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CNC Machinist Training Near Houston, Texas

CNC Machinist Training Near Houston, TexasFor you to get a job as a CNC Machinist, you will need to have some training and/or experience in the industry. While there are no specific requirements that each state has for Machinists, certain cities have a much higher demand for them, and Houston is one of, if not the, biggest one.

For the most part, you must:

  • Be at least 16 years of age
  • Be able to read and understand English
  • Have basic machining skills and knowledge
  • Be able to pass a background and/or drug test
  • Have your own tools (varies per company)

In order to meet these requirements you have to get some experience or training, and the easiest way to do that is by going to school for CNC Machining. Depending on the school and what degree you want to graduate with, it can take two semesters, nine months, or 2+ years for the highest degree.

Below are colleges/tech schools that have a CNC classes and/or a Machining program:

UTA – University Texas Arlington

While the U of Arlington doesn’t have a full-on machining course, they offer multiple programming, blueprint, and shop math classes. Unfortunately, there are no machines available to practice on. This would be a good place to go if you already have basic machining experience and want to learn CNC programming.

Fort Worth ISD Adult Education Center

The Adult EDU center in Fort Worth has a small machine shop with manual machines, along with basic machining classes to go with. However, the classes are geared towards people that have at least a few months of experience/training in machining already. Fort Worth has CAD/CAM, CNC programming, and 3D programming classes, as well as Blueprint reading and shop math. The equipment isn’t as high tech as a full on Machining course at a Tech school, but it may be worth it to take some classes here to get some knowledge on these.

MT Training Center

MT Training center is a vocational school that has a complete CNC Machining program for anyone that has graduated high school. It covers almost everything from the basics to CNC programming and machine set-up.

Texas State University

TSU doesn’t have a specific CNC Machinist program, but it does have a Manufacturing Engineer degree with CNC classes. The school has a couple of CNC machines that students can practice on after learning how to use CAD/CAM software, as well as manual programming. It may not be a full-on machining course like a tech school, but it’s a good place to go for programming and machine set-up since they have quality equipment/software.

Tarleton State University

Much like Texas State U, Tarleton State offers various classes for CNC machining and programming. There’s several mills and lathes to practice set-ups and run parts on after learning how to program. There’s some machining 101 classes here, but you may want to have a little experience before committing to this school.

Texas State Technical College

Texas State Tech has a few different courses for Manufacturing. There’s a couple 18 month-long associate degree programs for manufacturing, and a CNC-based program is 12 months. They have all of the necessary classes, starting with basic machining, blueprint reading, shop map, as well as CNC programming, and CAD/CAM classes. There’s a CNC shop with computers and machines to learn on. If you’re looking to go to school for machining, this is a good place to get your career started.

Going to school is one of the easiest ways to get started in a new career, especially for Machinists since you can be done in two years or less. Plus the fact that most programs cost much less than going to a regular four-year school. It’s never too late to get started, whether you’re 25 or 45. You can complete an entire program from start to finish, or just take some night classes to boost your knowledge and move up in your workplace.

References:

CNC Concepts

What Is The Key To Being A Good Machinist?

Do you want to be a “Button Pusher” for the rest of your life?? Some people don’t have any motivation in life, so they continue doing the same old job in a machine shop for years, or possibly decades. But, if you’re like me, you want to keep moving up in the industry. To do that you have to have some natural ability, but more importantly, you have to be willing to work hard and learn from wiser machinists.

Starting out at the very bottom (yes, I mean sweeping the floor of your local machine shop) is where some of the best machinists alive today started when they were in high school. If you’re a good worker and your boss sees that you have some potential, you will get promoted. Trust me. It may take several months, or even a couple years, but eventually you’ll work your way to running and setting up machines if you have the desire.

Feeds and Speeds

If you want to be an independent CNC machinist, you HAVE TO know your feeds and speeds. In a production shop, most of their money is made by perfecting the speeds and feeds of each individual job. If you can save a few minutes here and there, or even seconds, it all adds up, especially if you are making hundreds of thousands of the same parts. Time is money in a machine shop, and if you aren’t efficient, you aren’t making money.

Which leads us to our next topic…

Fixture and Tooling

Making a part/programming is usually the easy part. Making a fixture and selecting the right tooling that will make the job run as efficient as possible is not always easy. Some jobs require special jigs, fixtures, clamps, or something exotic to hold the parts. The tighter the tolerances, the better the fixture has to be made.

The difference between using cheap tooling that works and the right tooling that is more expensive but performs better will be huge. In a job shop every minute counts, so if buying an end mill that costs twice as much as normal will last ten times as long and allow you to cut faster, it could mean the difference between making money and losing money.

Knowing what type of end mill, drill, or tap for a 303-stainless part will come with time and experience. Not only do you have to have the right tool for the job, but starting with the correct surface foot is key. Once you get a job set-up that is running 100% with no problems, then you can start optimizing the feeds and speeds.

Problem Solver

Can you come up to a problem with little to no knowledge of what was done by the previous person and fix it within a reasonable time? Machining requires problem solving almost every day, whether the previous person on the machine messed up a set-up and left a mess for you, or you’re programming a new part and the tool keeps breaking. Like everything else, with more experience, you will be able to solve more problems. Eventually you will come up to a problem that you’ve seen more than once before and know exactly what to do.

Be Teachable

Are you hard to get along with and known as a “know-it-all”? Sorry about your luck, but you probably won’t get very far in this industry with that mindset. Machine shops run the best when everyone helps each other out. No matter what you think, there will almost always be someone that knows more than you. So if they try and correct you on something you’re doing wrong, pay attention and thank them. Watch how they do things and try to learn as much as possible from them. This will help in the long run for everyone, and especially yourself if you want to move up in this industry, which will ultimately lead to higher wages.

This Is An Underpaid Profession

For what you have to know, many CNC Machinist positions are not paid enough. Before I go any further, I want to point out that anyone can make a living as a machinist if he/she puts forth the effort, especially with overtime hours. If I were to go over all the details of what all you have to know to be a true CNC Machinist that can virtually run a shop, it would be the size of a novel, and I don’t have time for that right now.

After you get your feet wet in a shop after getting some machinist experience, you’ll quickly realize what it takes to be able to make a part from start to finish. And if there’s any problems on the way, a machinist has to know how to solve it quickly to be able to make positive cash-flow.

CNC Machine Shop – What Is In It?

While every machine shop is different, you’ll see similar set-ups when you walk through them. There will usually be the main area where all of the CNC milling or turning centers are, as well as a section to deburr parts. Sometimes there will be deburring tools/machines next to the machine you’re running if the operator does all of the deburring.

Usually in a different area there will be a stock room with all of the raw materials needed for upcoming jobs. These few rooms or areas make up a CNC Machine Shop, which is usually a large industrial or steel building, as well as a small pole barn or garage, depending on how big the company is.

Stock Room

Round stock, square stock, and tubing are the most common, and they are usually 8 or 12 foot bars in length. There should also be a band saw in this same room so that someone can cut up the right size stock for each job. Most shops have an automatic horizontal band-saws so that they can cut a large quantity of parts in a short period of time with relatively close tolerances.

Machines

Machine Shop
Machine Shop

Depending on what kind of a machine shop you’re in, there’s a lot of milling machines that could be running. While milling and turning centers are the most common, there’s many more machines, as well as different variations of each.

A shop can have vertical or horizontal milling centers, depending on how complex their parts on, and if they’re a job shop or a production shop. Vertical mills are the most common because they’re cheaper and easier to use and set up.

Lathes are pretty similar, but they can be a flat-bed, slant-bed, multi-axis, or have live tooling for special jobs.

Other machines include, but not limited to: Wire EDM, waterjet, press brake, turret punch, CNC laser, as well as miscellaneous deburring machines (tumbler, straightliner, grinders).

Deburring

Like mentioned above, there will be some deburring tools/machines if the company wants to save money by doing all or most of it themselves. Often times there will be a drill press and grinder next to each mill so the operator can do most of the deburring right there in between cycle times.

The higher quality and quantity the parts, the bigger and better the deburring equipment will be. Giant tumblers/vibratory tubs are often used in large production shops for basic deburring. Media blasting is also common for parts if they are to be plated or coating with something. Zinc, chromate, anodizing, hardcoat/powdercoat, and nickel are just a few coatings that are done to machined parts to give them a better look, last longer, and/or function different.

Inspection Room

Clean Inspection Room
Clean Inspection Room

The inspection room should be separate and enclosed from the shop. If parts have close tolerances, there will be expensive inspection equipment, and the room will be temperature controlled so all of the readings are accurate and consistent.

Tools will include: a granite surface plate, height gage, CMM, bore gage, go/no-go gages for specific jobs, optical comparator, profilometer, thread gages, and gage pins. Not every job will have all of these tools, but some will have more.

Depending on how big the shop is, you (the Machinist), may or may not be inspecting your own parts. The more machines and tools you learn how to use, the better off you will be, so try to get in on how to use the equipment if there is an inspector at your shop.

Well, that’s the jist of what a CNC Shop has on the inside of it! Check out my other articles for tips on becoming a CNC Machinist. Stay tuned for more…

CNC Machinist Job Description

There are many things a machinist may do on a job, and it mainly depends on what kind of shop you are in. For the most part you will be:

Setting up a CNC machine, loading/making the part program, setting up or making fixtures, loading and running parts, deburring and inspecting parts to make sure they’re within tolerance.

While that is the general type of work you will be doing, the list is really endless. You must be able to problem solve, and sometimes the only time you can get something to work is if you have done it before. Experience is one of the most important traits to a good machinist. They will know what to do and when to do it.

What You Must Know Before CNC Machinist Training

CNC Machinist Job DescriptionCNC machining is not for everyone, as it requires many mechanical skills. You must be good with your hands, and be able to quickly learn things. Being able to problem solve on a daily basis is a must. You will be running machines that cost anywhere from 20k, to half a million dollars, and sometimes more. With these machines, it only takes a blink of an eye to make a mistake; a mistake that could cost the company thousands.

Not only are the machines expensive, but some parts that have multiple operations can cost thousands in labor time as well. Unfortunately, even the best of us mess up at times; we’re only human. The more you pay attention to everything you’re doing, and the more experience you have, the less mistakes you’ll make.

A Machinist must be able to inspect his/her own parts to check whether they are in tolerance or not. If not, they need to determine whether a tool offset, work offset, or other variable needs to be changed. The more experience you have, the more you’ll be able to do on your own, which generally means higher pay. You must be able to read and write in legible English, and pass any drug/screening tests that the company or temp-agency has you do. Reading a blueprint, and knowing how to use basic tools such as: micrometer, caliper, gages, and basic drill charts are a must.

Since CNC Programming has become so popular, it’s important that you have some computer skills,  and being able to use CAD/CAM software is a major plus if there are openings for a programmer in the future (if that’s where you want to be at). Programmers get paid more for their ability to make part programs on 3D programming software, as opposed to the Machinists that are on the shop floor. The Machinists must be able to communicate with the programmers and/or engineers to ensure the design and processes will work, or be able to fix them if not.

Last, but not least, a CNC machinist will maintain a safe working environment by knowing how machines work, and what not do to in certain situations. Safety is very important in manufacturing, as it is very easy for things to go wrong, and it happens fast.

The more you know, the more possibilities you will have available. A machinist will continue to update their job knowledge by going to new classes, and being taught by more experienced machinists, thus providing more production to the company.

CNC Machinist Training – How to Become A Machinist

CNC machining and other manufacturing jobs are in high demand in this country (U.S.), although it’s not like it used to be 30 years ago. Back then you could be an intern as journeyman and get paid a small amount while learning all the tricks of the trade. Once you were done, you more than likely had a full time job. Unfortunately, it’s not like that anymore, as many shops don’t have the time to train-in machinists.

While there are many ‘machine operator‘ positions available, most the actual Machinists positions that companies are looking for require you to have 5+ years of experience. This is done to try and “weed out” the rookies that don’t know much about the trade. Like anything else, though, you aren’t going to get rid of a lot of the newbies, and shops may even miss a “diamond in the rough” by having those requirements. I know of guys that have been in the machining industry for almost 20 years that could be out-knowledge by a 1st year semester student.

In order to get experience, you often have to start out at the bottom. There’s nothing like getting on the job experience, but you will want to get in a job that has a positive atmosphere that does things the right way, and have employees that are willing to go out of their way to help a new guy learn about machining. There’s a few different ways to get the experience needed to move up in this trade, so we’ll quickly go over them.

Tech School

Going to a Tech school for CNC machinist training is probably the number one route today. Some shops require that you have a CNC machinist diploma in order to apply. This isn’t always the case, but if you have a local technical/vocational school with a good machine trades program and are willing to go to school for it, that is probably the best choice. I went to my local Tech school for CNC machining, not knowing much of anything about it when going in, and after two years I felt like I learned so much. That’s not going to say you are going to be a lead machinist/programmer after two years of schooling, because there is just so much to learn being a machinist, and you won’t learn nearly as much until you get out on the job.

Intern

Finding an internship may be a bit harder these days, but with the increasing demand for machinists, you just may find one. It may not be a good paying job, but would be great for a younger person in high school. You will learn a lot on the job, and by the you’re done you may have a full-time job there if they like what they see. Just keep your eyes open and something may pop up near you.

Shop Helper/Deburring Parts

Unfortunately, this route is another one that probably isn’t likely for someone that has more than themselves to take care for. If you don’t have any machining experience, you can sometimes find a position at a local machine shop as a shop helper. You will probably have to de-burr parts, cut stock, and other miscellaneous chores around the shop until they feel comfortable putting you on a cnc machine. The pay won’t be the greatest, but it’s hands-on work, and you won’t have to flip any burgers. if you work hard and a manager/shop foreman likes what they see, you may end up being promoted to a higher paying position.

Those are the three most common options for becoming a machinist. The younger you are, the biggest head start you will have, as you won’t have any dependents to worry about other than yourself as far as money goes.

Be professional, work hard, try to learn as much as you can from older and more knowledgeable machinists, and you will get noticed. Experienced machinists are getting harder to find these days, so if you have the desire, I encourage you to work hard at it.

What Is A CNC Machinist?

A Machinist is versatile, is able to adapt to new things, a problem-solving, and a does hands-on work. It can be making a small part on a manual lathe or mill, to running hundreds of production parts at a time on a CNC Milling center.

Blue-print reading, inspecting parts, editing programs on a CNC controller, setting up a job in a machine, loading parts on a shuttle, and adjusting feeds/speeds for maximum efficiency are just some of the things that a Machinist job entails. If you like hands-on work, are good at math, problem-solving, a quick learner, and are motivated, Machine manufacturing may be the job for you. Check for machinist jobs near you.