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Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Tool Operator

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High school preferred +

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What They Do

Computer Numerically Controlled Tool Operators Career Video

About This Career

Operates computer-controlled tools, machines, or robots to machine or process parts, tools, or other work pieces made of metal, plastic, wood, stone, or other materials. May also set up and maintain equipment.

This career is part of the Manufacturing cluster Production pathway.

A person in this career:

  • Measures dimensions of finished workpieces to ensure conformance to specifications, using precision measuring instruments, templates, and fixtures.
  • Mounts, installs, aligns, and secures tools, attachments, fixtures, and workpieces on machines, using hand tools and precision measuring instruments.
  • Stops machines to remove finished workpieces or to change tooling, setup, or workpiece placement, according to required machining sequences.
  • Transfers commands from servers to computer numerical control (CNC) modules, using computer network links.
  • Checks to ensure that workpieces are properly lubricated and cooled during machine operation.
  • Sets up and operates computer-controlled machines or robots to perform one or more machine functions on metal or plastic workpieces.
  • Inserts control instructions into machine control units to start operation.
  • Reviews program specifications or blueprints to determine and set machine operations and sequencing, finished workpiece dimensions, or numerical control sequences.
  • Listens to machines during operation to detect sounds such as those made by dull cutting tools or excessive vibration, and adjusts machines to compensate for problems.
  • Removes and replaces dull cutting tools.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Judging how far away an object is, or which of several objects is closer or farther away
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Detecting sounds and hearing the differences between sounds of different pitch and loudness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying objects
  • Using abdominal and lower back muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring

Work Hours and Travel

  • Overnight travel
  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Brake Press Operator — Uses an electrically powered industrial machine to create, shape and customize metal and plastic materials into a variety of forms dictated by the manufacturer.
  • Computer Numerical Control Lathe Operator (CNC Lathe Operator)
  • Computer Numerical Control Machine Operator (CNC Machine Operator) — Operates computer-controlled machines or robots to perform one or more machine functions on metal or plastic work pieces.
  • Computer Numerical Control Machinist (CNC Machinist) — Interprets blueprints, manuals and other work instructions and studies sample parts to determine dimensions of finished work pieces and CNC equipment setup requirements. They then set the machine and load it with the correct cutting tools to shape parts.
  • Computer Numerical Control Mill Operator (CNC Mill Operator)
  • Computer Numerical Control Operator (CNC Operator) — Operates computer-controlled machines or robots to perform one or more machine functions on metal or plastic work pieces.
  • Computer Numerical Control Set-Up and Operator (CNC Set-Up and Operator)
  • Machine Operator
  • Machinist — Sets up and operates a variety of machine tools to cut or grind metal, plastic or other materials to make or modify parts or products with precise dimensions.
  • Machine Set-Up Operator


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  • North Dakota Career Resource Network
    ndcrn@nd.gov | (701) 328-9733