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Computer numerical control machine operators guide automated tools that manufacture parts and pieces from raw materials. As of May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics list the mean wage for CNC machine operators as $37,920 per year.
Preparing CNC Machines
As a CNC machine operator, you prepare manufacturing machines by transferring programming instructions that guide the process of turning raw materials such as metal and plastic into specific shapes and forms. Operators set up the hardware for CNC machines, installing and aligning fixtures and attachments guided by the software. While the machine operates, you monitor tools and attachments, ensuring that the parts are properly cooled and lubricated. You also listen to the sounds and vibrations created by the CNC machine, which sometimes indicate misaligned or dull parts.
Additional CNC Operator Duties
Using measuring tools such as micrometers, calipers and depth micrometers allows you to perform detailed inspection of parts and pieces, ensuring the product meets production guidelines. You read blueprints and other documents that outline the specifications of the manufacturing process. CNC machine operators report quality-control problems such as defects in raw material and finished products, suggesting changes and adjustments to both the raw materials and machine. You must maintain a clean workspace and wash or polish finished products when needed.
Education and Training
Despite a lack of specific educational requirements for CNC machine operators, most employers seek a candidate with a minimum of a high school diploma or a GED. Community and technical colleges provide courses that educate and train prospective CNC machine operators, leading to a certificate or certification in the field. Not all CNC machine operators require previous education or certification in the field. Some companies match new workers with experienced operators who provide on-the-job training for new recruits.
Workplace Environment and Outlook
The majority of CNC machine operators work in manufacturing factories. Workers must take precautions against hazards like harmful dust, fumes and chemicals. You need to remain alert and aware of your surroundings while on the job because the machines CNC operators use are potentially dangerous. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for metal and plastic machine workers will decline by six percent between 2012 and 2022, resulting in an estimated loss of 59,100 positions within the field.
- O*Net OnLine: Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic
- Hartnell College: Machine Operator – CNC Mill
- Hartnell College: Machine Operator – CNC Lathe
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Metal or Plastic Machine Worker
- Northern Essex Community College: Machine Tool/Operator
- Milwaukee Area Technical College: CNC Machine Operator/Programmer
- Reading Area Community College: CNC Machine Operator
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Metal and Plastic Machine Workers - Work Environment
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Metal and Plastic Machine Workers - Job Outlook
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