Moving from CNC Operator to Machinist
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    Default Moving from CNC Operator to Machinist

    Hello Everyone,

    I am 27 and am currently a machine operator.
    I can read a vernier caliper, micrometer, use a dial bore gauge. I am currently running a Doosan Puma TT (forget the model #)

    Anyways I started at this shop back in 2012 and they pay me a pretty good wage. I have done everything from Quality Control, Material Handling, even custodial when the shop was slowing down and layoffs were occuring.

    I am currently learning how to read blueprints.
    I have not learned G code or M code. I can do basic offsets to bring material back into tolerance.
    I can change inserts, take out tooling and install new tooling but have never used the Q-setter in the machine to touch off new tools, the lead machinist does that for me.

    My supervisor says I'm slow because I care about quality. He tells me to CARE about quality but to keep that green light on. He's a pretty good guy and is always willing to help.

    Anyways just some background.

    How did most of the machinists on here move from operator to machinist?
    What skills should I work on next?
    What is the logical progression from operator to machinist?

    Thank You everyone

    Daniel

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    Gotta get some manual experience under your belt. Also start learning the how's and why's of what the programs you run do.

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    Print out the g code programs your running and ask to take the manual home to study what each one does line by line

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    Quote Originally Posted by ukwildcat05 View Post
    Hello Everyone,

    I am 27 and am currently a machine operator.
    I can read a vernier caliper, micrometer, use a dial bore gauge. I am currently running a Doosan Puma TT (forget the model #)

    Anyways I started at this shop back in 2012 and they pay me a pretty good wage. I have done everything from Quality Control, Material Handling, even custodial when the shop was slowing down and layoffs were occuring.

    I am currently learning how to read blueprints.
    I have not learned G code or M code. I can do basic offsets to bring material back into tolerance.
    I can change inserts, take out tooling and install new tooling but have never used the Q-setter in the machine to touch off new tools, the lead machinist does that for me.

    My supervisor says I'm slow because I care about quality. He tells me to CARE about quality but to keep that green light on. He's a pretty good guy and is always willing to help.

    Anyways just some background.

    How did most of the machinists on here move from operator to machinist?
    What skills should I work on next?
    What is the logical progression from operator to machinist?

    Thank You everyone

    Daniel
    I started on a manual mill and lathe. Then I was sent to school to learn CNC milling.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

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    CNC did not exist as we know it today, there were some big tape drive units, only the biggest companies had those. Community college night classes, then begged my way into a shop.

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    I’d say learn the code, make notes, ask what codes do what write it down study it google questions in your spare times if need be, and get to where you can look at a program and in your head have an idea of what it’s gonna do, and be able to read prints, study them ask what things mean and constantly go over it in your head to really make sure you get it.
    I started out as a shop hand in a fab shop, started running CNC plasmas and waterjets things like that eventually got to run the CNC mill, when the hours got too slow I made a resume got on at another shop and continued to learn the ins and outs of CNC machining, I’m still learning, I’m by no means a journeyman.

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    You have to know G-code like the back of your hand nowadays. M-codes vary but some are accepted standards.
    Be able to read a program and see in your head what will happen on each line.
    Axis and geometry. Tool offsets and direction of movement. Not just that I go here and enter plus .0005 to control size but why and what happens.
    TNR or Dia. comp and why program with or without it.
    Lathes are the best place to start, then mills, then more.

    Manual machines will teach you so much about cutting metal but this is sort of a dying deal now and many highly paid "machinists" or "engineers" can't run a B-port or thread on a manual lathe.

    Not sure the dividing line between machinist and skilled operator anymore.
    Bob

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    Find a local community college that has a machining program. Learn both manual and CNC - that should demonstrate a desire to learn to your current employer.

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    Learn about workholding, cutting tool selection, every imaginal physical force involved during holding and cutting, thermal effects on the workpiece and the machine, everything.

    A real machinist, CNC or not, is aware of everything that's going on, even down to how the vise and workpiece deflect under clamping.

    Sent from my XT1053 using Tapatalk

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    I grew up with my grandfather's lathe in the basement, started making stuff on it when I could see over the bed. Took highschool metal shop, then did two years at tech school for machining, then got a job as a programmer.

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    From my experience, all good machinists have actual OCD issues and are driven to always be learning something new. The fact that, in 6 years, you don't know the model of machine you're running, know what atleast the commonly used G & M codes do, and haven't muscled your setup guy out of the way to see what he's doing... those are strikes 1 through 10 in my book.

    I just had a guy tell me how bad he wants to be a CNC machinist. To his credit, I interviewed him months ago and he always called at least once a month to see if we needed help yet. When he stopped by the other day I asked if he'd been watching machine videos or studying anything. His response, "Not really." Huh, must not want the job that fucking much. Guys these days walk around like baby birds, hoping they get knowledge shoved down their fucking throat while doing fuck all on their own.

    [/RANT]

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    Quote Originally Posted by ukwildcat05 View Post
    How did most of the machinists on here move from operator to machinist?
    What skills should I work on next?
    What is the logical progression from operator to machinist?
    1) Other way around for me: I started making parts on an engine lathe and a mill when I was 12. I didn't become a "machine operator" (i.e. CNC) until I bought my first CNC mill in 1989 (I was 32).

    2) Actual machining is a great skill to have. Get yourself a Bridgeport clone, stuff it in your garage, and start making things. Then get yourself a CAD and a CAM program, and start designing things and learning how to create code. You've been in a shop for 6 years... you probably have a good idea of the areas you want to improve yourself in, or things you need to (or would like to) learn? Go learn!

    3) Learn. Practice. Learn more. Practice more. Rinse and repeat.

    PM

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    Quote Originally Posted by ukwildcat05 View Post
    How did most of the machinists on here move from operator to machinist?
    What skills should I work on next?
    What is the logical progression from operator to machinist?
    I learned how to be a machinist off of YouTube.

    There are literally thousands of hours of instruction on there. You'll be a little lost connecting YouTube learning to your specific machine/environment, but all the basic knowledge is there. If you are truly interested, you've got just over 24 hours to start binge watching videos and compiling a list of wicked smart questions to walk into work on Tuesday with, ready to rocket up the value curve in that shop.

    BUT...

    I would go back to Matt's point; with 6 years on the shop floor, you should have absorbed the skill set you're seeking about 5 years ago. What's the full story here?

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    I run a laser so it's different with me, but I learned G-code out of convenience.

    I got tired of constantly going to the office to change a cut condition or rotate a file or raise the head or whatever in the CNC software we use.

    The first thing I learned was changing cut conditions, then how to rotate/mirror files, then raising/lowering the head, then moving the head out of the way, etc.


    I did this on my own, while the other operator did not.

    In the end we had two lasers running a batch of square tubing (these are sheet metal only lasers so you have to handle the tubes four times each). One operator was constantly jogging the head out the way, rotating the tube, jogging it back, using the handwheel to set a new zero, then hitting start.

    I just added a stop to the jig and G0 ops that move the head out of the way at the end of the cycle. So all I had to do was press start, rotate tube, press start, rotate tube, etc. It saved the shop a lot of time.

    Long story short maybe you can identify any areas where you could speed up production with a code change, thoroughly research the codes you would have to change to make the machine behave how you want, and then run the program by your supervisor?

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    So your a CNC Operator...I am not much into nice titles, like associate for a burger flipper. Your running production and I'd call the position Production worker. I just want to clear the water so you can see the picture as I see it.

    A Production worker is the backbone of the process, keeps the spindle spinning, verifies quality parts, preps the next part going in...cleans up part that just came out. Keeps an eye on finishes, tolerances...your flipping inserts and adjust wear...so good for you, that is a nice step up.

    Production worker is a good job, one to be proud of...but it is not a springboard position to move you into machinist.
    For years I worked for my father doing production work...I did it to help the family business and put some money in my pocket. Later it was my 2nd job. I came in, the gent who ran the production work had a job setup and ready for me...usually turret lathe, but could be debuting on a lathe, milling flats...I had some gauges to verify sizes and went to town. I was able to pump out work while keeping machine setups intact...I could run any setup well. But that is all I could do...drill got dull, had to get someone to sharpen of swap it, tolerance out...find someone...

    So now to your question...
    An opportunity was coming up at the shop and I wanted a shot at it...I decided I wanted to be a machinist. I became the new grunt for the shop foreman...every job he had to setup I was given an overview of what neededed to be done to setup and why then I'd setup as far as I could. He'd go over and get me started on making some cuts...then he'd finish or give to another machinist.
    We'd discuss strategies as to how to machine in certain sequences so I always had a place to hold part securely...talk tooling geometries...I took machinist handbook home nightly reading up on what we went over. Soon I had to give up my primarily job as I didn't have the head for learning without enough sleep. I went to library, took out every machining book, read periodicals, tooling catalogs. Soon it all kinda came together learning the how's and whys certain processes are done before others. Why some tools are better choices, learned the characteristics of different materials, learned how to rough a part quickly, heavy cuts to just about stalling machine...then refine to finish cuts for tight tolerance fits with jewel like finishes. I learned to listen and know when tools where cutting right and when they were not. It was work and question all day, study up on what I learned during the day...have some new question ready for the next day.
    Soon I was doing more and more myself and only running some questions past the foreman about strategies or why this process is not going as planned. Somewhere along the way I became a machinist.

    CNC
    We were strictly a manual job shop, lathes, turret lathes, bridgeports, horizontal mills, presses, shapers and surface grinders. No computers, no CNC's. Didn't really even know what they were. Some years later we took in a Bridgeport CNC retrofit. We really did not want it, but circumstances being what they were...it wound up on our floor. Must have been 6 months before I saw a possible use for it. We had made a few brackets that needed a radiused end with a flat. Roughed on turntable, then blended in with belt sander. Fine for a few parts, but order came in several times higher then we expected. If this CNC mill thing could do this...what a time savings. I started reading up on CNC's and then read the manual...got the basics of G-code, read examples in books. Finally one day I powered on the machine and figured out how to move table around. Learned to make linear moves, arcs...Tool offset moves.
    Lots of reading, lots practice...lots of questions led to more reading and more practice. Soon machine was making parts the parts...slow but making parts.

    So...the next step to becoming a machinist is On You. You need to get involved, read up on whatever your working on...materials, tooling being used, speeds feeds, workholding. G-code-- grab a manual and become familiar with the codes. Watch what machine does as code comes up...try to get a feel for speed and feed, run the formulas. Next part is tricky in that you will learn faster while letting your supervisors/ machinist know you are actively learning by asking question. Problem is you need to ask smart question not just anything that comes to mind. And please listen to answers, absorb and avoid asking the same ones over.
    Progression to machinist will be gather a background and becomes hands on and do it.

    Expensive machines mean you need to not be touching without permission...after hours, no tooling or vises on a mill means can't crash.
    Run simulation.
    Natural progression entails you taking the initiative to learn
    Last edited by SIM; 05-28-2018 at 09:35 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ukwildcat05 View Post
    ...Anyways I started at this shop back in 2012 and they pay me a pretty good wage. I have done everything from Quality Control, Material Handling, even custodial when the shop was slowing down and layoffs were occuring.

    I am currently learning how to read blueprints.
    I have not learned G code or M code.
    Don't take this wrong, but you've been there 6 years and you don't know G-code? That doesn't make me think you are very serious about CNC's.

    You should have gained a pretty solid understanding of your programs and canned cycles in the first year.

    If you can't look at the program and know what's going to happen next, you aren't running the machine, it's running you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SIM View Post
    So your a CNC Operator...I am not much into nice titles, like associate for a burger flipper.
    I had to put my glasses on....for a minute there, I thought you wrote you weren't into nice titties

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    More background.
    In 2015 I went to law school for a year and dropped out, it got too expensive. When I came back, I was custodian for a year so end of 2017 in december I got on the cncs.
    February of this year my coworker hurt his hand, foreman tells me to go help him. So i help him for 2 weeks, which turns into 3 months, he was running an rotary cutoff, dull production work, PITA to be around, he was always so negative. I had to beg to go back to the cncs.
    I'm not a very upfront person, nor am I agressive like my father is. I would leave this shop but OT is good. I never learned G or M code because of law school. I was deadset on becoming a lawyer but the market is flooded and tuition was crazy.
    So I've decided to learn more by watching a d doing, but I"m not sure what questions to ask, I don't want to sound like an idiot. I work 2nd shift and the lead leaves at 5 when I get there at 3 but he's so busy running around managing 8 guys that when it's 5 he's ready to leave and answers a few questions. He is really big into problem solving and tells me all the time to think about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, oh and keep that fucking green light on 😂😂😂
    He tells me to make shortcuts for myself, every second counts. Keep the area neat and square so you can find things fast.
    I do not own my own tools but am going to start a tool bill tommorow and buy a mitutoyo caliper, not a digital one.

    Also I am not into kissing ass. These guys on 2nd shift will walk round the shop all the time and get nothing done and always talk my ear off and then it slows me down. I understand being friendly and cordial but sometimes I want to tell the guy who works next to me to STFU because one minute turns into 30 and then I'm playing catch up. So yes I agree with the statement that the machine is running me.

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    I want to begin doing my own setups, so maybe I should start there. See if he can lay out all the tooling for a job and I can put it in,

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    Different breeds, but whatever.

    Take the initiative, once people notice that, they will give and ask for more. (honestly they will do it until you have no blood left, but that's a different Topic).

    Point is, they aren't going to invest in you unless you are invested, so take the initiative. And don't be afraid to screw up, because that is going to happen.

    Invest in Tools, ask questions, pick up the slack from you slack jawed co-workers (it's frustrating sometimes, but it does get noticed), ALWAYS do what the guy who told you about the Green light says (fuck everybody else), keep clean, keep up on the maintenance schedule for the Machine. Take some ownership of the parts you make, good or bad-take ownership. The problem I see is that your an Attorney, Machinist is a Title and Career not some flim-flam side job.

    R

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