computer numeric control
innovations in engineering technology education

Computer Numeric Control

What does Computer Numeric Control Mean?
CNC programmers and operators use computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines to make products such as car or machine parts. CNC machines read computerized codes containing all of the information needed to produce a part according to design specifications, originally developed in a computer aided drafting (CAD) program. The CNC programmer uses blueprints to write a computer program with a set of commands (in numbers) for use on tools such as lathes, spindles, milling machines, laser cutting machines and electrical discharge machines.

The technician oversees the production of the parts, made by the machine’s cutting away at blocks of metal or plastic, and inspects the finished product using hand tools like micrometers, gauges and other precision measuring instruments. CNC programmers and operators must learn about the properties of metals as well as the programming needed to make quality products.

A CNC technician might also be responsible for maintaining and troubleshooting production equipment and completing and maintaining paperwork associated with orders, along with general supervision of operators.

What skills are needed for this job?
Ability to read blueprints, apply basic shop math, and read measurement tools; communicate effectively with others using current machine tool/CNC terminology.

What is the job outlook?
According to the US Bureau of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer control programmers and operators should have excellent job opportunities despite the projected slow decline in employment. Due to the limited number of people entering training programs, employers are expected to continue to have difficulty finding workers with the necessary skills and knowledge. See the Occupational Outlook Handbook:

Black Hawk College Program: Choose the CNC 15-hour certificate or the CNC “track” of the 64-credit Engineering Technology Associate in Applied Science degree

For information, contact Advising at the Black Hawk College Quad Cities campus: (309) 796-5100, or