Can I Learn CNC Programming Online? (Explained)
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In a nutshell, yes, you can learn basic CNC (Computer Numerical Control) programming online. You’ll need a decent understanding of basic mathematics, and an understanding of machining, but you can do it.
However, this is just basic CNC programming: to become an advanced CNC programmer, you’ll struggle to learn online without real feedback on active CNC machines.
You can master rudimentary CNC programming after a few days of dedicated studying. It’s also possible to learn intermediate and advanced CNC machine programming online – though, of course, these levels take more time.
How easy it’ll be and how long it’ll take depends entirely on your current level of machine programming comprehension. It also depends on the course you enroll in and your dedication to the course.
Read on as we examine estimated course length times, sites that offer CNC courses, and other aspects of online CNC courses you should know about.
How Long Does it Take to Learn CNC Programming Online?
Learning the basic elements of CNC training will only take 2-3 days, if you’re already proficient in mathematics and machining. However, learning the basics isn’t enough for a CNC job. Honestly, you’d need to dedicate several years to online learning.
After mastering beginner learning, you’ll progress to intermediate. After that, you can study at an advanced level.
Beginner, intermediate, and advanced CNC courses normally differ from course to course. Here’s a basic outline of what you can expect to learn at the different levels, plus how long they take:
You can complete a beginner CNC course can be completed within a matter of days.
An introductory course is normally based on manual programming, which is the most basic approach to CNC.
Manual programming has arguably been made obsolete by modern CNC approaches. However, grasping it creates a foundation of CNC understanding for beginners.
You can learn and memorize manual program codes in a few days. This prepares beginner CNC students for programming machines to perform very basic functions.
Other aspects that a beginner CNC course may involve include:
- CAD packages
- Basic CAM
- CNC Control Software
- CNC milling operations
- The basics of programming using canned cycles
Many of these topics will likely come up again in intermediate and advanced courses.
It normally takes a year to become proficient in CNC machine programming at an intermediate level.
However, this depends on how fast the individual can master complicated concepts. If you work hard and smart, you can complete an intermediate CNC machining course in a matter of months.
Intermediate CNC machine learning includes mastering such aspects:
- G-code programming
- Intermidate CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) programming
- Lathe programming
- CNC mill programming
The rest of your training and studying involves learning advanced CNC programs and carrying out work experience in the field.
While technically you could become an advanced CNC programmer online, in-person options are your best choice here. You’ll learn faster, and get more training with the actual machines.
You’ll need to dedicate a few years’ worth of studying to complete advanced-level training online.
Advanced online CNC courses will likely involve the following:
- Advanced CNC macro programming
- Conversational programming
- CNC milling machine tool probe settings
- 3D machining
- 5-axis CNC machining
- Programming on multiple construction planes
- Full component simulation.
CNC programming work experience
Online courses for CNC can only take you so far. Even after you have completed an advanced CNC training course, you’re still likely not ready to take on a CNC job.
To land most CNC machine jobs, you’ll need to have completed either an internship, externship, or apprenticeship. You need real-life experience with the best CNC milling machines and G-code in a professional workplace.
The amount of time you spend in CNC work experience depends entirely on the employer and the job role you take on. So, it can be difficult to determine exactly how long CNC work experience extends your learning period.
You may find that some CNC job opportunities offer on-site training. In this case, you’ll need to complete either an online or university course in CNC.
You’ll then gain the necessary hands-on experience in your new workplace. However, most CNC jobs will look for candidates who have already completed some form of work experience.
Overall, the length of time it takes to complete sufficient work experience on the shop floor is four to five years.
How Can I Learn CNC Programming?
Several online educational domains provide CNC training programs. In this section, we’ll review some of the main online CNC classes you can enroll in.
G-Code Tutor’s CNC G-Code Programming Courses
As the name implies, G-Code Tutor specializes in teaching one particular aspect of CNC training: G-code programming.
G-code – which stands for Geometric Code – is a unique type of CNC programming that is used by professional CNC machinists. G-code is currently the most widely used CNC language.
Although this site only specializes in one topic, G-code programming is a particularly wide subject. This necessitates the several courses that G-Code Tutor offers.
If you’re looking for free courses, you can start with G-Code Tutor’s free 20-minute programming lesson. This demonstrative class shows you how to use drilling and cycles.
After completing the free G-code lesson, you can choose between G-Code Tutor’s four classes:
- The Foundation G-Code Course
- CNC Lathe Programming
- Advanced CNC Macro Programming
- CNC Mill Programming
Alternatively, you can enroll in all four simultaneously by opting for the G-Code training bundle. The latter will leave you able to write G-code programs professionally.
Mastercam offers this comprehensive course containing 19 online lessons. This more general course is suitable for all levels of CNC understanding. It’s recommended for those planning to sit their NIMs Certification Test.
Also, Mastercam is an advanced CAD/CAM/Simulator software. It’s very expensive and widely used in the big machining industries.
If you’re planning to become a machinist for big companies that make aircraft and cars, you may need to learn Mastercam. So, this introductory course can help you see if it’s right for you.
This course focuses on two broad topics: CNC milling machines and CNC lathes. Within these subjects, Mastercam’s course covers a range of subtopics such as:
- Circular interpolation
- Drilling with canned cycles
- Tool nose compensation
Mastercam’s virtual instructor will take you through these topics with self-guided videos and a printable workbook.
Udemy’s CNC courses
If you’d rather focus on one niche CNC topic at a time, Udemy offers several mini-courses on various subjects.
Course lengths differ from subject to subject. Some consist of over 20 lectures that last only a couple of hours, while others consist of over 100 lectures and last over 20 hours.
Popular CNC programs offered by Udemy include:
- CNC lathe training using G-code
- CNC cutting tools
- G-code programming for CNC mills
- CNC machines
- ISO and Macro programming
- SwanSoft Simulation
- Fusion 360 tutorial for CNC machinists
Almost all Udemy courses cost the same, even though the courses differ in length.
If you’ve completed a more general course on one website, Udemy can provide you with a knowledge top-up on specific subjects.
How Hard Is It to Learn CNC Programming?
If you’re dedicated to becoming a CNC machinist, you should not find CNC training to be too difficult. It takes a combination of passion and patience to become proficient in all areas of the profession.
If you dedicate a couple of hours per day to completing online CNC courses, your learning period should feel easy on the whole.
The fact it can take several years to master CNC isn’t exactly a reflection of how difficult the course is. Instead, it conveys how varied and all-encompassing the subject is. CNC is a broad topic and, therefore, demands several years to learn.
Having said that, there are several components to the subject that are particularly difficult to master. This includes:
- Comprehending geometric shapes
- Getting measurements correct
- CAD-CAM software
- Understanding mechanical part blueprints and drawings
Do You Need to Be Good at Math To Learn CNC Programming?
Yes, being proficient in mathematics is one of the key requirements of studying and mastering CNC. Topics like G-code programming, programming CNC routers, and editing g-code (and m-code) all demand decent mathematical skills. But if it isn’t a strength, you can learn as you go.
Even once you are a professional-level CNC machinist, math remains an integral part of your day-to-day operations. For example, numerical values need to be added to tool paths, and coding sometimes requires trigonometry.
You can’t have CNC without math, so it’s safe to say that the latter is a requirement for the former.
Besides math, you’ll also require IT skills to get into the CNC operation game.
Do you need a degree to learn CNC programming?
You do not need a degree to learn CNC or attain a job in this field. However, employers may favor candidates with a degree over others, so having a degree may widen your CNC job prospects.
Can you teach yourself CNC programming?
Yes, it’s possible to teach yourself CNC programming, as long as you have a good understanding of mathematics. A background in machining knowledge is preferable, but not required.
With the right software and the right online lessons and resources, you could easily teach yourself basic programming before getting practical experience with CNC machines.