CNC Operator or Machinist: Can One Person be Both?
A versatile CNC workforce typically leads to greater productivity and less operating costs. With the rapid advancements in CNC machine technology, equipment is more capable and easier to learn and use than ever before. This means that, for many applications, CNC shops can hire less experienced and skilled machine operators to oversee production of multiple work stations.
What makes this possible are a number of functions provided by both machine tools and their peripherals. A few examples:
- The controls for CNC machine tools, bar feeders, high-pressure coolant systems and some other equipment typically have user-friendly, menu-driven, often touchscreen interfaces that make setups and changeovers fast and simple. Leading machine tool OEM controls typically have a number of built-in programming aids and enable the use of macros and APPs.
- Built-in program simulations, collision avoidance, thermal compensation and other functions eliminate much of the guesswork when programming and running new jobs.
- Automatic tool changers and other devices improve throughput, while compact, self-contained robotic loading and unloading systems make automation possible for any size shop.
- Automatic bar feeders continuously load bar stock into fixed or sliding headstock machines with such reliability that entire production runs can be completed unattended and even lights-out. Bar feeders that provide the proper support enable higher RPMs while dampening vibrations to insure part quality.
- e-Connect, an Ethernet communications system, enables data sharing between CNC machines and peripherals. When e-Connect links a CNC machine control to an LNS bar feeder, for example, material usage is tracked, the data is shared with the CNC machine, and both the bar feeder and machine tool automatically adjust to make a part in the production schedule that best matches a remnant. This improves workflow and reduces material waste – all without involving the machine operator.
Of course proper training is essential for machine operators to take advantage of all that the latest CNC machine and peripherals technology offers. Fortunately, the industry-leading OEMs of both provide such education either directly or through their network of resellers. Bottom line: Investing in educating CNC machine operators who wish to advance their machining skills makes them more valuable employees and expands the capabilities of a shop.
For information about LNS training, applications advice and other customer support, contact your local LNS representative, call 513-528-5674 or email: LNS-northamerica.com,sales.