What is a CNC Brake Operator?
By Joe Crowe
A CNC brake operator is set up and operate a machine that bend sheet metal, and as such, they play a vital role in the manufacturing world. The CNC stands for “computer numeric-controlled,” which describes the machines that operators use.
CNC brake operators usually have duties such as setting up machines using blueprints, adjusting settings for temperature, cycle times and speed rates, as well as ensuring that finished pieces match up to the specifications, among other responsibilities, according to career site Zippia.
Precision bending requires extensive knowledge of the role of the operator, the drawings, the press brake machine, and the tooling, says Ken Brakefield of Swanton Welding Company.
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Operators should always look to step up their game with extra training and implementing new industry technologies, while also having a strong understanding of the whole fabrication process from beginning to end, including setup and fabrication times. Complete, concise drawings are vital to making parts, Brakefield says.
CNC press brake machines come in full CNC and retrofitted CNC, as well as mechanical and hydraulic types, Brakefield says. Operators need to know each machine’s limitations and capabilities. Knowing the load limits of each machine will help operators avoid damaging the machine or the items that the machine is making.
Expert-level operators must understand the different tooling tolerances for every punch and die that is being used -- different types of bending, such as air bending, bottom bending, and coining, call for different types of tooling. “It is nearly impossible to make quality parts with bad tooling,” Brakefield says.
What you need to be a CNC brake operator
Those who are interested in this career can ramp up their chances of landing a job by having high school classes in computer programming and vocational tech, and by having solid backgrounds in math, including algebra, geometry, and statistics, Zippia says.
As manufacturing becomes more computerized, knowledge of computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), may be helpful in addition to CNC machine knowledge.
Some community colleges offer courses and certification programs for machine operators. Generally, once a worker is on the job, experienced workers will guide newcomers through the processes, which might include supplying materials, starting and stopping the machines, and then removing the finished items.
Physical strength and stamina are also key components to success. Standing for a long time as well as lifting, carrying, and loading heavy or unwieldy materials is part of the job.
Keeping this information in mind can help people interested in CNC brake operation to forge a successful career path.