CNC Applications Engineer

CNC Applications Engineer

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CNC Applications Engineer

When I was younger the job I really aspired to  was a CNC Applications Engineer.

Actually it’s not really true because being a part time rock singer I obviously wanted success from that but let me describe that as more of a dream. Oh and I don’t think you can describe being permanently pissed, incredibly wealthy and shagging all day as a job.

Anyway I will not digress.

I didn’t actually have a CNC application engineer job description but whenever I got to work with these guys I was in awe of them.

(I just realised I didn’t know the difference between ore and awe)

I remember being trained by a guy from Hitachi Seiki

They were a top class company with some amazing machines that are still around today.

They were taken over  by Mori Seiki in 2002 after going into bankruptcy.

Company Car Wow

The guy training me was Clive and he was and still is a very talented engineer. We got on great and I still talk to him sometimes to this day.

I thought how great it must be to travel all over the country staying in nice hotels. Oh and he had a company car.

Ford Sierra Estate car from the 1980's
Thanks to Simon Classic Car Auctions


I could have sworn Clive had a Sierra but in fact I just messaged him and he said it was a red Ford Escort. Just like this, I don’t know if he had his name across the top of the windscreen.

Red Ford Escort
Red Ford Escort

Now you might be thinking that I must have been easily impressed but these cars really were the dog’s bollocks in those days.

Dog’s bollocks what does he mean?

The job we were doing was a turned part for a fork lift truck and we had one of the very early robot loading arms.

This was around 1985 so they’ve been around longer than you think.

CNC application engineer job description


I remember he had a really methodical and systematic way of doing things and the final part was perfect.

By the way if you ever work with robots you need to be really precise in the way you do things.

His approach has stuck with me to this day and I still try to work that way. I mean it’s easier when you are old like me to not rush. But this is not bullshit because I can’t sprint round the block like I used to.

It’s a bit like driving fast I drive slow because, although it took several years to realise this, no one tends to die.

It’s not because I can’t drive fast.

I mean if I had one of these I might be tempted

CNC Applications Engineer

What do they actually do?

Here is a kind of CNC application engineer job description

Shit loads

So it’s any or all of what is listed below.

  • Commission Machine.
  • Write CNC code long hand.
  • Design and manufacture fixtures and tooling.
  • Setup machine.
  • Prove-out programs.
  • Check the parts and get final approval from quality department.
  • Train the operators.
  • Train programmers.
  • Make tea.
  • Program using a CAD/CAM system.


A lot of what a CNC applications engineer does could be described as Production Engineering.

I did have to google Production Engineering to see if I had it right. It seems I might not have but to be honest who gives a flying fuck.

Production Engineering to me is controlling or doing the whole process of getting a new part produced. From design of work holding right through to final inspection.

That’s why being a CNC Applications Engineer was always so appealing to me because it’s never boring.

So How do You Get There?

Well the answer is it takes time, years in fact.

Oh and did I mention you have to be good.

Now this article is not meant to be a plug, but we do offer courses to help you keep moving up to the next level in your engineering career.

“Come on Dave you lying bastard what are all these links to courses for if you’re not plugging?” you may say.

I’m not answering that because I keep telling you not to call me Dave, it’s David.

CNC Operator (Step 1)

(One up from making the tea)

  • Pressing the button.

Production Engineering

  • Cleaning the parts.
  • Removing sharpe edges from the parts.
  • Checking the parts.

You could end up doing a lot more than just pushing buttons. Rather depends on the company you work for and your attitude.

Show your interest and gently push to do and learn more.

CNC Machine Setter Operator (Step 2)

  • Setting tools.
  • Setting datums.
  • Prove out programs.
  • Altering wear offsets.
  • Changing worn or broken tools.
  • Maybe minor program alterations.

Try to learn as much programming as you can in this role. Watch the machine and the program and try and link the two together.

Programmer Setter Operator (Step 3)

Write your own program on the machine as well as all of the above.

Don’t forget the real engineering is knowing how the tools perform and really understanding the work holding.

Programmer (Step 4)

Programming on or off the machine progressing to learning a CAD/CAM system like Edgecam

This is where you get to create potential havoc and break loads of tools.

CNC application engineer job description

Production Engineering (Step 5)

  • All of the above
  • Finding suitable tools and buying where necessary
  • Designing and managing work holding

In this role it’s difficult to know exactly what your company will ask of you. It varies massively from one company to another.

CNC Applications Engineer (Step 6)

Come on concentrate I already told you this earlier in the article. Go and watch some fast cars on YouTube you obviously are not concentrating.

Normally as a CNC applications Engineer you would d be working for one of the big machine tool companies or one of their dealers.

I think if I had my time again I would have tried to work for them all. I have worked independently now for much longer than I would care to mention.

OK I’ll care to mention, nearly 30 years.

You Might Not Settle

Even if it’s not the job that you think you’d like to stay in forever it would be a massive stepping stone for other things.

Every step of the way:

  • Be confident.
  • Tell the truth about your achievements.
  • Learn as much as you can.
  • Ask loads of questions.
  • Treat everyone with loads of respect even when they don’t deserve it.
  • Never ever bullshit your way into a job, it usually ends in tears (probably yours)
Never bullshit your way into a job.


James Bernard Montgomery

September 10, 2021 at 2:01 am

After three days running a program school,I asked do you have any questions, one guy asked “what is a block “I replied ,”You have one on your F###in shoulder”

Douglas J. Rizzo

September 22, 2021 at 8:03 pm

Nice article.
I worked as a A/E and Training Coordinator for a major MTB.
I knew a lot after decades in the business before I went in. I learned EVEN MORE while I was there.
That job put me in the right place to run my own shop, which I do now!
It was time well spent.

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