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two machinists working with machine tools Machinists use tools such as lathes, milling machines, and grinders to produce precision metal parts.  They review blueprints and calculate where to cut into the steel, aluminum, plastic, titanium, silicon, or other material being used.  Then they select the appropriate tools, position the piece, and set the controls on the machine.  During the process, machinists must monitor the feed rate and speed of the machine, in addition to the temperature and lubrication of the workpiece.  They then use measuring tools to check the accuracy of the piece against blueprints.

Production machinists produce large quantities of one part.  Many production machinists use CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines.  CNC machines control the speed and accuracy of cutting tools via a computer program.  Machinists may write basic CNC programs or modify them in response to problems encountered.

Machinists who repair or make new parts for existing machinery are known as maintenance machinists.  They refer to blueprints to replace and repair original parts.  Some maintenance machinists are specialized, while others work in many manufacturing industries.

Most machine shops are clean, ventilated, and well-lit, with CNC machines partially or totally enclosed.  Workers must still follow safety precautions such as wearing safety glasses and earplugs when machining.  Machinists do a lot of standing and must sometimes lift moderately heavy workpieces.  They may work overtime during peak production periods.

Machinists can learn their trade through apprenticeship programs, vocational schools, community or technical colleges, or on the job.  High school students interested in machining should take classes in trigonometry and geometry, and if possible, blueprint reading, metalworking, drafting, and basic computer skills.  Apprenticeship programs are offered by a union or manufacturer and consist of up to four years of paid shop training and classroom instruction in math, physics, material science, blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, and quality and safety practices.  Two year associates degree programs can be found at community or technical colleges.

Machinists should be mechanically inclined, have good problem-solving skills, be able to work independently and perform highly accurate work.  Skilled machinists can advance to become CNC programmers, tool and die makers, mold makers, or be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions.  Some highly skilled machinists open their own shops.

Employment of machinists is expected to decline slowly, but opportunities should still be good for those trained in CNC methods.  Please visit the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association for more information about training and new technology for machinists.  An overview of tools that are used by machinists can be found on this machinist tools website.

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About Machinists' Job Responsibilities, Educational Requirements, and Working Conditions