CNC Programming: Is it Difficult?

October 15, 2019
CNC Programming: Is it Difficult?

How Hard Is It to Learn CNC Programming?

For those looking to get into CNC machining in Toronto, one of the biggest hurdles that can stand in their way towards pursuing this interest is by the self-imposed intimidation of learning CNC programming.


To give you a rough breakdown, we can look at typical learning times from three unique perspectives:


  1. Basic CNC Programming – learnt within ~7 days; contingent on the fact that you have a grasp of basic maths and machining.
  2. Intermediate CNC Programming – learnt within ~1 yr.
  3. Advanced CNC Programming – learnt over the course of several years.


In order for us to adequately dissect this question, it is imperative you know the differences between manual and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) programming:


Manual Programming – as the name implies, this involves the manual task of writing out the code. The selling point of this process is that it allows holistic control over all of a machine’s capabilities, but can be a significant time investment to learn.


CAM Programming – regarded for being the most common means of programming CNC machines due to its penchant for simplifying and hastening complex tasks. For CAM programming, software is utilised to manipulate the model for the part in question; any machining parameters clarified during this step can then be automatically generated into G-code (the programming language for CNC) from the program.


Types of Difficulty for Mill Programming

CNC machining in Toronto for milling operations provides a nice canvas for us to demonstrate variability in programming difficulty, depending on the milling task at hand.


Basic Programming for CNC Milling

CNC programming is at its most basic in milling for a process known as ‘2½ axis machining’. Why? Well, as opposed to the 3 axes that a milling machine moves within, your operational parameters are now simplified down to a 2D plane; cutting down on the complexity of programming required.


Intermediate Programming for CNC Milling

Naturally, a step up from the basic style of programming will be the transition to ‘3 axis machining’, incorporating a 3D plane of movement which, as a natural consequence, significantly complicates the programming tasks at hand. CAM programming at this stage is recommended.


Advanced Programming for CNC Milling

In addition to the 3 axes the machine can move within, there are an additional 2 rotational aspects that are important for precise relocation of a machine part.


Taking all of these axes into account for a programming problem is referred to as ‘5 axis machining’ and are some of the most difficult tasks CNC programmers can face, with upwards of 1 million lines of code being a common occurrence. CNC machining in Toronto for this level will always require the use of CAM.


If you are in need of CNC machining in Toronto and assembly services, especially from skilled operators, then get in touch with RWD Tool & Machine – where quality control and expertise meet to produce your custom machine parts.