Precision CNC machining operates on a computerized system. Every project is a series of commands given to the computer and translated into tasks for the machine to complete. If you want to know more about the programming, or if you just want to be able to identify what the machine is doing, here is how to read and identify what you see on the machine's computer screen.
Many CNC machine operators have taken the time to learn some computer coding. Why? Because programming a CNC machine is a lot like writing code. Every line typed into the computer is a step and a command the machine has to follow to create a final product. Even cutting a simple circle out of a flat sheet of metal requires steps because the machine is told where on the sheet of metal to begin cutting and where to end. In the mid-section of those commands, it is told how to turn and cut the metal, always keeping the exact distance from the center of the circle outwards. This is just a basic example of how the machinists write the "code" for cutting something simple, but as you can imagine, more complex projects require longer lines of code, typed in by hand or scanned in if legibly pre-written so the machine can interpret what is written.
Identifying CNC Shorthand
While a machine is in operation and working on a series of tasks, you can read what is on its screen and watch as it scrolls down to each new step. The lines are often started with simple commands in computer shorthand (e.g., TRN for turn, CRCL for circle, RT ANG for right angle, etc.). The shorthand is pretty easy to figure out if you just take a few seconds to determine what it could stand for. The machinists often use the same shorthand offline to make notes on projects or to make corrections to a project that has not been produced correctly and needs to be corrected. At any time, when you are not sure what a shorthand symbol or abbreviated command means, just ask the machinist.
Understanding the Numbers
Numbers are a big part of the machine's command programming. They specify how many degrees to turn something, how many degrees to cut something, how many inches or millimeters to cut or where to begin cutting, etc. Without the numbers in the lines of programming, you would stump the machine and its computerized system. It would just stand still trying to figure out what you wanted it to do. When you are looking at the screen and see the numbers along with the shorthand commands, try to read it the way a machinist would see it and then visualize the movements in your head. You may even be able to picture the final product after reading all of the code that is currently on the screen.
If you want to learn more about this process, visit a precision cnc machine shop.