Learn a Trade: CNC Programmer

A CNC Programmer utilizing Mastercam to send tool paths to the CNC Milling Machine in order to cut out a part.

What does a CNC Programmer do?

CNC Programmers are in demand.  A CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Programmer is responsible for creating programs that control CNC machine tools, such as lathes and mills, to produce parts according to specifications. The role involves using computer-aided design (CAD) software to create detailed technical drawings and models, writing code in CNC programming languages, running simulations to test the programs, and making any necessary changes. The programmer then inputs the program into the machine and monitors the production process to ensure that parts are produced to the correct specifications.

What industries do CNC Programmers work in?

CNC Programmers typically work in a variety of manufacturing industries, including:

  • Aerospace and Defense
  • Automotive
  • Medical Devices
  • Consumer Goods
  • Machinery and Equipment
  • Energy
  • Construction and Heavy Equipment

They can also work in other industries that require precision manufacturing of parts, such as electronics, telecommunications, and computer hardware. Additionally, some CNC Programmers work in service and repair facilities, helping to maintain and repair CNC machines and equipment.

What are the more popular CNC CAM programs out there?

There are many CNC CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) programs available, but some of the most popular ones include:

  1. Mastercam
  2. GibbsCAM
  3. Autodesk HSM (Inventor HSM, Fusion 360 HSM)
  4. SolidCAM
  5. Edgecam
  6. PowerMill
  7. FeatureCAM
  8. CAMWorks
  9. Vericut
  10. SurfCAM

These programs offer a wide range of features and capabilities, including 3D modeling, toolpath generation, simulation, and post-processing. The choice of CNC CAM program often depends on the specific needs and requirements of the manufacturer, as well as the type of machine tools they use.

How do I get trained as a CNC Programmer?

There are several ways to get trained as a CNC Programmer:

  1. Vocational School or Community College: Many vocational schools and community colleges offer CNC programming courses and certificate programs. These programs usually provide hands-on training with CNC machines and software.
  2. On-the-job Training: Some manufacturers offer on-the-job training programs for CNC Programmers, which can be an excellent way to get practical experience and learn the specific processes and procedures used by that company.
  3. Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships in CNC Programming are available through organizations such as the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) or the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA). These programs combine hands-on training with classroom instruction.
  4. Online Courses: There are many online courses and tutorials available for CNC programming, which can be a good option for those who prefer self-paced learning.
  5. Industry Conferences and Workshops: Industry conferences and workshops are a great opportunity to network with other CNC professionals and gain additional training and knowledge in the field.

It’s important to note that training and education requirements for CNC Programmers vary depending on the company and the specific role. Some employers require a degree in engineering, manufacturing technology, or a related field, while others only require a certificate or relevant experience.

What is the mean salary for an experienced CNC CAM Programmer?

The mean salary for an experienced CNC CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) Programmer is similar to the mean salary for a skilled CNC Programmer. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2020, the mean annual wage for CNC and Tool and Die Makers was $47,850 in the United States.

However, it’s worth noting that some experienced CNC CAM Programmers with a high level of expertise and experience can earn significantly more. According to data from Payscale, the average salary for an experienced CNC CAM Programmer in the United States ranges from $50,000 to $90,000 per year, with the median salary being $68,000.

It’s important to keep in mind that salaries can vary greatly depending on location, with CNC CAM Programmers in urban areas generally earning higher salaries than those in rural areas. Additionally, some industries, such as aerospace and defense, may offer higher salaries for experienced CNC CAM Programmers due to the specialized and complex nature of their work.