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9 Signs that you’re cut out to be a CNC Machinist

cnc machinist

CNC machinist is the best career you’ve probably never even heard of. To put it into it’s most basic terms you’ll have a career that pays well and has excellent long-term employment prospects and offers interesting work. And you don’t need a college degree to get started.

Oh, and you’ll also contribute to pretty much every manufactured item; from iPhones to space vehicles.

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining involves using specialized equipment to machine materials into products or parts. It is a form of subtractive manufacturing that has become a popular method in making precision parts for the aerospace, automotive, power, and other technical industries.

The materials used are typically metal, wood, plastics, and composites, which are worked on with CNC tools such as cutters, drills, lathes, presses.

As a CNC machinist, your duties and responsibilities could include

  • Interpreting technical drawings and data
  • Programming code for the CNC machine tool from the data or setting up the automated software to generate the required code
  • Planing for and carrying out machining tasks in the correct order
  • Setting machine parameters such as cutting speeds and the allowable tolerances
  • Carrying out the actual operation of the CNC computer and machine
  • Making sure that the quality of the finished product meets standards
  • Calibrating and maintaining the equipment

The job outlook for certified machinists is very good. At present, there is a shortage of qualified employees. This is due very much to the fast pace of change in the field.

Scott Jackson – President of Council of Machinists

Here are the 9 signs that you’re going to make a great CNC Machinist

  1. You Love Creating Things
  2. You’re able to pay Attention to Detail
  3. You have good IT and math skills
  4. You’re Great at Time Management
  5. You Have the Ability to Adapt
  6. You Have a Good Work Ethic
  7. You’re a Team Player
  8. You Have Excellent Problem Solving Skills
  9. A desire to become an expert

You Love Creating Things

Perhaps you started as a kid playing with Legos, and then tinkering with things to see how they worked and then creating your own. Maybe you liked drawing or painting, perhaps sculpting something from clay. As a CNC Machinist, you’ll get the satisfaction of turning a block of steel into a part made to exact specifications. Where there was once nothing but a hunk of metal is now something tangible and practical. Within those blocks of raw materials are the ideas that engineers and CNC machinists bring into the world.

A CNC machinist is an important role within the creative process. You start with a concept and take the necessary steps necessary to turn it into a physical reality. It’s like being an alchemist and sculptor all at once.

If you’re excited by the process of creating new things, pursuing a career as a CNC machinist may be a good career choice for you.

woman cnc machinist

You’re able to pay attention to detail

As a CNC machinist, you’ll follow and then interpret 2D drawings from the engineers. Your skill will allow you to visualize the part and how it will look in 3D. This will then give you enough information to decide the machining process. Your clear understanding of the machining process will also allow you to follow any written instructions.

All good machinists are able to see the fine details and use their keen attention to make sure that the part is machined correctly and accurately.

You have good IT and math skills

The job requires the use of Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software (such as Autodesk CAM) and therefore requires good IT skills. As processes and technology change so will the software and tools you use to carry out your job. As a machinist, it is important for you to update your knowledge on a regular basis.

A CNC machinist must understand what’s going on at each step and troubleshoot any problems that may come up. Having computer skills and the drive to understand them further is essential for any CNC machinist.

They also need math skills to understand and check dimensions, set out the materials, set the design parameters in the software and check tolerances, etc.

You’re Great at Time Management

CNC machining is, by its nature, fast-moving, changes can be made at the last minute and deadlines have to be met. There are multiple steps in the CNC machining process. And there are often opportunities to make it more efficient. Having an idea about how long each step may take, load times of raw materials and the time needed to set up the different tools are important in figuring out how long a job is going to take.

If you’re organized and love figuring out ways to increase productivity, you may find the career of CNC machinist a rewarding one.

You Have the Ability to Adapt

As a machinist, you’re going to face many challenges. It’s possible that a machine hasn’t been set up correctly by the person before you, the machine is getting jammed up, or the tools are feeling the wear of repeated production runs.

Just like everything in life; things aren’t always going to go according to plan. And it’s important to be able to adapt to any manufacturing situation, no matter what comes up.

“A CNC machinist needs to be laid back, but also a problem-solver. In CNC machining, there are going to be things that don’t go right and you can get rattled. Someone needs to be able to adapt and look for different solutions. Someone who is excited by these challenges is someone who’s going to succeed,” says Ronnie Brittain, CNC Lead Instructor at NASCAR Technical Institute.

You Have a Good Work Ethic

Working in a machine shop isn’t always easy, nothing in life with big rewards is going to be easy. It requires exceptional mental and physical stamina, whether that’s in setting up, running the machines, and dealing with any problems if and when they occur.

Many of the tasks are repetitive. It is going to take discipline and paying close attention to the details. You’ll need to have focus and the ability to face any challenge presented to you. For those who thrive in such work environments, a career as a CNC machinist may be the perfect fit.

You’re a Team Player

Any career where you are working with others is about collaboration. And that is particularly true in a manufacturing environment. If you go in thinking that you know it all, you’re not going to go far and may not make many friends. But, if you’re one who loves sharing ideas and learning from those with more experience, being a CNC machinist lets you connect and grow with others in the same skilled trade.

Though many times it may just be you and a machine, you’re all a part of the same team in making your work a success. Think of how many parts go into the manufacture of a car, each part has probably been made by a different person, and it all has to come together to produce the best.

A desire to become an expert

A desire to become a CNC machining expert ties together all of the skills mentioned previously. CNC machining is, without a doubt, a highly technical career, it requires a combination of skills and engineering knowledge. Good operators must be willing to constantly learn and update their knowledge, as the technology changes quickly.

Being a CNC machinist can be a rewarding career for those with the right skillset. If you think you have what it takes, Colleges such as Northeast WI Technical College maybe the next step in making your way to becoming a CNC machinist.

If you’re a little further along than that then why not join the WMT team.

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