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How to Learn CNC Programming

Jun 12, 2023

If you are pursuing a career as a CNC machine operator or you want to open your own CNC business, you will need to learn CNC programming. As an aspiring CNC programmer, you may be wondering how exactly you can learn CNC programming. Well, there are various ways to learn this handy skill.


You can take CNC programming courses at a local college, or you can do an apprenticeship. In this guide, we will be detailing all the different ways to learn CNC programming to kick-start your career.



What Is CNC Programming?


CNC programming is a way to give instructions to the CNC machines. These instructions dictate how the machine functions to produce the desired results. CNC programming relies on a type of code to give instructions to the machine.

The code used in CNC programming descends from the punch cards used to operate the earliest CNC machines. Through CNC programming, the CNC machine can be given instructions such as which tool type to use and which coordinates to operate on.


Following these instructions, the CNC machine will turn the raw materials into the final product. This makes CNC programming an essential skill for operating a CNC machine.


How to Learn CNC Programming?


There are various ways you can learn CNC programming:



A great way to learn CNC programming is by joining an apprenticeship program. This way, you can learn from an experienced professional while also getting hands-on experience. The tutorship will help you a lot towards achieving your career goals as a CNC machine programmer.


With paid apprenticeships, you can support yourself while learning CNC programming. Additionally, if you get an apprenticeship in a big CNC company, you can try out your CNC programming skills on different types of CNC machines, such as horizontal CNC machines, vertical CNC machines, and milling machines.


So by the time your apprenticeship is over, you will have all the experience and knowledge you will need to become a professional CNC programmer. 



Training and Learning Courses

Many colleges and vocational schools provide CNC programming courses that you can take to learn CNC programming. This way, you get a formal educational environment where you can learn CNC programming in depth. Additionally, your resume gets stronger with the addition of the CNC programming certificate.


The best part is that your CNC learning education will follow an academic curriculum, so you won't have to worry about anything important being left out of your education. Most educational institutes also offer CNC programming experience at partnered CNC workshops to help you practice before you go and pursue a career.


Plus, you can get access to the free student versions of CNC programming software as a student studying CNC programming.


Self Learning

If you want to learn at your own pace, you can also try self-learning. The Internet is filled with free and paid courses you can take on CNC programming for self-learning. Self-learning isn't too difficult either, as you can practice on 3d models online to fine-tune your CNC programming skills.


Additionally, CAD and CAM manufacturers offer their software for free for self-learners as well. So you won't have to empty the bank while self-learning. Plus, you will have full control over how you study CNC programming and how you learn.


Learn While Running Your Own CNC Business

Many people prefer to learn while running their own CNC businesses. Entrepreneurs may prefer to set up their workshops and then learn how to do CNC programming while working. They can acquire all kinds of CNC machines through distributors such as Yangsen to work with. This way, you can study while also machining items and gaining experience. Plus, you can start earning from the get-go and establish your brand while learning CNC programming.


However, this approach has its downsides, as the lack of experience can lead to material wastage. Additionally, the large investment required for setting up a CNC workshop can be a great undertaking.


How to Build a Foundation for Your CNC Programming Learning Career


A great way to build a foundation before you start learning CNC programming is to become proficient in manual machining procedures for CNC machines. CNC programming only automates these manual tasks. So if you are proficient in them, learning CNC programming will be much easier for you.


Knowing manual machining procedures can also be helpful for creating more precise CNC programs that produce minimal waste and provide the best results. However, manual machining experience is not a necessity but it does help improve your skills. With enough experience in the industry, you can become a pro CNC programmer in no time.



Is CNC Programming Hard to Learn?


CNC programming is not very hard to learn. There are three methods of CNC programming you can learn. The first is manual programming which is the most difficult of the three to learn as it requires intimate knowledge of G code, the programming language used by CNC machines.


The second method is CAM software. These software produce the G Code for you that can be inserted into the CNC machine. CAM software are much easier to use and don't require as in-depth knowledge of the G code programming language.


Lastly, there is the conversational software method. This method is a balance between manual programming and CAM software. By using conversational software, you send the instructions directly to the CNC machine.


The difficulty of learning CNC programming will depend on which method you choose. Manual programming requires the most hard work, but it is still fairly easy to learn in a few months. A good CNC programmer has a passing knowledge of all three methods of CNC programming, so they are ready for any CNC task that comes their way.


Learning CNC programming Is Easier Than Ever


With all the different methods of learning CNC programming at your disposal, it is now easier than ever to become a pro CNC programmer. You can learn CNC programming by self-studying using online resources, or you can learn it by taking a CNC programming course. You can also learn CNC programming by joining a CNC programming apprenticeship.

Additionally, if you have the means, learning CNC programming by opening your own workshop is also a  possibility. You should pick whichever CNC programming learning method best suits your preferences. This way, you can pursue a CNC programming career on your own terms. 

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