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Thread: How to start learning CNC???

  1. #1
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    How to start learning CNC???

    I am sure there are lots of opinions out there, and that is why I am asking this question:

    How is the best way to learn CNC programming? I would like to learn how to program and run CNC lathes and mills.

    History:
    I grew up in the printing industry and had to make a career move last year (at 41 yrs. old). I started running a waterjet and I love it. I took metals in high school and learned a little about lathe and mill work. I mess with the lathes at work from time to time.

    Abilities:
    I have very strong mechanical ability and a very strong computer ability.


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  2. #2
    Registered Mazaholic's Avatar
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    I'd look into a tech school.
    You don't need a high priced school to get the basics to get started with.
    A large tech school will probably be more up to date,but for the basics of machining and CNC practice,a small less expensive school should get you started.



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    or try being around machinst as much as possible(if they dont mind) you will learn alot of stuff this way. Not sure what is better to learn first, working on manual lathe/mill or go straight to the computer. In my opinion you will learn much more by learning to run manual lathe/mill first, also will make you better programmer down the road... me thinks



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    Get a job as a parts loader/green button pusher. Keeps your eyes and ears open and ask questions. But before asking the questions see if you can find the asnwer first yourself.

    If you are lucky and your questions are not too annoying you might find someone who will act as a mentor.

    You will need to get some proper training on manual machines and will need to go and get 'book learning' for CAD and CAM but if you have built up a foundation of exposure to the machines and have experienced what they can do even if you don't know how or why they do it you will get more out of formal training.

    Plan on the whole process taking 2 to 4 years.

    An open mind is a virtue...so long as all the common sense has not leaked out.


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    Registered ImanCarrot's Avatar
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    In my opinion you will learn much more by learning to run manual lathe/mill first
    I'd agree with this opinion, you will learn more about feedrates and cut depths this way because you can "feel" when it's right.

    Geof is right too- the best way to learn is off someone else- most engineers will be happy to pass on knowledge to an enthusiastic L driver

    With your good programming knowledge it might also be beneficial to get a CNC simulation programme, but there's nothing like the real thing, I still remember the first part I programmed and cut- it's still kicking about my lab somewhere.

    Please be careful about safety though- you're dealing with machines here that can literaly rip your hand off, I can't stress safety enough. Little tips like never, ever let go of a lathe chuck key unless you're putting it on the bench can save it being launched at 3000 RPM towards your head.

    There was another Thread about this somewhere... they recommended:
    http://home.fuse.net/consultec/

    Glad you caught the bug and best of luck

    Last edited by ImanCarrot; 06-13-2007 at 06:37 AM.
    I love deadlines- I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.


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    For one thing computer skills are good, math skills are great. I learned programming on night shift I got on the computer while my machine was running to make parts for my harley, once I made a few parts I showed the head programmer and he gave me a chance. That was 15 years ago I had mechanical aptitude and a good attitude so they gave me a chance as soon as I was making parts for them I jumped ship to be a solo programmer at another shop. I learned the hard way how to make shipments on time, But I also made a 100% increase in pay. I've been doing this for 18 years I have my own shop with 7 cnc mills and 2 cnc lathes and some manual mills and lathes and grinders. Do not buy into the hype that you need manual experience it is BS manuals react nothing like CNC's period there is no comparison to feeds and speeds whatsoever if anyone tells you different they have no credibility with modern tools and machinery....They are only hobbyists. CNCs are so much more rigid and with high pressure coolant and high speed machining they make manuals look like drill presses. community colleges and trade schools are not going to help you either, get a job as a button pusher and read the manuals and ask questions on the forums and you will take the lead at your shop. The most important thing is to work hard and show that you want to succeed.
    Joe
    BTW the chuck key hits the wall before it comes back at you.



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    Moderator Switcher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joecnc1234 View Post
    For one thing computer skills are good, math skills are great. I learned programming on night shift I got on the computer while my machine was running to make parts for my harley, once I made a few parts I showed the head programmer and he gave me a chance. That was 15 years ago I had mechanical aptitude and a good attitude so they gave me a chance as soon as I was making parts for them I jumped ship to be a solo programmer at another shop. I learned the hard way how to make shipments on time, But I also made a 100% increase in pay. I've been doing this for 18 years I have my own shop with 7 cnc mills and 2 cnc lathes and some manual mills and lathes and grinders. Do not buy into the hype that you need manual experience it is BS manuals react nothing like CNC's period there is no comparison to feeds and speeds whatsoever if anyone tells you different they have no credibility with modern tools and machinery....They are only hobbyists. CNCs are so much more rigid and with high pressure coolant and high speed machining they make manuals look like drill presses. community colleges and trade schools are not going to help you either, get a job as a button pusher and read the manuals and ask questions on the forums and you will take the lead at your shop. The most important thing is to work hard and show that you want to succeed.
    Joe
    BTW the chuck key hits the wall before it comes back at you.
    Thats the way I started out, on 12hr night shift (still their (6 years)).

    I would rather get payed to learn, than have to pay a tech school, I'm not knocking the Tech schools, It's just that I would rather learn on my own.

    Find a job like others have suggested, as a button pusher (on night shift, it's more laid back! ).

    The PC/mechanical skills are a must. Whatever cnc machine you are running, the first thing you need to do is read the manual, I know it can be boring as heck, but it will help you big time!

    The cnc I started out on was 2years old, & had been running 24/5 before I was hired, the funny thing is all 4 manuals were still in the shrink wrap, & at that time it was the only machine in the plant running Siemens 840D, it's funny because all the other machine operators would (still do) wine about how they couldn't get the machine to do what they wanted it to do (duh, read the book!!!) .

    Also If your machine that you start out on, has "Step Mode", It's a great thing to learn with, you can step thru the program that is running on the cnc, line by line, so you can get a better understanding on how the g-code works.


    This site is also great.

    .



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    Quote Originally Posted by joecnc1234 View Post
    ..... Do not buy into the hype that you need manual experience it is BS manuals react nothing like CNC's period there is no comparison to feeds and speeds whatsoever if anyone tells you different they have no credibility with modern tools and machinery....They are only hobbyists....
    This is slightly insulting to all the ones on the forum who are not hobbyists, who do believe that knowledge gained on manual machines is valuable, who do know how to run CNC equipment very effectively and who have successful CNC based businesses. If I am a hobbyist I have one hell of a hobby shop!

    An open mind is a virtue...so long as all the common sense has not leaked out.


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    Registered ImanCarrot's Avatar
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    He's entitled to his opinion I guess *shrugs* I make a minimum of 20K pure profit (after overheads) on one machine a month, so I am probably not as experienced.

    That's GPB by the way.. not USD

    Nearly quarter of a milion pounds profit (bottom line) a year... I probably don't know anything actualy

    I love deadlines- I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.


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    Quote Originally Posted by ImanCarrot View Post
    He's entitled to his opinion I guess *shrugs* I make a minimum of 20K pure profit (after overheads) on one machine a month, so I am probably not as experienced.

    That's GPB by the way.. not USD

    Nearly quarter of a milion pounds profit (bottom line) a year... I probably don't know anything actualy
    Not a bad hobby.

    An open mind is a virtue...so long as all the common sense has not leaked out.


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    PSI,

    Not everyone is the same but if you have a very strong desire to learn anything, eventually you will fnd some way.

    Late 80's early 90's I wanted to build a CNC machine using a Dremel tool, I wasn't going to cut heavy pieces or material, so I had envisioned this small desktop machine, that could be retrofitted with a Dremel high speed tool and some CNC controller of some sort. I had talked to some experts in the CNC world and pass on my idea with the Dremel tool (surely it was a logical one and probably not only my own), but I was discouraged from using one because they said it would not be strong enough. But I was not going to be machining aluminum or oak, so I reasoned that a high speed Dremel, or something similar, was ideal for cutting model building plywood, balsa and some renwood (basically bondo in block form), perhaps some light aluminum sheet.

    I had already purchased a Sherline combo lathe and mill, manual, to do some hobby work, and started looking at ways to retrofit those, but I didn't have the budget for the retrofits that were being offered for such machines, at that time.

    So I got a little creative within my budget, it is amazing the stuff your brain can come up with when you have the need to have something really bad and simply not the cash for such. I couldn't sleep just dreaming of this wonderful machine that will be cutting parts for me. So I got very motivated and built a "low profile" gantry style machine from some out of fashion formica night tables I had, that I almost threw them away, but luckly kept them, with the idea of some day using them, for something special and eventually I did.

    The following pictures and video are the machine, the brown table is the original one before I revamped it, not much really, it used basic hardware store parts which included some industrial suprplus drawer slides some roller bearings, and nylon pieces, for the nuts and screw to motor couplers. But I made many interesting parts with such, including some aluminum test molds for another injection molding project, I had going on, at the same time. See the other pic with the small parts that range from plywood, to plastic, to thin aluminum.

    That machine is still in working order, but I revamped it over the years only in the mechanical section and improved on the table look, by going with MDF shelving material and double precision drawer slides, using 10p screws and making the antibacklash nuts from delrin. The machine was, is still driven by DOS program DANCAM, DANPLOT using an older PC running windows 95, but I am sure Mach 3 ( will run it fine), it uses a driver 3 axis chopper kit , I bought in the 90's from Camtronics, steppers are Miniangle 2v,2.7A per phase about 50 oz/in and it uses a standard PC 12v 8am power supply. It is not a fast machine, but fun to play with and I've used it to teach kids how CNC machining works.

    The DANPLOT DANCAM, came with a load of information that helped me understand the workings of CNC operation. You'll probably find a lot more info here, in this forum ,but that is all I had at the time. The fact I built the controllers from the "3 axis chopper kit", helped me understand how the machine talks to the controller board and what signals are sent back and forth. When you build your own you also have the power to fix it, if you are into this sort of thing. Some people don't like fixing things and it depends if you are in it for the hobby or business end, sometheing that has to be considered. But just for the sake of learning, I have since gone back to this information to try to refresh my understanding how bigger machines, that I use, might interface with Mach3 and other programs, something I am in the process of doing now. I get a little lazy sometimes and thus, I often ask questions that I already have the answers for if I do a litle homework of my own or get my hands a little dirty in the shop.

    With this information you can essentially build your own machine using better more modern parts but understanding the basics is the key and if you can build a machine similar to this basic one I built years ago, step by step (you have to be patient with yourself and have a huge appetite for wanting to learn), you will have a good handle on how CNC machining works. I am sure if you look around you will find better started CNC packages that can help you in your learning endeavours.

    Personally I find that there is no better training than hands on training. I have taken formal therory courses in both Umiverstities and local colleges and have gotten more from technical institutes that implement a hands on to supplement theory type teaching, but as far as CNC learning, I have learned it pretty much on my own by reading, assembling and using a bit of common sense and logic, sure keeps it fun and interesting, but that is how I learn things. I wish forums like this one would have existed in the early 90's sure would have made learning much faster.

    I look around forums like this one and it blows my mind what some other people are doing, of course with better budgets the sky is the limit, but I think when you have too much of it, creativity suffers.

    The hunger for knowledge seems to be contagious, in forums like this one, and it is what makes these forums work and a joy to come to. I'm always learning something new from someone that has lived longer and or has more expeienced than I have. In some levels, even people that are younger and less expereinced than I am. It is a joy to lock with people of this sort, that are willing to share their knowledge or perhaps an inspirational experience with you. Hope you find others that perhaps can share and help you get started. This post is only inspirational and I hope you success.

    VIDEO


    The last three pictures are things I've done for a small business I stared in 1999. Most of it is one of a kind or custom work now, word of mouth. I use more industrial machines now, for some serious work, but at first, because my work required specific machines to do specific miniature parts and I wanted to have the control of being able to produce them at any time, I had to, in some cases, make some custom machines, for these applications.

    Whenever I read threads like this one , I get a bit excited and reminice the good old times and look forward to better times and think how wonderful life really is these days, of an info frenzy, and how that has and is molding us, as human beings and as a modern society. Would be nice to live forever, because, at least, I want to learn more, see more, and do more, but all of our times are limited here, and so if we can say, "I did something that I really loved doing", you can probably go with a happy face and peace of mind.

    Everyone starts at some point, and we become experts with time and by learning from our mistakes.


    Good Luck!

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails -mia1092m-jpg   -miacnc-014-jpg   -miacnc-005s-jpg   -miacnc-018s-jpg  

    -miacnc-019s-jpg   -miacnc-020s-jpg   -miacnc-021s-jpg   -cnc-jpg  

    -injmold-jpg   -kitdes-jpg  
    Last edited by CNCZONERAMICO; 06-13-2007 at 05:37 PM.


  12. #12
    Registered Mazaholic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joecnc1234 View Post
    BTW the chuck key hits the wall before it comes back at you.
    Spoken like a true button pusher with no manual lathe experiance.
    Dude...the chuck turns the other way on a manual.
    Either way i wouldn't want to chance it.



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