August 6, 2019

# 5 Things You Need to Know if You are New to the Machine Tool Industry

By VibrAlign Author

The machine tool world can be overwhelming if you are new to it. You may hear terms like tolerances, CNC, CPK, surface finish, uptime, and cost per part thrown around, and it may seem like a foreign language if you are just starting out in this industry.

We know that many people are just entering a career in the machine tool world, so we wanted to offer some suggestions and helpful tips.

1. First and foremost, we urge you to take proper safety precautions. Especially if you are new to the machine tool industry, be sure you pay special attention to safety procedures so you form good habits. Machine shops are full of heavy, powerful machinery and can be dangerous if you don’t know how to operate them safely. For more about safety in the machine tool workplace, click here to read our recent post Safety First: Life-saving Tips for Machine Tool Operators.
2. Next, make sure you have sufficient mathematical skills which you will need to use on the job. Most of the math you will need is simple enough, but you will need to know how to make these calculations quickly and with little margin for error. A few specific mathematically-related concepts machine tool operators will need to know are negative values and how to communicate values down to the ten-thousandths of an inch.
3.  Another important skill you will need to have as a machine tool operator is a knowledge of tolerances and how to interpret them. You will want to pay special attention to dimensional tolerance. Dimensional tolerances can be specified in three ways:
• Plus or minus a value
• High and low limit
• Plus one value and minus another

You will want to know which method is used most often in your company. Whenever you take a measurement, remember that there will be four possibilities when it comes to tolerances:

• The attribute is well between the high and low limit (great–nothing needs to be done)
• The attribute is below the low limit (scrap–adjustment is necessary)
• The attribute is above the high limit (scrap–adjustment is necessary)
• The attribute has grown or shrunk too close to the high or low limit (okay for now, but adjustments will still need to be made for the future)

It’s a good idea to practice calculating whether the machine is within tolerance with sample equations and scenarios.

1. New CNC machine operators will also need to be able to read blueprints. This involves interpreting a 3D workpiece from engineering blueprints that are only in 2D. To do this, you will need to be able to read line types (visible, hidden, center, section, etc.) and orthographic projection. Although this may seem daunting at first, know that you will have a finished machined workpiece you can use as reference.
2. Lastly, you will need to know the two main types of measuring devices. These are fixed and variable gauges. Different facilities will use specific subtypes of these gauges–be sure to educate yourself on what kind your machine shop uses: some examples are micrometers and calipers.

It’s important to note that much of these skills require repeated practice and even some intuition, but that will come with time. We wish you the best of success in your machine tool career! We also encourage you to come back to our website for more resources such as blogs and videos as you solidify and grow your skills.

Photo courtesy: iStockPhoto.com/sergeyryzhov