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CNC Training Program? Here is What It Should Look Like

Markus Puntigam
By Markus Puntigam Manager, Educational Programs, EMCO Corp.

With intensifying competition and ever increasing requirements for quality, productivity and flexibility, demand for well-qualified employees continues to grow. This is where a training plan comes in. A well-thought out modular CNC training program can prepare employees for the specific production requirements with opportunity for targeted training.

In the US, manufacturing sectors and technology industries are experiencing a shortage of employees with the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary to operate and maintain new systems-based technology. The MAT² program in Michigan is an educational model developed in conjunction with global technology leaders to combine theory, practice and work to train a globally competitive workforce—exactly the purpose of the very successful German system of vocational education.

Ask precision machine shop managers about machining skills these days, and they will likely say they cannot get enough interested operators, trained in the essentials of CNC. Companies large and small must address the issue in a practical way.

With the technological advancements represented by CNC machine tools today, the educational requirements needed to work in the CNC machining area have increased significantly.

An online platform for CNC knowledge transfer should include learning maps, videos, interactive achievement tests, explanatory texts, and images, and also allow tutors to create individual curricula and dedicated content using an authoring tool. Training should be easily available for all common industry controls by simply replacing the controller specific module. 3D simulation is also very helpful, allowing the trainee to see the manufacturing processes directly on the screen.

Courses should be designed in accordance with professional educational principles and make use of the most appropriate media. Whether a newcomer, machine operator/setter, or machining technician, the course contents should match the individual student’s level of knowledge.

Tests at regular intervals provide students with the necessary feedback on what they have learned at each stage.

E-learning and classroom teaching for sharing machining technology expertise allow basic principles to be learned anywhere and at any time, and the learner can then come to the classroom as prepared as possible for further learning.

So that the classroom teaching sessions can be used for learning new technologies and content, the theoretical basis should be learned beforehand. Self-monitoring skills are also important: the learners are encouraged to adapt their learning phases to their individual needs and continuously monitor whether their learning objectives have been met.

This modular approach can successfully be used by schools as well as manufacturing companies with apprentices and trainees, factories, small shops as well as motivated CNC technicians who would like further training.

Multimedia classroom WinTutorials tailored to individual machines and control systems support the workshop training. Whether for individual workpieces or a full four-stroke engine, realistic functional models in the courseware make CNC training more effective, and increase students’ motivation.

The training machines themselves need to be fully functional CNC machine tools. Small, affordable, educational table-top machines are the perfect entry machine, for both turning machines and machining centers. From there, training machines can grow with the size and complexity. The interchangeable CNC remains the same on any size.

A high-performance PC-controlled two-axis CNC turning machine, for example, would fully meet industrial standard as to construction and function. The machine base would be the familiar inclined-bed design with rail guides, and would be rigid and robust. A tool turret above the center of rotation is common with “real” machines. The machine’s operation should also include an enabling switch and operating mode selection switch, based on the current turning machine standard ISO 23125.

Finally, training should be ongoing, as technology does not stand still. CNC software and courseware through high-quality training by individual instructors on machine, operation and programming, supports a quality process to help manufacturers pay off the training process and add the kind of skilled workers who are essential if manufacturing is to thrive.

This article was first published in the November 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.

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