Trade Schools with Machinist Programs
Machinists operate equipment used to create tools and various industry-specific parts. They work off of computer-aided design files or blueprints in order to choose the right materials and make the desired cuts. After ensuring their products meet the required specifications, they polish imperfections, package pieces, and ship items to the customer.
What Is a Machinist?
Machinists forge the components sold to manufacturers of cars, trucks, and airplanes. They build the pipes installed by water companies and the pieces used to make power tools. The most skilled laborers machine parts for advanced projects like spaceships or particle accelerators.
What Is a CNC Machinist?
In today’s digital age, most workers in this field are CNC machinists. A CNC machine operator runs computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines. Associates use these devices to turn raw materials into precision-milled parts and equipment.
Due to the strict accuracy required for producing metal parts, most of today’s machining work is done with CNC machines. These devices help machinists perform grinds, cuts, or drills quickly and accurately.
When programming CNC machines, associates make reference to design sketches or CNC files. Staff members make decisions regarding cut speed, path, and the feed rate of raw materials. The skill to properly manipulate these values requires special training. Some items need additional grinding or deburring after leaving the CNC machine.
What Goes into CNC Machinist Training?
To acquire CNC machinist jobs, prospects must have a high school diploma. Since most companies train onsite, prior schooling or work experience isn’t required. Troubleshooting skills and math knowledge is crucial, as associates work through issues navigating angles and measurements.
Attending machinist school gives hopefuls a huge advantage over those who don’t. Classes are available through vocational programs, technical colleges, and trade schools. Recruits are taught trigonometry for working with bolt circles. They learn algebra to measure inside diameters, and study statistics to predict measurement patterns.
Other aspects of machinist training involve courses in metalworking and blueprint reading. Students are taught drafting skills in order to read and write technical drawings. They also learn to use computer aided design files during production.
Paid apprenticeships are common in the industry, usually lasting one or two years. Prospects can apply for state certification upon completing an apprenticeship program. Hopefuls can also gain credentials by taking a test through the National Institute for Metalworking Skills. Experience like this is exactly what hiring managers prefer when reviewing a machinist resume.
What Are Common Machinist Job Duties?
Machinists work with computerized measuring devices to forge parts down to 50/1,000,000ths of an inch. They assure the accuracy of parts being manufactured and adjust offsets when needed. Associates monitor equipment during operation and swap out battered cutting tools inside CNC machines.
Workers in this field use subtractive manufacturing to make various parts out of metal, plastic, wood, or glass. They work on a diverse range of projects such as hood ornaments or signs. Most of the time, their jobs involve making parts like HVAC valves, fuel injectors, and engine parts.
When producing small items like car pistons or metal screws, they might manufacture thousands of parts at once. For special or one-of-a-kind items, limited runs are more common. With the right know-how and materials, these workers can build almost anything.
What Types of Skills Should Machinists Possess?
A very important aspect of machining is chip control. This involves breaking and shaping metal in an efficient manner, along with capturing and disposing of the chippings. Sometimes chips are repurposed or recycled as a way to reduce waste and lower production costs.
Machinists use a process called stock removal. This is when metal is fashioned using grinding and milling. It’s a subtractive way of forming metal, in which material, or “stock” is removed. This method stands in contrast to forging, which is the shaping of heated metal using tools like anvils and hammers.
Heat treating techniques are used to strengthen or change the properties of shaped metal. These procedures require precise control over cooling time and temperature.
How Do Machinists Maintain Their Workspace?
Machinists work in factories and machine shops that can get messy over the course of a typical day. Workers need to sweep, mop, or run floor scrubbers after each shift. They must filter metal shavings and chips out of mop water before pouring it down the drain. Spilled solvents or oil should be cleaned promptly to avoid them making their way into waste pipes.
What Are Useful Skills for People in This Field?
- Endurance to stand all day and perform strenuous movements
- The technical know-how to interpret CAD, CAM, and CNC files
- Confidence in the ability to operate a variety of machining tools
- Computer navigation skills for working with digital diagrams and CNC machines
- The dexterity to machine parts quickly and accurately
- A mechanically-inclined person with a passion for machining work
- The ability to read blueprints, models, and technical drawings
- Knowledge of machining specifications and error tolerances
- Integrity to work independently and remain motivated
- Physical fitness for handling manual machining tools
What Is the Outlook for
Demand for these workers has remained steady. There are about 396,200 machinist jobs available in the country. Job growth is around one percent, meaning nearly 2,700 positions are created per decade. The average CNC machinist salary is about $43k per year. Top salaries can exceed $65k.
The need for skilled machinists will never cease. These workers create the parts that allow modern machinery to function. Many lifelong machinists are retiring from the field, creating opportunities for those new to the trade. Associates often earn the following job benefits:
- 401(k) retirement plans
- Healthcare coverage
- HSA savings plans
- Life insurance
- Paid time off
- Tuition reimbursement
What Should Workers Expect?
Working in a machine shop is dangerous. Associates wear protective gear such as respirator masks, earplugs, and defensive goggles. Not only are machinists exposed to hazardous fumes and loud noises, but they have to avoid flecks of broken metal.
The typical machinist job description promotes a 40-hour work week with some required overtime. Some plants operate around the clock and offer weekend and third shift positions. Pay levels are tied to skill and experience. Until they gain some clout, beginners typically earn less money than their seasoned colleagues.
Where Can Prospects Find Work?
Due to the prevalence of machined parts in modern society, there are many routes a skilled CNC machine operator can take. The following industries and occupations represent a few of these options:
- Industrial power generation
- Vehicle part manufacturing
- Manufacturing plants
- Transportation equipment companies
- Workshops and factories
- Tool manufacturing
What Are Some Important Machinist Tools?
CNC milling and turning machines are by far some of the most commonly used machining tools. These are large devices that automatically cut metals in a precise and predictable fashion. Programming a CNC milling machine requires advanced knowledge of cutting techniques. Finished items must meet strict weight, size, and shape standards.
Workers must also know how to safely use a variety of hand tools. While some shops provide workers with equipment, many machinists prefer to own their own gear. Since supplies can be expensive, some people seek machinist tools for sale online or through secondhand shops. Prospects should be familiar with the use of the following tools:
- Lathes are machines that cut and shape materials with the help of a spinning tool. They are commonly used to make the cuts that form threads and worm gears. While many lathes use computer-controlled motors, some still run on manual hand wheels.
- Shapers are similar to lathes, but the cutting takes place in linear, back-and-forth movements rather than a spinning motion. While vertical shapers are common, other types include horizontal, hydraulic, and crank.
- Set on fixed stands, drill presses help machinists cut precise holes. They are also used to enlarge existing holes and perform actions such as tapping, reaming, and countersinking.
- Calipers come in both digital and traditional forms. They are used to make accurate measurements of objects or spaces. This is one of the most important tools in a machinist’s arsenal, as workers utilize calipers when determining which plugs or screws to use.
- Edge finders help associates find the edges and centers of workpieces. They are used to properly align machining tools with their intended workpieces. They come in many different sizes and are sometimes referred to as centering devices, wobblers, or wigglers.
- End mills are cutting tools that are found in various shapes and lengths. Similar in appearance to drill bits, end mills contain unique geometric structures in order to make unique sideways cuts. While they are sometimes sold individually, they usually come in sets.
- Dial indicators measure and amplify small distances to make them more obvious. These tools are often used to check the roundness of wheels or other curved objects.
- Deburring sets are used to remove rough projections and burrs after cutting metal or aluminum. Deburring is important, as it protects from unnecessary cuts and scrapes while handling finished products.
- Machinist squares are used for making or measuring precise 90 degree angles. These L-shaped tools are usually made of steel and are often utilized during the setup of machines.
- When setting up table saws, machinists use tools called 1-2-3 blocks. These are steel squares that are precisely machined to have sides that measure one, two, and three inches long. Workers place these blocks against a table and saw blade to establish a perfect 90-degree angle. Larger versions of these are called 2-4-6 blocks.
- Micrometers are devices that use a precisely-machined screw to make accurate measurements of protrusions and components. These tools are able to determine the thickness, length, and depth of an object.
- Many machinists carry around 6″ metal rulers in order to make quick measurements. Models come in flexible (1/64″ thick) and rigid (3/64″ thick) forms, with graduations (increments) down to 1/100th of an inch.
- Machinist stools are typically made from steel, with adjustable seat heights between 17 to 25 inches. They have enough surface area to sit comfortably but are small enough to not get in the way.
- Anti-fatigue mats provide comfort to machinists who stand for long periods of time. These mats relieve ankle and knee stress while protecting the floor from getting covered in metal shavings.
- Also, it’s important for machinists to carry around an extra fine permanent marker. These come in handy for making small notes that last long and resist running.
Do Machinists Have Any Other Options?
Those with several years of experience and training can move on to become tool and die makers. These workers make precise metal tools along with specific cutting devices called dies. With the help of machines known as presses, these dies act sort of like cookie cutters in that their shape dictates the form of the item cut.
Die makers work with a number of materials, including plastic, silicone, and glass. They build gauges and make molds used for shaping composites or ceramics. Workers also create fixtures and jigs that hold metal while it is drilled.
Tool and die makers write programs for CNC machines. They also maintain the devices, disassembling and repairing them when needed. Workers test, smooth, and polish finished products to make sure they meet specifications. Due to their increased skill and experience, tool and die makers usually earn about $9k more per year than machinists.