Teaching CNC with the Key Concepts approach - part ten

Part ten - Key concept number Nine: You must know the key operation procedures


At this point in the class, students should have a good understanding of what they want the CNC machine to do. However, they're probably still pretty intimidated when they look at the operation panels of the machine. In this Key Concept, the goal will be to provide them with the operation procedures they need to run a machine.


Point out that running a CNC machine requires little more than following a series of procedures. As long as you know what you want to do, a procedure can be followed to help you achieve what it is that you want. The trick is having procedures available for help.


Don't have them try to memorize each procedure - it doesn't work. Students quickly become confused and frustrated. Admittedly, there are some procedures that are so often used that students will soon have them memorized. But don't assume they can remember how to perform even the simplest procedures for very long.


We recommend providing an operation handbook for each machine in your lab or shop. This handbook will include step-by-step procedures for the most common things a person must do with the machine. We offer a series of procedures in the student manual that is included with our CNC curriculums. These procedures fall into five categories:

  • Manual procedures

  • Setup procedures

  • Manual Data Input procedures

  • Program editing procedures

  • Program running procedures

Again, each procedure should include step-by-step instructions to accomplish the task at hand. Here are the specific procedures we recommend that you include in each category:


Manual procedures:

  • To power up the machine

  • To do a manual zero return

  • To manually start the spindle

  • To manually jog the axes

  • To use the handwheel

  • To manually load and remove cutting tools in the spindle

Setup procedures

  • To load tools into the automatic tool changer magazine

  • To set or reset the relative position display

  • To measure program zero assignment values

  • To measure tool length compensation values

  • To enter and modify tool offsets

  • To enter and modify fixture offsets

MDI procedures:

  • To use MDI to change tools

  • To use MDI to start the spindle

  • To use MDI to do a zero return

Program editing procedures:

  • To enter a program through the keyboard

  • To load a program from a DNC system

  • To save a program to a DNC system

  • To see a directory of programs

  • To delete a program

  • To call up a program (make it the active program)

  • To search within a program

  • To alter a word in a program

  • To delete a word in a program

  • To insert a word in a program

Program running procedures:

  • To run a verified program

  • To cancel the cycle

  • To re-run a tool

These procedures can be used as a crutch until they are memorized - yet some seldom-used procedures will probably never be memorized, meaning students will always have a way to find out how to perform a needed procedure.


Point out that most companies do not provide the kind of operation handbook that you let them use in class. They'll probably be on their own to develop there own operation handbook for each machine they'll be running. Make sure they understand what's involved with developing an operation handbook. You may want to give them some practice assignments to confirm that they can do it.


Documenting each procedure, of course, simply involves writing down the step-by-step procedure - and keeping the procedures organized in a notebook. So as long as someone in their company knows how to run the machine, this person can show them how each procedure is done so that it can be documented.


In our CNC curriculums, Key Concept number nine contains one topic (lesson):

  • The key operation procedures


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