SST Shop Talk
Weighing Technology's Offers: The Pros and Cons of a CNC Job
If you think that being a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine operator may be a bit out of your reach, think again. You don't have to be a math wizard or a programming genius to get that position. But don't jump in just yet! There are a few things that you have to know (and consider! ) before applying for the job.
The first thing that you have to understand is the abbreviation CNC. According to an online encyclopedia, CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, and refers specifically to a computer controller that reads G-code instructions and drives a machine tool, a powered mechanical device typically used to fabricate components by the selective removal of material. CNC does numerically directed interpolation of a cutting tool in the work envelope of a machine. The operating parameters of the CNC can be altered via a software load program.
The good thing about being in this job is that the workload is actually light. Operators even complain of boredom because the cycles of CNC machines are all automated. All they have to do is initiate the sequence, sit back, watch for malfunctions, adjust the performance of each machine, and turn them off. If your boss is kind enough to let you use an MP3 player while working, then you sure are lucky.
Another good thing about this job is that job openings for this position will always rise. Technology is moving forward. CNC machining will certainly lead the demand because in CNC, a group of machines can be controlled at the same time. That is exactly what big-time companies want, right? To reduced manual overseeing and just leave it to the machines.
Advantage in this job arena is easy too. Statistics show that you will need only a high school diploma and (more importantly) an experience in CNC operations to gain an edge.
The thing is, when you're in this line of work, it is repetitive. One gets bored after doing the same mechanical thing over and over again. As time withers, you will reach a point where you will breathlessly wait for the next paycheck and not actually care about the job. It's emotionally exhausting. Furthermore, programming and operating these machines can be tedious. So, add that up to boredom and you get productivity loss.
Another thing that you should think about is the work environment. You're going to be working in a factory. And factories are located away from town. If you're not comfortable with being away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this might not be for you.
It can get pretty dangerous. Reports show that although most CNC operators work in a well-lit and smoothly ventilated environment, the high-power machinery poses dangers for them in the form of flying particles of metal and plastic. Also, though most modern machines produce less noise, ear plugs are still recommended by experts.
Lastly, this may not sound like a biggie, but most CNC operators are on their feet all day. They can only sit when the programs are being loaded into the computer. It's pretty comforting that they receive big salaries.
The first person is the CNC programmer. He is like the "playmaker". He will create the programs that the CNC machines are intended to execute. Since the programs are in the form of CNC codes fabricated like sentences, he should have mastered these codes because they work like a different language. The regular CNC machine can use up to 50 codes, so that's like learning 50 new words for the newbie.
Also, the programmer should have at least and engineering or machining degree. Remember that the CNC machine will only execute WHAT IT IS PROGRAMMED TO DO. If the program is wrong, the whole operation goes down the drain with it. Moreover he should also be flexible and have a fast turn-around because a CNC machine is often used to machine a huge selection of different work-pieces.
The third person that will need is the CNC technician. Although this may still be the programmer, it is more convenient to always have a technical expert on-call because in the long run, you may have more than one CNC machine and you may need to prioritize over the other in case both gets crippled at the same time. Just like the programmer, the technician should also be flexible and articulate. CNC offers a lot of complexity when it is running right, how much more if it is behaving badly?
So, if you are having job openings for positions that need to be handling a CNC machine, ask the applicants first to do a demo for you and make sure that during the demo, they know what they're doing. An exam may also do wonders too. If they have no experience with any kind of CNC machine, it is advisable that you encourage them to take short courses on CNC.
Eighty-hour courses are available online and hey, it is better than nothing. Experts even encourage employers to hire CNC machinists who have finished AND PASSED the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) assessment just so they could be sure that their CNC machines will go to good hands. After all, a CNC machine is still an asset.
The second person that you need is the CNC operator. He will simply recheck the programs loaded to the machine and push the right buttons to get the work done. However, thinking that a CNC operator can have little or NO SKILL AT ALL is wrong. A CNC machine operator must have at least basic machining skills and he should have undergone some form of training to run a CNC machine.
These machines can produce very intricate motions, making it possible to make shapes that cannot be created on conventional machine tools. So, the operator should foresee this complexity and know how to cruise with it. The skills that an operator must have though, are lesser compared to the operators of conventional machine tools.