Introduction: San Francisco Workshop Resource: the CNC Learning Path

About: Autodesk Technology Center San Francisco is a hub for research, development, and demonstration of new manufacturing technologies and workflows relating to configurable microfactories.

This Instructable is for Autodesk employees who are workshop users at Pier 9. If this does not describe you, skip to steps 7, 10, and 11 for resources, software, and other guides to help you learn CNC concepts and CAM skills wherever you are.

Do you want to build CNC (Computer Numerical Control) skills, but don’t know where to start? Are you an experienced machinist looking to develop new skills? For learners of all levels, the Pier 9 CNC Learning Path is for you!

This Instructable will lead you through each step of our unique CNC Learning Path, from training courses to one-on-one skill checks to machine classes. Our comprehensive list of learning resources will help you build a breadth of knowledge along the way. Through the Path, you will learn the fundamental theory behind CNC machining, get acquainted with the CNC capabilities at the Pier, and then program your own part using our intuitive Computer Aided Machining (CAM) software.

We welcome everyone, from beginners to more advanced users, to join us at Pier 9 to build this valuable skill set. Each class is a building block for the next, so remember to take your time, master each step before moving on, and enjoy the learning process!

Step 1: Take General Workshop Safety

Use Autodesk Learning Central to sign up for Autodesk's Global Workshop Safety Training and Pier 9's On-Site Workshop Orientation.

The second course is intended to introduce Autodesk's Pier 9 workshop and train new users and tour guides about the shop hazards, safety protocols, training programs and resources at the workshop. This course is required to gain access to the Pier 9 workshops and labs.

Step 2: Manual Mill Course

Take the Manual Mill course.

The manual mill is used to precisely cut and shape blocks of metal, drill and cut slots, grooves, and pockets, as well as chamfer/fillet edges and create counterbores. It's important to start with a manual process before getting into computer programming, so that you understand the basic mechanical operation of cutting in metal as well as the cutting forces and feeds and speeds for various materials. Check out Appendix B in Peter Smid's CNC Programming Handbook, Third Edition, for an accurate feeds and speeds table. We have a copy of this book in the CNC shop.

After the course, dive in and make two or three things on the manual mill.

Step 3: CNC 1: Concepts of CNC at Pier 9

Take CNC 1: Concepts of CNC at Pier 9.

In this class, you'll gain a foundational understanding of what CNC really is, what CNC machines can and cannot do, and how the CAD to CAM process works. Learn technical concepts like speeds and feeds, milling tools, coordinate systems, toolpath types and workholding strategies.

Step 4: CNC 2: Beginner CAM Programming

Take CNC 2: Beginner CAM Programming.

Put your theoretical CNC skills into practice with this hands-on Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) programming course using Fusion 360 or Inventor HSM Pro 2016. Set up your material stock, work coordinate system, and perform 2D toolpathing strategies like facing, adaptive clearing, pocketing, and contouring. Bring your laptop with the software installed.

Download a trial version of Autodesk Inventor HSM Pro 2016 or Fusion 360 here.

Step 5: CNC 3: Advanced CAM Programming

Take CNC 3: Advanced CAM Programming.

In this class, you'll build on the toolpathing strategies from CNC 2. Practice multiple setups, part flips, machining overhangs, planning for irregular stock, and chamfering. This class will teach you the basic skills required to program the certification part in the presence of an instructor. Bring your laptop with the software installed.

Step 6: Skill Check #1: Resources for Practice

After you've completed CNC 1-3, you'll want to practice on your own before scheduling Skill Check #1 with the CNC Lead Instructor. In this skill check, you'll be expected to define the key terms from CNC 1-3, as well as program the certification part from scratch in either Fusion 360 or Inventor HSM.

You'll find the list of key terms, as well as a copy of the 'Concepts of CNC at Pier 9' presentation, attached to this step.

Also read the CNC Handbook, Chapters 1-4, 7, 9, and 10. You also have a printed copy in your red binder.

Practice CAM programming by following the steps in the Beginner and Advanced CAM Instructable.

The skill check will take an hour and a half to two hours. Bring your printed setup sheets with you. If you want to focus on CNC machining on the DMS or the Shopbot, you've set yourself up for success and you're done with the CNC Learning Path. Take the machine classes and get started on a simple project while the operation procedure is still fresh in your mind.

For users who want to progress forward and machine in metal, you'll receive the password for the Haas Mill Safety/Basic Use course after you pass this skill check.

Step 7: Watch Haas Mill Training Videos

Before the Haas Safety/Basic Use course, watch all ten of these introductory videos to get acquainted with the Haas interface, which isn't always intuitive!

This will help prepare you for successful machine operation.

Step 8: CNC 5: Haas Mill Safety/Basic Use Course

Use your password to sign up for the Haas Safety/Basic Use course.

The Haas CNC vertical mill is capable of cutting metal in 2.5D or 3D with high precision. Students will learn the basics of safely operating the machine, including: startup, inserting tools, measuring tools, locating the workpiece, loading a program, and safely running a program.

Step 9: Skill Check #2

Now, it's time to email the CNC Lead Instructor to schedule a time for Skill Check #2--machining the certification part on the Haas Mill.

You'll get the machine for the entire day, so take your time, follow one step at a time, and have a blast!

Step 10: Building Skills

Congratulations! You have an aluminum object in your hand that you programmed and machined, completing the loop from concept to practice!

So now what?

It's time to get started on your own projects. Make sure to keep your designs simple in the beginning: take gradual steps from 2.5D to 3D machining strategies, and start with just one or a few setups.

Step 11: CNC Resources