The task of operating machines that produce precision metal parts fall into the hands of machinists. They are responsible for preparing and using grinders, lathes and milling machines and disassembling them after use. Machinists use both computer-numerically controlled (CNC) and manual machinery to manufacture machine parts. Some of the precision parts that machinists produce each day include anti-lock brakes, hydraulic parts and titanium screws specifically for bone implants. Aside from manufacturing new precision metal parts, machinists may also fix or replace a damaged part for a particular piece of equipment or machinery.

When operating the CNC machine, it is the machinist who decides on what the cutting path is, how fast it should be and what the feed rate is. He will then input these instructions into the machine which will then proceed to cut the material in order to come up with the desired part. In order to program the correct specifications into the machine, the machinist will study the sketches, blueprints and digital files if the designs were made using computer-aided design (CAD) programs. While the machine is in operation, machinists monitor performance so that any issues are immediately addressed.

Machining technology is constantly evolving. As such, machinists must be open to learning how to operate new machinery such as electric discharge machines and lasers to create parts. The learning curve isn't very steep, however, as the controls for these tools are similar to that of existing machines. Nonetheless, they should still get to know what these machines can do, what its unique properties are and how they are used to improve the work done on the manufacturing floor.

Machinists will then smooth the surfaces, scrutinize and test finished products for any faults before presenting these to the clients for final inspection. If the customer asks for any modifications on a part, the machinists will make these accordingly before final production takes place.

Machining plays an important part in the manufacturing process of several metal products as well as other raw materials such as ceramic, composites, plastic, and wood. The goal of machining is to produce a part that follows a set of tolerances or specifications usually based in the form of engineering drawings or plans, also known as blueprints. Machinists could set up and operate a variety of machine tools to produce precision parts and instruments as well as fabricate, modify, or repair mechanical instruments. They could also modify and fabricate parts to make or repair machine tools or maintain industrial machines, applying knowledge of mechanics, mathematics, metal properties, layout, and machining procedures.

Using machine tools such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders, machinists utilize either manually controlled or computer-numerically controlled (CNC) machines to produce precision metal parts. After determining the cutting path, the feed rate and the speed, machinists enter programming instructions into the CNC machines to do all the cutting. The parts that machinists could make range from simple bolts of steel to titanium bone screws for orthopedic implants and other widely known products such as hydraulic parts, anti-lock brakes, and automobile pistons.

As machining technology rapidly progresses, machinist must learn to operate newer manufacturing machines that use electrical discharge machines (EDM), electrified wires, lasers, and water jets to cut the work piece. As engineers construct new types of machine tools, machinists continuously must learn new machining techniques and properties.

Why Become a Machinist

A career as a machinist is ideal for those who want to work with mechanical equipment and have a high comfort level operating computerized measuring machines and metalworking processes. This profession is also very satisfying for those who like to work with their hands and put a premium on a high degree of accuracy. Those who have a penchant for math and making blueprints will also find enjoyment in a career as a machinist.

Most companies only require high school diploma or equivalent for entry-level machinists but apprenticeship programs are available in vocational schools or community colleges to boost their training. After finishing apprenticeship, state apprenticeship boards offer journey-level certification recognized by many employers, which could lead to better job opportunities for aspiring machinists.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a growth of nine percent for the overall employment of machinists from 2012 to 2022, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. The BLS also expects the number of workers learning to be machinists to be fewer than the number of job openings arising each year due to experienced machinists retiring or leaving their positions for other reasons. Despite developments in machining technologies, such as autoloaders, computer-numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools, high-speed machining, and lights-out manufacturing, machinists would still be essential in the industry to set up, monitor, and maintain these automated systems. Salary reports indicate that the mean annual wage for the working machinists would be approximately $41,540 as of May 2014.

Machinist Work Environment

Machinists work in the machinery manufacturing and machine shop industries. They are also found in the transportation equipment manufacturing sector. Although they work in tool rooms and factories, this isn't a particularly hazardous profession. Their work spaces are also well-ventilated. That being said, machinists must still wear safety glasses and other protective gear to protect themselves from certain hazards that come with manufacturing metal parts. These include glasses to shield their eyes from airborne particles and earplugs to protect their ears from the very noisy grinding of machines. The schedule is usually fulltime but overtime is a common feature of this job.

The vast majority of the machinist workforces are in the manufacturing industry. With usually well-ventilated work areas, machinists work in machine shops, tool rooms, and factories. Although the works of a machinist is not characteristically dangerous, operating around machine tools presents hazards, and workers must follow safety precautions. Wearing protective equipment, such as safety glasses, to shield against bits of soaring metal, and earplugs to reduce the noise generated from machinery, is necessary for machinists. Most machinists work full time during business hours, although overtime and weekend work could be common as many manufacturing firms run its machinery for long hours.

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