CNC machining
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Old 04-24-2012, 02:04 AM   #1
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Default CNC machining

I don't know if this is the right place to post this.
Please forgive me if I'm wrong.

I am going back to school and really want to do CNC machining so I can get into building firearms and from what I've heard CNC machinists are in pretty high demand. I'm really just wondering were to start and what I need to be doing. I know it requires good mathematical skills but beyond that I'm lost.

Thanks in advance and forgive me for being a newb on the subject.

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Old 04-24-2012, 09:54 PM   #2
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I am currently enrolled in a CNC apprenticeship program. I took a Tech class in high school and did really good in it and got hired at a small jobs shop before I started my apprenticeship. I would say to enroll in some basic machining classes at your local community college if they have it. From there you can talk around, look at your options as far as a job and where to do your apprenticeship.

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Old 04-24-2012, 11:02 PM   #3
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Back in 2004 I received a Certification in Motorsports Machining from the local Community college. The first classes were on manual lathes and milling machines. Then to operating CNC lathes and milling machines. The next step was creating programs on Mastercam. The last was the hardest, writing programs on a piece of paper using Triganomitry..I did ok for someone that struggled in school with general math. I see alot of CNC operator and programing jobs in the classifieds. I think its a great career with a good future!

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Old 04-25-2012, 12:48 AM   #4
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This subject is of great interest to me. I have been in the tool and die trade since 1979. CNC was in it's infancy then. Back then it was tape fed programs. Allot has changed but it's still the same game. Numbers and commands control it's every move. It's that simple.

I'm gonna back up a bit though. I see a huge problem in our trade. You can go to school and learn all there is to know about making a drawing with CAD and forming a program from that but thats only a start. In cutting metal you have to know what you're dealing with. Is this material something that is easy on tooling and cuts nice or is it the opposite. Fixturing and holding the work is one of the biggest errors I see. That part needs to be held as rigidly as possible and not be distorted either. If you first learn how to cut metal on a manual machine you'll get a feel for things that will help you make good setups on the cnc. Try drilling a 1/2" hole on a manual mill then you'll have a good idea what can be expected on a cnc.

You want to make guns? Okay then. You need to know the best way to make that part. You can make just a few parts and spend allot of time making them or you can make thousands that are virtually the same and make them faster than anyone else. And better too. It takes experience to do that. You have to be able to think that job through from raw material to the final finish it receives. Using a computer and a cnc to make the part. Okay. Do yourself a huge favor and learn how to use and understand g-codes. learn how to edit a program at the machine. Learn how to write one standing there at the machine.

I love this trade. I work in my own shop full time right here at my home. I was fortunate in that I learned my trade from some of the masters of it. Men that had to do things the old school way because that's all they had then. Find some of these guys and take the time to get to know them. You can learn to be a button pusher or you can learn to look at a raw piece of material and see a perfect finished part. The difference between them is like comparing a color between the lines and true art. One of my good friends in business tells me his biggest challenge in finding people to train in his shop is finding that person that can think for themselves.

Here's my website www.crabtreetool.com Look me up if you like. I hope you grab onto this and become a huge success! We need true craftsman to carry out what is about to be lost. Find some crusty old retired tool maker and start a friendship and you'll be glad you did. Keep me posted on your progress. I am interested. This is my kind of thread!!!!!

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Old 04-25-2012, 01:21 AM   #5
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Very good advice up there ^^^. Disclaimer- I am NOT a machinist- God knows I will never be a Tool & Die maker- I am a hobbyist. But what Jim said is the absolute truth.

Being able to program- great. Knowing that a different degree of rake is required on the cutting tool when turning THIS aluminum alloy, or knowing how to tell the difference between two different steels from the sparks- what does the right color look like when tempering 02 steel- that is what makes a machinist- as opposed to a machine operator.

Me? I am still trying not to throw the chuck key across the room with a drill press, and getting the welding rod stuck to the steel!

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Old 04-25-2012, 02:22 AM   #6
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I currently teach machining to HS students. Before this I was a CNC machinist for 10+ years. Prior to that I was taught as a teenager by a master tool & die maker. I was very fortunate to have the grandfather that I did.

IMHO, machining is a great trade and has very good earning power. Even having some basic knowledge as a home hobbyist is beneficial for many things.

I start my students on manual mills, lathes and grinders. The first thing to learn is what it feels like when metal is being properly cut. That includes many variables that are everything from simple to extremely complex. CNC is he way that the field is going but their is still a place for good tool & die makers.

If I had to give a list of traits of what it would take to be a machinist, at the top is attention to detail. A person cannot work to the tolerances that machinists do without attention to detail. Production machining can be very repetative and downright boring. The second would be good to very good math skills. Finally would be the ability to locate information and learn from what others that have come before you have done.

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Old 04-25-2012, 03:02 AM   #7
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Wow thanks for all the amazing responses. I feel very enlightened on what I need to be doing and much more confident on wanting to do this. I'm a perfectionist and pretty damn good with computers just need to touch up on my math skills, and I love working with my hands and building things.
I will be signing up for classes at my local community college in the next week or so when registration opens up for the next semester.
I will be sure to let you all know how everything is going. Again thanks for all the positive responses and if I have any more questions I will post them here

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Old 04-25-2012, 03:44 AM   #8
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The Community Colleges are the most bang for the buck...go for it!

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Old 04-25-2012, 07:09 PM   #9
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Well I looked at the courses at my community college and found some engineering classes that go over CAD and drafting but nothing in machining which is kinda pissing me off. It seems there isn't much in the way of these courses offered in kommiefornia. I did find that lassen community college, which is only about an hour and half to two hours away from me, offers a full gun smithing program which does include basic machining to more advanced machining.
I was thinking about taking some engineering classes first and then taking the full two year gunsmithing program.
Thoughts?

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Old 04-25-2012, 08:13 PM   #10
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In order to be a good NC operator you need to have a good grasp on manual machining. You need to be able to think about everything your going to cut before you cut the first chip, like what am I going to hold onto to do the next setup and what not. You need to be able to make/ rig up fixtures for the more complex parts. Basically what I am saying is if you would run manual machines for a year or two it would be of the most Benefit to you.

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