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CNC machinists interpret and use technical drawings and designs and set up, program, operate and oversee industrial machinery, milling machines and tools to create precision metal parts.
‘CNC’ stands for ‘computer numerical control’. CNC milling and manufacturing machines use computer code to perform subtractive manufacturing processes. Subtractive manufacturing means that parts are made by cutting, boring, drilling or grinding solid pieces of metal, plastic or other materials. These processes are used across manufacturing industries for repetitive work where a high standard of precision is needed to make accurate copies.
Precision is critical in spacecraft design. Every millimetre or gram can impact safety, performance and cost. CNC machinists need to understand and interpret extremely fine-tuned design concepts so they can program equipment correctly. Designs must be translated precisely to meet the high tolerance that physical spaceflight systems components need.
CNC machinists will often be responsible for setting up manufacturing operations including the selection and configuring of mills, lathes and other equipment. They will also be instrumental in the management and operation of those machines. Because of the nature of such high-precision manufacturing, they also need to stay up to date with changes in technology and manufacturing practices. Sometimes, they may even invent new processes themselves.
Becoming a CNC machinist usually requires completing an apprenticeship. Employers generally require apprentices to have a minimum Year 10 education.