Learn a Trade: CNC Machinist

A CNC Machinist reviewing his work.

What does a CNC Machinist do?

CNC Machinists are in demand.  A CNC (computer numerical control) machinist operates specialized machines that create metal or plastic parts by cutting, grinding, shaping, or drilling them into specific shapes and sizes. They are responsible for reading and interpreting blueprints and schematics, programming CNC machines to follow the design specifications, and overseeing the production process to ensure the final products meet quality standards.

Other duties of a CNC machinist include setting up the machines, installing and adjusting cutting tools, measuring and testing finished parts, and making any necessary adjustments to the machines to ensure their continued proper functioning. They may also be responsible for performing routine maintenance on the machines, as well as troubleshooting and fixing any issues that arise during production.

In order to succeed in this role, a CNC machinist must have strong technical and mechanical skills, as well as a strong understanding of CNC programming and machining techniques. They must also be able to work independently and in a team environment, and have excellent attention to detail and problem-solving skills.

What industries do CNC Machinist work in?

CNC machinists work in a variety of industries that require precision parts and components. Some of the main industries that employ CNC machinists include:

  1. Manufacturing: CNC machinists play a critical role in the manufacturing industry, producing parts and components for a wide range of products, including automobiles, electronics, and medical devices.
  2. Aerospace and Defense: The aerospace and defense industries rely on CNC machinists to produce high-precision parts and components for aircraft, spacecraft, and military equipment.
  3. Medical Devices: The medical device industry employs CNC machinists to produce precision parts for surgical equipment, prosthetics, and other medical devices.
  4. Energy: The energy industry, including the oil and gas, wind, and solar industries, employs CNC machinists to produce parts for turbines, pumps, and other energy-related equipment.
  5. Tool and Die: Tool and die shops use CNC machinists to produce high-precision dies and molds used in a variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace, and consumer goods.
  6. Consumer Goods: CNC machinists are also employed in the production of consumer goods, including appliances, sporting goods, and toys.

CNC machinists play an important role in many industries, producing high-precision parts and components that are critical to the function and performance of a wide range of products and equipment.

What are the main types of CNC Machines?

CNC machines come in a variety of types, each designed to perform specific tasks. Some of the most common types of CNC machines include:

  1. CNC Lathe: This machine cuts cylindrical parts and has a spinning axis for cutting and shaping materials.
  2. CNC Milling Machine: This machine cuts flat and irregular shapes, and has a rotating cutting tool for drilling, milling, and shaping materials.
  3. CNC Router: This machine is designed to cut and shape materials into intricate designs and is commonly used for woodworking and cabinetry.
  4. CNC Plasma Cutting Machine: This machine uses plasma torches to cut through metal and is commonly used in the manufacturing of metal parts and products.
  5. CNC Laser Cutting Machine: This machine uses lasers to cut through a wide range of materials, including metals, plastics, and wood.
  6. CNC EDM Machine: This machine uses electrical discharges to make precise cuts in metal, allowing for the creation of intricate and delicate parts.
  7. CNC Waterjet Cutting Machine: This machine uses high-pressure water to cut through materials, including metals and composites.

Each of these types of CNC machines has its own strengths and weaknesses, and choosing the right machine depends on the specific needs of the manufacturing process.

How do I get trained as a CNC Machinist?

There are several ways to get trained as a CNC machinist, including:

  1. Technical Schools and Community Colleges: Many technical schools and community colleges offer CNC machining programs, which can last anywhere from several months to a year. These programs typically include both classroom instruction and hands-on training on CNC machines.
  2. On-the-Job Training: Some employers offer on-the-job training for CNC machinists, allowing individuals to learn the skills they need while working. This type of training is often combined with formal classroom instruction and hands-on training.
  3. Trade Organizations and Apprenticeships: Trade organizations, such as the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), offer certification programs and apprenticeships for aspiring CNC machinists. These programs combine classroom instruction with hands-on training and on-the-job experience.
  4. Online Courses: Online courses and tutorials are also available, providing a flexible and accessible way to learn the basics of CNC machining and programming. However, it is important to note that these courses alone may not provide the comprehensive training necessary to become a fully qualified CNC machinist.

Regardless of the method chosen, it is important to have a strong understanding of mathematics, including geometry and trigonometry, as well as a strong understanding of computer programming and machine operation. Additionally, good problem-solving and critical thinking skills are essential for success as a CNC machinist.

What is the mean salary for a skilled CNC Machinist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly wage for a skilled CNC machinist in the United States was $24.15 in May 2021. The top 10 percent of CNC machinists earned more than $29.47 per hour, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $14.63 per hour.

It is important to note that salary information can change over time and is dependent on a number of factors, including location, industry, years of experience, and level of education. CNC machinists in urban areas with a high demand for skilled workers tend to earn higher salaries than those in rural areas. Additionally, CNC machinists who have advanced training or certifications may also earn higher salaries.

It is important to note that salary information can change over time and is dependent on a number of factors, including the overall state of the economy.