Using a CNC Touch Probe

Category : Useful Stuff


CNC touch probe, everyone should have an electronic probe on their machine but I’m sure there are lots of reasons why you don’t have one.

CNC touch probe

The purpose of this article is to show some of the alternatives to buying an expensive touch probe systems. Please note if you can afford to one of these systems I’ll guarantee you’ll soon get your money back with increased productivity.

Probe Shaming

Now I know there is a lot of this about but if you’re guilty then I’m sorry but you deserve all you get.

What the fuck is he on about?

Yes you know who you are. Yes you, you with that gorgeous once shiny Renishaw CNC touch probe left to get covered in grease, shit and swarf in the back of your machining centre.

Sorry just remembered I must change my pants.

Yes I regularly come across this when training people onsite on their CNC Machines. The machine originally came with a touch probe and maybe got used a few times but then no one bothered to properly learn how to use it.

Most likely the bloke who knew how to use it left to buy a chip shop in Bradford.

As a result it was ignored for three years and left in the tool carousel to generally decay and rot.

Please sort it there’s a lot of cash sat there in the tool carousel oh and don’t leave your dirty pants lying around either.

Avoid People Who Own Wobblers

Maybe you call them wibblers never mind the fuckin semantics they are basically a piece of shit on a stick. Bin them.

Now I’m an old school engineer I remember the old halcyon days of engineering. I have the missing limbs, teeth and scars to prove it.

  • Pissing in the coolant tank on nights.
  • Using your finger as a work steady on a long component.
  • Dividing heads.
  • Clocking in cards.
  • Smearing engineers blue onto machine handles in the tea break.
  • Shaping machines
  • Vernier Scales.
  • Slide Rules.
  • Donny Osmond
  • Opportunity Knocks
  • Making star shapes in sheet steel to throw up and stick in the ceiling of the sheet metal training department at Rolls Royce.
  • Cleaning my Norton motorbike parts in the degreasing tanks.

Listen to David “it’s time to let this shit go”

You might be stuck in a 1950’s time warp but it’s costing you money.

Wibbler Wobbler

When you use a Wibbler there are so many things to go wrong. Get the speed wrong and it will kick off at the wrong point. If you don’t engage it far enough down the part it will probably snap off.

Maybe if you practice for long enough you can set a datum in less than an hour.

Why am I telling you this?

Just bin it and spend just a small amount of cash on some of the more up to date solutions.

  1. Buy a full blown probing system such as Renishaw, Blum, M & H.
  2. Buy a 3d taster type tool, loads to chose from.
  3. Electronic edge finder
  4. DTI clock
  5. Cutting tool
  6. Rip off a bit of paper

In that order the costs are thousands, hundreds, tens and units.

Advantages of a CNC touch probe

There are many, you can quickly set your part datum must be the most obvious one.

If the probe software is already on your machine then your machine will most likely have all the routines built in. These will quickly set your datums on corners, centre of bosses and bores and in slots. All at the press of a soft key.

Also you can quickly set your indexer or fourth axis to zero. Not least of all you get to measure shit. That means anything you make on the machine you can check all it’s sizes without taking it out of the machine.

CNC touch probe

If you can be arsed to learn Macro programming then the possibilities are endless. This will allow you to write your own routines and cycles.

For example within a program you can measure a part and update it’s offsets ready for the next run. Most probes will have simple cycles with this built in.

Don’t forget to download the apps for your probing system, the Renishaw one is amazing it just guides you through what you want to set or measure and then gives you the cycle. It even tells you where the results are stored (Variables)

You can even use your touch probe to recognise fixtures or parts. It’s quite common to drill holes in strategic places on fixtures so that the probe can detect the presence of the hole and thus identify the fixture.


It is a good idea to justify the cost of your probing system, do this by timing setups and things without the probe.

Soooooo, when you bust it which inevitably you will. Look back at this justification and you’ll see that the cheapest option is to buy a new one I guarantee.

3D Taster or similar

I love these, I mean I really do. I actually sleep with one by my side I love it so much, oh and it doesn’t fart all night like the fuckin dog did.

When these devises are on the edge of your part you don’t have to allow for the diameter of the ball, it’s all done for you. Magic how do they do that?

It is worth spending time setting these up getting them calibrated to length and running really true.

Once you clocked it all up, take some time here to get it spot on. Oh yea and keep it in the same holder so it’s always calibrated true and to length.

Don’t leave it in the machine although the new ones are waterproof.

This means that by simply zeroing your display in X Y or Z you can use it to accurately inspect your parts.

Make sure to get the long stilus this means you are always well away from the body when your using it. Worst scenario is you break a stylus. It’s like cleaning up dog shit, best done at arms length.

CNC touch probe

Easy to Break

Handle with care because these devices are easy to break. Don’t don’t don’t leave it lying on the bench. It will roll off and fuckin break so put it on a proper stand.

These are not too expensive to buy. You can even make your own from an old porridge box and the cardboard centre of a toilet roll.

Here’s one I made earlier not quite fully developed but you can see where I’m going with this one.

CNC touch probe

Learn Macro Programming

By the sounds of this you’d think I ran a training school. Really how cynical of you.

But really if you can write macros you can do loads of clever stuff with 3D tasters by getting them to write into system parameters n stuff. Once you are in position you can automatically write into your work offsets.

Electronic Edge Finder

Still way better than a wobbler these devices pick up the edge of your part and sound a buzzer as well as lighting up. They don’t work on all machines as a circuit needs to be completed.

Again there are loads of macros you can write to make life easier.

Not good on Z as the ball does not compress.

DTI Gauge (Old School)

This method was traditionally used on jig borers and is very accurate if a tenth clock is used.

Very time consuming and fiddly but it is accurate.

Use your dti gauge to find the edge of the part. Simply rotate the clock on the edge of your part and zero the dial. Now zero your position display on your machine.

Hold a slip gauge on the edge you just zeroed. Now clock the slip on the opposite side.

Half this final figure on you REL display to get to the edge of your part.

dti gauge

Cutting Tool (Endmill)

Touch your endmill on the edge of your part, best to have it rotating.

Move over the radius of the tool. Some controls even have a screen with icons to do this.

Make sure you know the exact diameter of your endmill and make sure it is running true.

Safety First CNC touch probe

If you use an electronic probe there are no safety issues unless your boss thumps you for breaking it.

Some of the methods decribed above are quite tricky to do with the machine doors closed so be very careful.

Never try to override any doorlocks or safety mechanisms on your CNC Machine






CNC Programmer How Do You Become a CNC Programmer

Category : Beginners Useful Stuff

How To Become a CNC Programmer

CNC Programmer Salary, what do they earn?

In 2023 it’s around £30,000 a year but it can be a lot more.

When I am training engineers to become CNC Programmers I always say programming is the easy bit. The programme is the tool that makes the CNC Machine do what you want it to do.

When the cutting tool starts chattering and squealing you will need to draw on experience to know why this is happening.

Tooling Knowledge

So you need a good knowledge of tooling.

CNC Programmer

In small companies you need to wear many hats

When a company asks us to programme parts for them these are the questions we ask.

  • Do you know what tools you want to use?
  • Do you have a machining method?
  • Do you have workholding?
  • Do you have feeds, speeds and depth of cut you want to use?
  • Do you have any tips for The Grand National?

More often than not the answers to the questions above are No No No No and “One For Arthur”

Anyway enough of Horse Racing.

Learn Now

Here are two courses that can get you on the right track.

Turning Learn to Programme

Milling Learn to Programme

It is all about experience and unfortunately I have come across quite a few programmers with none.

When you get there it’s not a bad job.

We would love you to come to us to learn to become a CNC Programmer but you will need a whole lot more skills before you will be able to produce good CNC Programs. Being able to program is just another tool and another skill.

What Does The Job Entail?

In  a large company you will find that roles are much more clearly defined. You would normally have a job that is…..

  • Planned (all operations and processes defined).

  • Fixtures would be designed and modelled.

  • All tooling procured.

  • Tooling companies would provide tool data (feeds, speeds etc)

In  a small company it’s much more ambiguous.

You might even have to clean the shit-houses (to my posh reader that’s lavatories). It’s a lot more interesting but the devil is in the detail as they say.

So it could well be all of the above.

CNC Programmer Salary

Around £30,000 per year is the average cnc programmer salary in the UK in 2023.

Contact us for more details

Thanks for reading


CNC Machine (Does Size Really Matter)

Category : Useful Stuff

CNC Machine (Does Size Really Matter)

CNC Machine

When I say Large CNC Machine I probably don’t mean this big but you can do some serious big shit with this machine.

Anyway you might be thinking “big machine” slow rapid, slow tool change etc etc. Well unless it’s really new and very expensive, it probably will be. But read on….

The Small Machine

So, you have a small machine brand new and its tool change time is just 2 seconds and the rapid is the speed of light.

Now let’s just imagine you are  making a part that’s fairly simple and uses 12 tools. Your cycle time is 5 minutes.

You finish machining it and check it all over. You give it to the “I just chewed a wasp” inspector and he passes it off first time.

Then you dance around the workshop like a schoolboy who just scored his first goal throwing your arms in the air.

Ok lets run one. Five minutes later. “Oh it needs another and another…”

So now you have to stay at the machine constantly loading it.

You then wet your pants cos there’s not even enough time to get to the toilet and back while it’s running. Not to mention the repetitive strain injury from loading a part every 5 minutes.

Large CNC Machines

On a large CNC machine you can load your part in several different presentations. In the example below the holes are being chamfered on the bottom of the part in a separate setup. Saves all that messy deburring.

You may think large machines are just for large components. Well yes that’s true. But…… I may have to disagree and ask you to think again.

On a large CNC machine you can fill the table with repeat parts. Or you could have many presentations of the same part.

CNC Machine

The cube above could be machined on all the faces in one setup.

So this might take a while to setup but once it’s running you would get a complete part after each run. Not to mention that you could nip home and feed the cat and still have time to make the boss a cup of tea before it’s done.

Never Never Ever

Why would you never set a part up in the middle of the machine table?

CNC Machine

Come on answer I don’t have all day.

CNC Machine

So the boss comes along and says “Jack, stop that job you are doing and do this one instead”

Must have happened to you before.

So which one of the above machines do you want now?

Yes you got it. The one with the part set up to the right.

Easy because you can leave it all completely setup and when the boss finally wants that job it’s just a matter of calling the program and hitting the CYCLE START

Don’t forget to set the datums using G10 by the way.

CNC Machine

So there is another advantage of a big machine.

You get to leave loads of shit on the machining table all ready to run.

Leave It Set

You might just leave your machine permanently with two vices and a table chuck all ready to use with the datums set. Oh and did I mention the fourth axis that’s just sat there in case I’m ever arsed to use it?

I Despair (Beam me up Scotty)

I was training this bloke recently and he said “oh we like to break every job down completely when we’ve finished, we take all the tools out and clean the machine”

Anyway I just smiled and muttered some profanity he couldn’t hear.

If you read this and think it’s you then it’s definitely not, I just don’t want any trouble ok.

I will agree on one thing only and that’s the cleaning of the machine.

Now look at this There’s Hope

CNC Machine

Imagine your machine is big enough to get all these parts on the table.

When you pick up your spot drill it’s going to do some serious work (88 holes).

Eight parts in total..

Lets say the tool change time chip to chip on this big old machine is 10 seconds well now it’s actually 1.25 seconds because it did 8 parts.

10/8 = 1.25

Now what about the slow rapid. OK but it’s not really moving very far either is it?

If you watch this video you’ll see that where the spot drill ends the drill takes over in the same place. (No wasted movement).

With a bit of work you could make the rapid moves on this part even shorter.

Now imagine this on every tool. The cycle time saving is breathtaking. And when it’s home-time, load the machine up and let it run. Oh by the way if the next day you have a pile of scrap and a grands worth of busted tools it wasn’t my idea ok.

What if You only Have a small One

Little and often is the approach.

If you saw some kind of sexual innuendo here then I think you need to grow up. This is serious engineering shit and I don’t want your filthy infantile minds on my website.

Unless of course you want some training.

Small machine often have much less power.

Wave Form Milling as it’s called by Edgecam is a way of using a large depth of cut but small engagement.

You can remove metal very fast by this method and you don’t need a lot of power. Other CAM systems have a similar things but with a different names.

If you have large threads to produce rather than tapping, where you need a lots of power, consider thread milling.

Add an Indexer or Fourth Axis

Adding an indexer or fourth axis to your small CNC Machine will increase capacity and allow you to rotate parts to get to areas that otherwise you couldn’t reach.

Here’s a free advert for someone

New Small CNC Machine

Pros Small CNC Machine

  • Shiny.
  • Very fast rapid and tool-change.
  • Small Footprint.
  • Quick to set up.
  • High rpm.
  • Lowish cost.
  • Warranty.

Cons Small CNC Machine

  • Not many tools.
  • Often low power.
  • Not much space to set up extra parts.

Large CNC Machine (Maybe Old and not too Expensive)

Pros Large CNC Machine

  • Make big bits.
  • You can leave jobs set-up cos there’s room for other work.
  • Make loads of bits at once, multi op or multi loading.
  • Tend to have a lot more tool pockets.
  • Usually more power.
  • You can leave vices and chucks permanently on the table.
  • Represent very good value second hand.
  • Machine runs much longer unmanned so you can get on with re-thatching your cottage roof.
  • Before you go home you can load up a full set of parts and let it run.
  • One tool does loads of work.
  • Great for “just in time” delivery because one complete part comes off per cycle.
  • If it’s second hand you’ll need training.

Cons Large CNC Machine

  • Cost shit loads of money new (more than a six bed-roomed mansion where I live)
  • Slow rapid moves.
  • Slow tool changes and pallet change times.
  • Can cost an arm and a leg to maintain, find a good independent specialist to fix it.
  • Can be very dirty.
  • Have you got room for it?
  • Watch the max RPM isn’t too slow.


More Things to do if You Have a Small One

Consider a fourth axis with a cube on it.

With a four sided cube you can increase your table capacity by an awful lot. Oh and you get to work on the side of the part too.

Manual pallet changers can be very cost effective.

Again these give you loads of extra capacity. They are actually cheaper than you think.


Let’s imagine you have £90,000 to spend on a machine. You could buy a new super fast small machine.

But, if you got the room you could buy a big second hand machine.

The new one will have a warranty and will be very fast. But what about the “old banger”. Well if you have room and you know someone who can fix it if it goes wrong …….

CNC Machine

CNC Machine


If you feel you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this post or need CNC Counselling then contact me.

If you want to learn to program CNC Milling Machines

Siemens 840D Sinumerik training

Look no further Contact CNC Training Centre






CNC Programming Examples Turn and Mill

Category : Fanuc

Click CNC Programming Examples

These are the different CNC programming examples we have both turning and milling.

CNC Programming Examples

CNC Programming Examples Turning

G94 Facing


G81 Drilling Cycle

G73 Peck Drilling Cycle

G83 Deep Hole Peck Drilling Cycle

G82 Drill With Dwell Cycle

G84 Rigid Tapping

Examples from Haas

Leading Trailing Zeros CNC Programming Basics

Category : Beginners Fanuc

Leading Trailing Zeros

You do not need leading or trailing zeros in a CNC program (see below):

O0001(G81 DEMO)
G21 G90 G40
G90 G00 G54 X12.64 Y88.00 S2546 M03
G43 H01 Z15.00 M08
G0 Z100.00
G01 Z-0.1
Without leading Zero is exactly the same. (Trust me it won’t self destruct or start world war 3)
O1(G81 DEMO)
G21 G90 G40
G90 G0 G54 X12.64 Y88. S2546 M3
G43 H1 Z15. M8
G0 Z100.
G1 Z-.1

Try to keep your code consistent. As I mentioned before try to make all programs look the same.

Create an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) which will cover all programming layout options. Haas controls will insert their own leading and trailing zeros so you won’t have a choice there.

Leading Trailing Zeros and Memory

Leading Trailing Zeros, if you are short of memory (not as in forgetful) this can save loads of space, and you might be surprised how small the memory is on some CNC machines, some have the memory of a fish.

Leading Trailing Zeros

CNC Programming

The main thing is that you are happy with the layout of your program.

If you are not consistent with your approach it can cause a lot of problems.

Please remember that when you are typing code into the machine it will take you considerably longer to type G01 X0.200 Y0.200 F100.00 than G1 X.2 Y.2. It could wear out your fingers or give you multi RSI.

A Haas control will automatically add leading zeros but just try to ignore it. Maybe Mr Haas likes to see them.

Main thing is you don’t need to type them in.

Take a look at this article.

Another way to save space on a Mazak control is to delete all the spaces (ISO G code programs only)

Contact David :07834 858 407

Services offered at CNC Training Centre

CNC Programming Course

Onsite CNC Machine Training.

Training on all controls and machines.

Mazak Training Fanuc Training

Don’t forget we offer training on all types of Mazak Machines and all Fanuc Controls 6m to 31i Oi old to young.

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