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Thread: How did you get into CNC?
11-01-2009, 06:26 PM #1
How did you get into CNC?
Everybody I ever met has a different story about how and why they started in CNC.
I and I am sure a lot of other shop guys would be very interested in how other people got started.
I am looking forward to hearing a lot of interesting stories.
My own story starts in Germany, I was an apprentice at 15 working for the German railroad in a Locomotive Repair Works.
In the 2 years I worked there, we never actually used a machine, we learned to do everything by hand, an open fire, big hammers and muscle is all we had.
When we immigrated to Chicago, I found a job in about less than a week at Admiral Tool & Die on Chicagos northside, I basically started another apprenticeship for about 3 years.
I had a lot of jobs in Chicago after that, I kind of tried to copy the Journeymen in Europe, you were expected to be exposed to many different ways of manufacturing, machining and methods before you could call yourself totally qualified in your trade.
CNC: I took classes prior to CNC, one was called "NC Engineering' at a local Community College and when SMT( Swedish Machine Tool) opened a sales branch in Chicago, I got the job based on that class, where I frankly learned nothing I ever used.
We, that is, SMT, had a quite advanced control, we had canned Cycles, noseradius comp well before Fanuc.
My job was to go with our CNC lathes and teach customers to make parts, we did great for a long time and sold and installed a lot of machines.
My own training was great, I went to Sweden a number of times for extended training programs at our factory. Coming back here I met the early Fanuc people and saw the prices and also the quality of the early Japanese machines, Mori Seiki in particular.
Our prices were almost double that of a comparable Japanese machine and I saw the handwriting on the wall and it said: Learn to be really good with Fanuc controls if you want to stay in this line of work. I did and I have been totally selfemployd teaching shops to use CNC lathes and mills ever since.
So how about you, where and how did you get started and what would tell someone that wants to get into our trade, how should they do it?
I look forward to hearing your stories.
11-01-2009, 07:56 PM #2
At my second job in the machinist trade I was hired as a second op/set up machinist/fixture guy, I was one of the four machinsts in the dept.. We had a big ol ugly blue Acroloc cnc with a Yasnac MX1 control, it was the only cnc machine in the company, I was fascinated with YAZ, (It was nicknamed YAZ, 'cause of the control) the way it did things just by pushing a button, I wanted to learn. The thing was only a year old when I started there in 87. We had also just got a cam system, B-port EZCam, it ran on a Macintosh. Since I was the newest guy there they didn't allow me to get any training on the cam system, why? I'll never know, different story for later. Anyway the leadman at the time wouldn't show me how to setup the cnc, the other guys did that so everytime they set ti up I was there asking questions about this, that and the other thing all while trying to do my tasks and not get yelled at by the leadman. One of the other guys took me under his wing and started showing me what he knew. Knowing what I know now, that machine did not get used to it's potential. Keep in mind the guy that taught me knew only what the machinery dealer showed him which wasn't a hell of a lot. I got out the manual and really dug into it and before long *I* was the go to guy for YAZ. We moved into a larger part of the building and bought another cnc, a Bridgeport Interact 412 with a Heidenhien TNC 150 control and a little while later a Brother cnc tapping center and fitted YAZ with a 4th axis. Finally the dept. got so big it was split into two separate groups. I got to keep the B-Port in my dept and YAZ went to the other group, funny thing was though, I still programmed YAZ for the next couple years after that.
That was just in the first 4 years there, a lot changed after that, faster machines and a wide variety of them also plus better cad/cam systems allowed for some real complex programming, it was a lot of fun.
I'm not at that company anymore, left in 2000 and doin my own thing now but YAZ is still making parts and if I remember correctly it never needed any major work. I could go on and on about the different cncs we had and some we aquired when we merged with other companys but it would take pages and pages.
11-01-2009, 08:47 PM #3
Well, my story isnt nearly as flushed out as Heinz or Schneider's
High School dropout, got my GED and was working on getting a basic certificate to be a welder. Got a job lead into a machine shop that was doing some commercial work. I got hired in as a welders helper, which fizzled out pretty quick so they moved me to the machine shop side of the operation and I was doing shop monkey work; sawing, unloading matl's, running punch presses etc.
Anyway, after 2 years of that, the CNC foreman got a different job and it was a 'I have 2 weeks to teach you everything I know' kinda deal. We had 2 fadals and a hardinge chucker CHNCI. They didnt want to hire in an experienced CNC guy so out came the manuals, a 3-day mill programming class at the tool distributor and toss the noob into the fire, lol. I did the best I could but without anyone to really guide me while trying to learn programming and machining all at once on the fly the frustration set in pretty hard pretty fast; about 15mos.
I took a job with the old foreman at the shop he went to and I have been there 13 years come December. With the someone to learn from I have grown. CAD//CAM, prototyping, and short run work for defense industry. Fun Stuffs. I am pretty much just a Millguy. Working on getting some lathe experience and would like to do some more live 4-axis work, and get some formal 3d surfacing training to flush out the self-taught stuff I do. Eventually I would like to get into some 5-axis stuff but I am not really sure when that might be realistic since we dont have a 5-axis machine.
11-01-2009, 09:33 PM #4
My career as a machinist started in a vocational high school with their machine department. Freshman year was manual lathes, second was turret lathes and small Milwaukee/K&T-type horizontal mills, third year was milling with Slo-Syn equipped Bridgeports (how true that name "Slo-Syn" was, a sin they were so slow), and a new Bridgeport NC vertical, their first-generation machine with tape controlled programming. Senior year was tool & die work, so back to manual Bridgeports, G&E shapers and surface grinders. That was 1973-1977.
I didn't touch NC machines for almost 8 years after that, being in a field service position and then running all manual machines. The place I was working had Burgmaster and Bridgeport NC (tape) machines, so I eventually got to programming them with the Flexowriter and Teletype machines. Soon they picked up a used Leblonde Tape Turn II, their first NC machine with a retrofitted memory-edit unit that could read a tape and run from memory. Then I helped find and buy a Cincinnati Cim-X720 horizontal. I loved that machine!
I moved on to shops with true CNC machines, learning as I went along by reading the manuals and making the machines work. I got good CNC training at Norton Company with their new Okuma lathe & grinder, Kondo cyl. grinder, Commec creep feed surface grinder and Deckel FP2CNC machines. Later they bought a Huffman 5-axis CNC grinder and I was sent to Huffman and then McDonnell-Douglas for Unigraphics. I also had training on Mastercam at a company I worked for later was an early customer, buying the Version 2.0 DOS-based system.
Been working on Fanuc, Mitsubishi, Yasnac, OSP, Bendix, and many other controls since.
11-02-2009, 05:07 AM #5
I never worked in a machine shop, I was a maintenance technition in a variety of industries. I worked for almost 10 yrs in the US Air Force as an aircraft mechanic and then moved to an iron foundry. While there I took classes at the local comm college for gunsmithing. No cnc machines, just basic manual work. After moving to Atlanta I worked at a dairy processing plant as a mechanic when my father got a job with a local research company. They needed some welding done and I did it for them as well as make a few parts for them on the dairys manual lathe.
They hired me as a mechanic and then started to buy some machine tools and I started running those. As the company grew we knew we needed a cnc milling machine and as we had just gotten a bunch of capital the boss agreed to buy a Centroid equipped CNC bedmill. I had never run or had a class in cnc machining, and once the machine was in our shop I had to learn fast. We had also purchased a suite of Esprit programing software that I also had to learn to use.
After a year or so I realized I wasnt learning fast enough so I thought I would take some cnc programing classes at night at the local comm college. I wont say it was a waste but I didnt learn as much as I had hoped.
After 8 years the company laid me off, a little at a time, and I decided at 40 yrs old I wasnt going to get a good job so I took my life savings and opened a machine shop. Two years into this and it hasnt been easy but I have learned more in the last two years than I did in the previous 8.
I wish I had someone to learn from, I almost always have to just learn for myself. That isnt always a bad way, but sometimes I feel it does lead to bad habits. This forum is as close as I have ever gotten to having someone around to ask questions.
11-02-2009, 05:20 AM #6
I always tell folks that I am self inflicted with what I know. Came to work where I am now about 12 years ago to work with a guy I had worked with in the past and learn cnc. Well, we didn't see eye-to-eye so I quit after 6 miserable months. About a year and half later one of the owners called and asked if I was interested in moonlighting, a couple of days a week. Found out the other guy was no longer there, so I agreed. After about six weeks I said I need one job, so we talked and I came on full time. Between the manuals, a few calls to a buddy that knew the stuff, and the boss buying some palstic for me to proof my first programs on, I made a pretty good dent in it. I figured lathe would be easy since I mostly ran lathes on the manual side. But I had just finished a course in AutoCad, and found the mill side much easier. Oh well, ben here ten years now and run the shop. Have been fortunate to have a couple of guys in the past, ad currently, that I am able to still learn from, as well as teach a thing or two as well. Love it!
11-02-2009, 07:10 AM #7
I started working in a machine shop drilling holes on a home made gun drill through wood for piccolos. My dad is a tool maker, so I guess it just kinda flowed down. My dad and I worked there together, and I learned most of the machining trade from him. He went out and bought a bunch of cam Swiss machines from an older gent, and this guy taught me everything he knew about cam Swiss. My dad and I worked on those for a number of years, and he told me he was tired of production work, and wanted to concentrate on tool making. I had been after him for years to go CNC with more modern equipment, he always said he would rather "See-And-Do" rather that CNC. Well, I bought 5 of the 17 cam machines we had and went into business for myself. My first CNC machine was an Omni-Turn, (we still have it). The factory tech told me he couldn't get out to train me for 2-3 weeks after the install, I said B***sh**, and trained myself. After 24 hours (and a PILE of broken inserts) we had the thing running, and making good parts. 10 years later all the cam machines are gone, and we now have a shop full of Citizen CNC Swiss machines.
Its been a thrill ride to say the least, but I wouldn't have traded it for the world.
11-02-2009, 07:34 AM #8
Trade school 18 years ago. The last 3 months of instruction at that time.
11-02-2009, 07:48 AM #9
I worked at the local golf course during high school. I had just graduated, and was like whats next. One day a couple of guys who were regulars there pulled up to the club house, just finishing their round. I asked one of the men that I knew was a manager at Fed-Ex if they needed any help. He said that they did and I could come put in an application. I thought alright maybe this will work. Well a few minutes after the Fed-Ex guy left his partner walked up to me. He said that he could give me a job,in his machine shop, not starting out at what Fed-Ex could pay but lots of overtime. I thought learning a trade with OT,this is the way I should go. I had never taken any metal tech classes in school or even seen what a machine shop looked like. But the minute I started, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for my trade. I started in CNC turning then went on to learn manual milling and turning. Now I am a setup/ tooling guy in our CNC milling department.
11-02-2009, 08:26 AM #10
I started in a tool and die job shop when I was 16. I was a parts loader monkey on a Bridgeport with an anilam CNC controler. I was running a 6 month long job that ran very slow. I had time to read the manual when no one was looking while the machine was running. After running about a month the programmer and set up guy went on vacation.
While he was gone I started to "clean up" the tool paths and remove air cutting. The program was very poorly done for such a long job. I cut the cycle time from 11+ minutes to about 7 1/2. I never told anyone what I had done. When the programmer got back and looked at my output he threw a fit. "What the hell was I doing changing his program without supervision?" I guess I had to expect that.
After getting chewed out by him and the owner, the owner took me aside and commented that I had saved them about 6 weeks on the run. He sent me to the Anilam 3 day training school.
A year later I started my own shop with a friend. This was during my senior year of high school. I used to have to skip classes if customers wanted to meet with me.
I bought my first CNC when I was 19. A brand new Milltronics CNC.
Step forward 13 years and my company was at $5,000,000 in sales. I had a building full of nice new Mazaks and Okomoto grinders. I sold it the following year. This was back in 1997.
Over the next 7 years I started 2 more companies.
Today I own a failing one man shop with some very nice equipment and a very nice building. I am near closing the doors and losing everything. I sure wish I had the drive, creativity, and energy I had when I was in my twentys and thirtys. I guess the stroke I had 2 1/2 years ago didn't help things any either.
I guess past success does not indicate future performance.
But I am still using CNCs.
11-02-2009, 11:24 AM #11
Long Story Short...
My guys where having a very hard time slotting a SS part. We had couple thousand pieces to do and they could not get past 5-6 pcs before they broke the endmill, wore it out or pushed the table past the stop giving me bad parts, you name it and they had that problem.
I quoted the job "close" based on how long it took me, plus an extra couple seconds, a few bad parts and a dozen endmills. Several days into the job and I had a handfull of good parts, (mostly the ones I did) a bunch of clapped out endmills and a customer calling for updates about his job...
We had a Bridgeport/Centriod CNC Retrofit here for a customer. We bought it for him to use in our place, which he did for awhile, but plans changed and it was just sitting here for months.
I got to thinking maybe it would help get me out of this jam, so I cracked the manual open and the following day I had a simple program running to mill the slot. The day after the machine ran all day, each part was right on the money, I had more parts made that day then I had up untill that day and the Endmill was still like new. Another benefit is my guy could debur the part while the machine was running.
Over the next couple days I tweaked the program more and cut down on time, bought a Carbide Endmill which really reduced the time further.
I finished the job way under the estimated time, my customer was happy, I made money,I was happy, the guys didn't have to crank handles, they where happy.
I was hooked.
11-02-2009, 12:52 PM #12
Left school at 17 in 1982 and was picked as an apprentice fitter by Hurco in the UK to build EDM machines in 1983. After five hard years of fettling and scraping ways I moved to the VMC and kneemill assembly. Moved from there to service / tech support. Still there.
As a company, I can't fault them. They have been really good to me and my family.
11-02-2009, 01:07 PM #13
I bought a brigeport clone pretty much "on a whim" I never owned more than a dremmel before that.
with it I made this paintball gun handle, like an etch-a-sketch. by turning the cranks trying to follow a sharpie line around the trigger guard.
i made just the one, and people were all "damn that's awsome, how much"
gears started turning in my head.
I bought a runnig Tree J325 off a member here. I read the manuals and I started cranking those suckers out. (helps that I work / teach cad modeling and I wrote the programs at work with proe.)
11-02-2009, 01:13 PM #14
I started in the shop out of school, 1977. Was lucky enough to learn on the "hand machines". In 1982 we bought out first "CNC" lathe, an old Mori that we had to run the tape through every morning, what a treat that was! In 1984 we bought a new Makino w/ a Fanuc 6M on it. I left this shop in 1985 for greener pastures and it turned out to be the best thing I ever did. I ended up going back in 1990, they had just bought a Mori SL-7 w/ a 16T control. A brand new machine that they had been trained on but were afraid of it. I told my boss I could run it and so they gave me the green light. I had decided to try and go back and finish getting a degree so I informed them that I would be leaving in Sept. One of the owners came down to shop and asked if I would stay and take over the machine shop. At that time they were quite busy and had over 50 guys working. I decided to stay and over the course on the next 5 years we purchased 5 more CNC machines. I left in 1995 to buy my own shop. At the time I had major reservations as they payed me well but felt it was time to move on. Our first year here I bought a new Okuma Cadet and Haas VF2. The second we bought an Okuma Crown. The Cadet is gone but the Crown still runs every day. Today we have 6 lathes and 2 mills, the shop that I started at is gone, we are still here. I still do all the programming and setup our Okuma Captain and one of the mills. I guess old habits are hard to break!
11-02-2009, 02:45 PM #15
I started turning handles in my uncle's guns shop when I was in my teens. Always loved making things out of metal. Got my own BP clone and manual lathe about 8 years ago. Had a "brilliant" idea for a product about three years ago that just couldn't be made on a manual mill. I bought a desktop Taig mill to do that one product. It didn't pan out, but it showed me the potential of CNC. I sold the Taig, and shortly thereafter bought a Haas TL-1 lathe and then just this year bought a Haas VF-2. I bought these machines to build a product of my design that just isn't practical to make on manual machines. We'll see how that goes...
11-02-2009, 03:22 PM #16
This has been intresting reading! Kinda good to look back at our humble beginings. i like a lot of peaple started at a trade school in the late 70s. We learned on the old flatbelt SBs and turret lathe . we also had a slowsyn we got to punch out a few projects on but we spent more time fixing than running it. I was lucky a few days after graduation i recieved a few job listings in the mail from my instuctors with 1 of them turned into a 14 years of employment. They were a young family company that probably did not have a lot of money to invest in some experienced labor. So they brought some young guys in and we learned cnc together with the upgraging of thier equipment. I was very fortunate to get the training that I did. They were VERY good to me hope someday to do the same for some local kids looking to learn a skill.
11-02-2009, 03:55 PM #17
I spent all my teen years wishing I could make the parts I was buying for my cars.
My 20's till my early 30's I worked as a QA supervisor and specialized in welding inspection. The shop was a well know brand of air purification equipment, they did most everything discuseed on this site. But all I got to do was watch, maybe get my hands dirty once a month. Most of what I learned was self taught through taking books home. Was a AWS certified welding inspector when I left. Did a few years in construction to get the middle management cobwebs out of my head.
After that I started working for a small manufacturer of rubber cutting machinery.
Was able to get back into making things with metal.
Wasn't until I talked my boss into springing for community collage classses that the cnc bug bit.
I took a basic cnc programing course, hardest thing we did was a few precisely loacted holes and a circle. This was with a Boss 3(?) on a Bridgeport convert.
Next qtr I was in a ME project class and the teacher had the class build a 3 cyl air motor, but requested we attempt to build twice as many as the previous class.
I used the moment to use the same Boss/ Bridgeport to machine several key parts in 1/10 of the time, and the goal for the class was met.
In 2001 I bought the rubber cutting machinery business.
Same time bought a TOS manual mill, what a tank.
In 2002 I bought a Victor VC4 cnc mill and a Victor TNS2 both with 10 series Fanuc controls.
With an occasional call to some friends I've become competant with both.
By 2004 I was able to do all previously outsourced machining in house.
Last year I replaced the VC4 with a NTC of the same size but with an O series control and fully enclosed.
That was the time I found out a newer control does not always mean easier.
Still learning, never certified as a machinist at any level, but do get praise from a few locals that have gone the full route.
My latest adventure is learning Tig welding.
I'll jump off my soap box now
11-02-2009, 04:00 PM #18
11-02-2009, 04:19 PM #19
started last year in tech school and at the same time got a job operating a cnc router table. now in my 4th out of 6th quarter my teacher doesn't know or care what i do in school as long as i'm makin chips
so for the rest of the school year i just get to "play" with the toys
obsessed with every aspect of this industry and aspire to own my own shop one day, we'll see how that turns out.
11-02-2009, 04:37 PM #20
I jumped in with both feet I guess. Bought a $50K 13 year old Cincinnati VMC in '94, having never run one, knew nothing of programming, zilch. Fear of insolvency is a tremendous motivator, learned G gode, Smartcam, operation of a dinosaur machine control all at once. Then learned CNC machine repair, also for survival. With all this trial by fire, it's a wonder the place hasn't burned down. Now own 2 VMCs and 2 turning centers, all Cincinnati Milacron.