Is CNC Machining Difficult to Learn?
A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Table of contents
Learn about CNC machining
What skills are required for CNC machining?
Learn about CNC machine tools
Common types of CNC machine tools
CNC programming and G-code knowledge
Currently popular CAM software


For beginners, it isn’t easy to suddenly become a professional CNC expert. But if you are interested in learning computer numerical control(CNC) and are willing to invest the time, mastering the basics of basic CNC machining may not be that difficult. Most of the time, when you become proficient in applying your CNC machining knowledge to complete design projects, you have a legitimate chance of getting a job as a CNC machine operator. If you know about Ruitai’s online CNC machining services, you don’t even need to learn it.

We know that many people are asking “Is it Hard to Learn CNC Machining?” before learning because they worry about whether they can learn it well. If you don’t learn well, you will waste a lot of time in the middle. Here at Ruitai, we’d like to say that if you’d like to learn CNC machining but find yourself wondering if it’s a difficult skill to master, this guide can help. We’ll shed light on what CNC machining is, explore its uses, discuss necessary skills, provide an overview of CNC machine tools, take a deep dive into CNC programming, and highlight popular CAM software. By the end, you will have a better understanding of CNC machining, now take notes and start your learning journey.

Learn about CNC Machining

To learn a skill, the first thing to do is to understand its basic theory. CNC machining is the process of using a computer-controlled machine (CNC machine tool) to remove material from a workpiece to create a desired shape or form. It combines traditional machining techniques with automation to improve accuracy, repeatability, and productivity.

CNC machining is a type of subtractive machining, which means that during machining, the workpiece material will only decrease and not increase, unlike additive machining such as 3D printing. On the other hand, different machines operate in different ways. Some machine tools require the replacement of cutting tools and drill bits during processing, but sometimes this is not necessary. This depends on the actual equipment of the CNC factory to decide whether to replace it.

What Skills Are Required for CNC Machining?

While CNC machining may seem intimidating at first, with dedication and practice, acquiring the necessary skills is entirely doable. To become a qualified and excellent CNC operator, in addition to understanding the functions of CNC machinery and using its programming to control the machine, you also need to develop the following key skills:

1. Basic understanding of manufacturing: Familiarity with basic manufacturing concepts such as reading technical drawings, understanding tolerances, and interpreting Geometric Dimensions and Tolerancing (GD&T). It’s worth mentioning that tolerances are very important when manufacturing parts. It doesn’t matter how good the quality of the parts you manufacture is if you don’t understand the tolerances your machine can handle.

2. Blueprint Reading: Learn to interpret engineering drawings and understand the information they convey, including dimensions, tolerances, and machining symbols. Each tolerance has a different meaning. For example, tolerances include dimensional tolerances, shape tolerances, position tolerances, etc. The specific tolerances depend on the annotations on the design drawings.

3. Mathematics and Geometry: Build a solid foundation in basic mathematics, including algebra and geometry. This knowledge will help you calculate tool paths, speeds, feeds, and other machining parameters.

4. CAD/CAM Skills: Proficiency in computer-aided design (CAD) software is valuable for creating 3D models and generating tool paths. Familiarity with computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software is also critical for generating CNC programs. If you want to become a professional CNC operator, you will be inseparable from CAM in most situations in the future, so mastering and using CAM to work is a required course for you.

5. Problem Solving and Troubleshooting: Develop logical and analytical thinking to identify and resolve issues that may arise during CNC machining, such as tool damage, surface finish issues, or programming errors.

Learn about CNC Machine Tools

CNC machine tools are devices used to perform different machining operations. If you want to produce finished parts that match your customer’s aesthetic and quality construction, it’s important to understand your machine’s capabilities. First of all, you must understand the following knowledge about CNC machine tools: converting tools, feed speed (also called feed rate), and calibrating machine tools; these 3 important pieces of knowledge can ensure your safety when working inside the machine.

If you do not understand the materials that the machine cannot cut, in addition to the damage to the machine caused by the collision needle during the processing of the machine equipment, personal injury may also be caused by the workpiece material flying out of the collision. Therefore, in daily work, the most important thing is to learn how to operate mechanical equipment safely. These common techniques are simple principles and are easier to learn than G code.

Common Types of CNC Machine Tools

●CNC Mills: CNC milling machines are used for cutting, drilling, and milling operations and are versatile machines that can handle a variety of materials.

●CNC Lathes: Designed specifically for turning operations, CNC lathes rotate the workpiece as the cutting tool is formed.

●CNC Routers: mainly used for cutting and shaping wood, plastic, and composite materials. They are widely used in the woodworking and signage industries.

●CNC Plasma Cutters: CNC plasma cutting machines use high-speed jets of ionized gas to melt and remove material, making them ideal for cutting conductive materials such as metal.

●CNC Laser Cutters: The CNC laser cutting machine uses a laser beam to cut or engrave materials and is commonly used in industries such as signage, jewelry, and automobiles.

According to the number of axes of the machine tool, it can be divided into three-axis machine tools and multi-axis machine tools. Common three-axis machine tools include milling and turning; multi-axis machine tools include mill turning, 5-axis indexing (3+2-axis indexing), and 5-axis continuous machine tools. These types of lathes are commonly used in manufacturing today.

CNC Programming and G-code Knowledge

CNC programming involves creating instructions that guide the movement and operation of CNC machine tools. G-code is a standardized programming language commonly used in CNC machining. It consists of commands that control various aspects of the machine, such as tool movement, spindle speed, and coolant activation. Learning G-code and understanding its syntax is crucial for CNC programmers.

However, you don’t have to worry too much about how difficult it is to learn to program or code. Times are progressing. When you master the following auxiliary tools, it will be easy for you to automatically write G-code for 3D computer models through CAM.

Currently Popular CAM Software:

CAM software (Computer Aided Manufacturing) is used to generate CNC programs from CAD models. Here are some widely used CAM software programs:

Fusion 360: Comprehensive CAD/CAM software package providing 2D and 3D machining tools.

Mastercam: Known for its powerful tool paths and extensive feature set, Mastercam is used in industries ranging from aerospace to mold manufacturing.

SolidCAM: A CAM solution integrated with SolidWorks, SolidCAM provides seamless integration with the CAD environment.

GibbsCAM: GibbsCAM offers a user-friendly interface and powerful features, making it a favorite of many CNC programmers.


Learning CNC machining may seem challenging at first, but with the right approach and dedication, it becomes an achievable skill. By understanding the basics, honing basic skills, and becoming familiar with CNC machines, programming languages like G-code, and popular CAM software, you’ll be well on your way to mastering CNC machining.

Remember, if you want to become a professional mechanic, practice, hands-on experience, and continued learning are essential to mastering this valuable skill. Manufacturing will never withdraw from the stage of history. I hope you will seize the opportunities provided by CNC machining and embark on a journey of creativity and precision in the manufacturing world. If you have a design project and need to find a CNC machining service provider with favorable prices and good workmanship, then we are your best choice. Please feel free to contact us and we will provide you with a free quote for your project.