What it Takes to Have a Successful CNC Machining Career

CNC Machinist

Custom metal fabrication companies invest in a lot of high-tech equipment to produce products according to specifications. Among that equipment are various types of computer numerical control (CNC) machines.

CNC is used as a general term and can encompass everything from milling machines to cutting machines and more. While many of today’s technologies are automated, those who operate CNC equipment still require mechanical aptitude, a keen eye, and an acute attention to detail. 

A career as a CNC machinist or programmer can be highly rewarding, both from a personal and professional point of view. If you’re considering a career in metal fabrication, here are several reasons why CNC machining careers at Fox Valley Metal-Tech in Green Bay, Wisconsin, stand out from the rest.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Role of CNC Milling Machines in Metal Fabrication

CNC Operator Duties & Training

CNC operator skill requirements can vary depending on previous experience. Someone who’s just starting out might be responsible for loading raw materials and running parts on smaller machines. As they gain experience and undergo training, they can progress to larger, more complex machines and take on more responsibilities, like indicating and machining weldments, creating probe programs, and utilizing right angle heads.

Machinists need to use critical thinking to interpret drawings and set up the machines properly; it’s not just pushing buttons. There are many quality CNC machinist training programs through trade schools and technical colleges, but the level of complexity and tight GD&T tolerance requirements for Fox Valley Metal-Tech projects call for additional on-the-job training. 

CNC Programming

Some smaller metal fabrication shops require the CNC operator to also program the machines. At Fox Valley Metal-Tech, these functions are separated into two jobs to streamline operations and leverage the gifting of each individual. By separating the responsibilities, equipment and operators don’t sit idle while trying to determine programming.

The best programmers are those who’ve first worked as machinists or operators and who understand how equipment works and how various materials behave. A CNC programmer works with CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software to convert a customer’s drawing into a program file for the shop floor. Programmers will determine which tooling is required and provide detailed instructions for producing parts to precise tolerances. Fox Valley Metal-Tech provides additional training for its CNC programmers both in-house and through outside courses.

Types of CNC Machining Projects

Part of what makes a CNC operator career rewarding is the pride felt in a job well done and knowing that what you do makes a difference in the world. Depending on the equipment, CNC machines can be used to cut small intricate parts to large high tolerance weldments.

Much of the work done at Fox Valley Metal-Tech is used for applications in the defense industry, including complex electrical enclosures for Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS) and doors and hatches for Navy vessels. The tight tolerances take extra effort and can be a challenge to deliver exactly what a drawing states. Knowing that these types of critical systems help ensure the safety of our service men and women gives team members a sense that they’re part of something bigger.

CNC Operator Working Conditions

A metal fabrication shop often conjures up images of dirty, grimy, and hot working conditions. This is true of some facilities, but not Fox Valley Metal-Tech. CNC operators, programmers, welders, and assemblers all work in air-conditioned comfort in a clean and organized environment

Continuing a Heritage

Many in the metal fabrication industry have a zeal for creating things, and that often stems from helping a parent or other relative in their shop. One machinist said he got interested in the job because he wanted to machine an engine to increase its compression and performance. Another said he worked together with his father on cars and simply loved “tinkering.” Often, machinists carry on a generational tradition of working with their hands and pass those skills and interests on to others.

CNC operators, machinists, and programmers play a vital role in the metal fabrication industry. If you’d like to explore a career with Fox Valley Metal-Tech, check out our available positions below and get in touch to talk through the next steps.

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