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Various industrial and manufacturing settings have begun to use computer numeric control (CNC) machines to perform a wide variety of repetitive tasks. A CNC machine operator is still necessary to program the machines and monitor progress; many operators are also trained to maintain, diagnose, and repair various pieces of machinery as necessary. A CNC machine operator may also be responsible for using design programs and computer-aided drafting (CAD) software that is used in conjunction with the machines to create an automated process for manufacturing products.
The CNC machine operator may be assigned to one particular type of machine, though more often, the operator will be trained to use a variety of different machines within a factory or manufacturing setting. Some common types of CNC machines include lathes, routers, laser cutters, and much more. The types of machines present in a particular manufacturing setting will usually depend on the product being manufactured, as well as the materials from which the products are being made. Some CNC machines are designed specifically for cutting aluminum, for example, while others may be specially designed to cut plastic or even wood. Some machines are multi-functional and can cut more than one type of material.
During the machining process, the CNC machine operator will usually monitor the progress of the machine and either load or remove materials as necessary. If changes need to be made to the programming, the CNC operator will perform these changes. Such changes are usually done to adjust tolerances or to recalibrate the machine to accommodate a new series of cuts. While some machines are designed to automatically change cutting bits as necessary, others require the CNC machine operator to change the bits manually. Bit changes may occur before, during, or after the cutting process; the operator must also monitor the condition of the bits and replace them when they become worn out.
While not always the case, sometimes the CNC machine operator will be trained to diagnose and repair the machines, or perform routine maintenance on them. In other cases, a machinery mechanic may be on site to perform such duties. If the CNC machine operator is responsible for such duties, he or she must first power down the machine completely and ensure all power sources are disconnected. This will help prevent safety mishaps that can lead to injury or even death. The operator is responsible for safe operation of the machine at all times, which means monitoring the surrounding area to ensure bystanders are not in harm's way.