Computer numerical control (CNC) technology is usedby machinists to operate a variety of manufacturing tools and equipment in the production of metal parts. These parts must be made to exacting standards, and the machinist uses precision measuring instruments to ensure accuracy and that the parts meet quality guidelines. A machinist reads and interprets specifications and blueprints, calculates dimensions and tolerances, lays out their work and marks pieces for machining. They then set up, program and operate their machine tools, such as CNC metal turning lathes, to cut or grind the metal into parts or products to the precise specifications of engineers or designers. They fit and assemble the machined metal parts and subassemblies, and verify their dimensions, strength and hardness.
The job of the machinist has changed due to technical advances such as the development of CNC technology. Now more than ever, it combines mental ability with manual skills – to develop a project from a blueprint requires careful thought and an understanding of mathematics and computer programming, as well as good mechanical ability. However, modern computer age machinists must still understand the properties of metal and basic manual machining techniques as they rely on this knowledge to set up and operate the variety of machine tools they use.
Traits & Talents
If you like working with computers and machinery, are able to follow instructions precisely and enjoy building things, you might be suited to a career in this field. As a machinist, you need mechanical aptitude, an ability to estimate and measure accurately, and you must be able to work independently at tasks where mental concentration is essential. You should have good eyesight and hand-eye coordination, as well as the strength and endurance to lift heavy objects and stand for long periods. A basic knowledge of computers and electronics is required, as well as an understanding of the fundamentals of mathematics, metallurgy and mechanical drawing.
The bulk of machinists are employed in the manufacturing industry, but many are also found in transport and trade, generally in maintenance or service capacities. They work mainly in metal fabrication at metal products manufacturing companies and machine shops. The work takes place indoors, in areas that are noisy, dirty and potentially hazardous. The job requires a lot of standing and workers must be in good physical condition to lift and carry heavy objects. The work schedule is generally set at conventional hours, although there may occasionally be overtime to meet production schedules.
- Tool and Die Maker
- Machining and Tooling Inspector
- Machine Tool Set-Up Operator