.
- Performing maintenance.
- Performing quality control.
Depending on the specific position, CNC machinists could oversee lots of different CNC machines or be responsible for a single complex machine. The job responsibilities will differ depending on the point at which CNC machinists are at in their careers. Junior machinists usually work under close supervision, while senior CNC machinists are typically responsible for teams of people and work closely with CNC programmers.
Where do CNC machinists work?
Many sectors of the manufacturing industry use CNC machines. Most opportunities come in the aerospace, automotive, shipbuilding, and mechanical engineering industries.
What educational requirements does a CNC Machinist need?
Because CNC machines are highly technical, operators are required to undergo significant training before they can begin working with CNC machinery. In the US, people wishing to become CNC machinists typically must possess a high school diploma or GED to obtain a place at a technical school or college where they can learn specific skills for CNC machinery operation. Holding a degree is not vital for becoming a CNC machinist. However, it is often preferred because it demonstrates proficiency in the skills and knowledge required to operate the machinery successfully.
Many education courses also require apprenticeships or internships so that students get real-life experience with CNC machines. It can take quite a long time to become a fully-trained CNC machinist, as students need to master both academic and practical knowledge and skills. Typically, with education combined with on-the-job training, it will take you around four or five years to become fully trained.
What skills do CNC machinists need?
You will need to possess and learn a wide variety of skills before you can begin operating a CNC machine professionally. Required skills include:
- Math skills.
- Technical writing and comprehension skills.
- Mechanical and technical skills.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Manual dexterity and accuracy.
- Communication skills.
- Attention to detail.
- Teamwork skills.
- Time management skills.
- Commitment to safety.
What is the average salary of a CNC machinist?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for CNC machinists in the United States, as of May 2019, was $43,170. The more experience you have, the higher wage you can command. Those with ten years of experience will earn a higher salary than those at an entry-level. But if you are committed to a career as a CNC machinist, it can be a rewarding and lucrative role.