A computer numerically controlled (CNC) programmer programs the machines that cut, shape, and finish materials such as metals, plastics, or wood into usable components. The CNC programmer must study the drawings and blueprints of the components that need to be manufactured and determine which machines will be required, what they will need to do, and the order in which the work needs to be done. Often, CNC programmer are also asked to estimate how long the job will take.
CNC programmers work as part of a team and are expected to interact regularly with clients to determine their needs and ensure the component manufactured meets expectations. CNC programmers usually work a standard 40-hour workweek, but may be expected to travel to factories if their offices are off-site. Since CNC programmers spend most of their time interacting with computers, they usually work in a clean, well-lit, ventilated, temperature-controlled environment. However, as they are expected to visit factories to ensure their programs are working correctly, they may find themselves in less controlled conditions.
To become a CNC programmer, a certificate or associate’s degree in computer numerically controlled programming, machine tool programing, or a related field is required by most companies. Some companies require a bachelor’s degree, usually for positions which require more of a leadership role. In addition, two to five years of experience as a CNC programmer or CNC operator are frequently required.
Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Programmer Tasks
Analyze blueprints and job orders before programming and compare results with original specifications.
Sequence automatic machine operations and select cutting tools.
Program, test, and revise machine programming.
Tooling and design of machining, including electric and sand core molds, mills, and lathes.