CNC programming, short for Computer Numerical Control programming, is used to control a machine tool by creating program instructions for computers. It directs the machining tools to cut the desired material into the required shape, and is highly involved in the manufacturing process, improving its automation and the flexibility. How to program the CNC machines? Who is capable of performing this task?
How to program the CNC machines?
CNC machine is a device fully controlled by the computer software. As a result, in order to ensure its proper functions, it is crucial to implement proper programming. A well adjusted programming of the CNC machine regulates the production and its final outcome. It guarantees consistency, high quality results and the smoothness of the whole process. Programming of the CNC machine should start from choosing a program that is suitable for given purpose, can provide an advantage, and prove beneficial for the user. There are three basic types of the CNC programming currently available on the market:
- manual CNC programming, which requires specific knowledge and experience from the programmers, and is used mostly for either the simple tasks, or the tasks that require highly specific design,
- CAM CNC programming, which allows for the easy conversion of CAD design into the CNC programming language, and is perfect for operators who lack advanced mathematical skills,
- Conversational or Instant CNC programming, which is the easiest type of programming, that allows entering the essential details in a simple language and verifying tool movements before executing the program, but is not suitable for complex paths.
Each available type of the CNC programming has its own advantages and disadvantages. Before choosing one, the user needs to determine their individual needs, as well as skills and comfort level with the system.
Who can program the CNC machines?
People responsible for the programming of the CNC machines need to be able to use suitable programming that allows sending instructions to motorized tools. CNC programmers should hold an appropriate academic degree in the fields of Computer Science, and/or engineering, and, ideally, do an internship in advance, to gather necessary experience in the CNC domain.
The abilities and knowledge of a person responsible for the programming of the CNC machines
A person responsible for the programming of the CNC machines should:
- possess strong knowledge of G-Codes and M-Codes for CNC machines,
- know how to operate a Computer-Aided Design software (CAD),
- have the experience with Computer-Aided Manufacturing software (CAM),
- have good understanding of blueprint readings and plans,
- possess knowledge regarding industry and government safety standards,
- possess knowledge of setting drills, mills, and lathes in order to be able to ensure 100% accuracy,
- have strong math skills,
- have keen sense of analysis and logical thinking.
The CNC programmer should also be able to find creative solutions to the problems at hand, be responsible, and possess good communications skills necessary to train and instruct workers who operate the equipment in question.
How to facilitate the programming process of the CNC machines?
The programming process of the CNC machines can be shortened and facilitated by the skilled CNC programmer with the use of canned cycles. Regardless of the machining style, canned cycles only require one block per hole, and can machine additional holes. Codes like these can save time, reduce errors, and make CNC machine programming substantially easier. CNC programming can also be facilitated by the advanced tools and CNC software suitable for milling, routing, plasma, waterjet, laser and oxy-fuel cutting, available in the CS-Lab Shop.