Westmer Consulting Services
So, you're considering having some CNC programming done by an outside
contractor/consultant. It goes without saying that you will have a good solid understanding of
what your expectations are. It would be a disservice to your business goals not
to be thorough and specific. Whether it's Westmer Consulting, or someone else,
we want to share some topics you should consider when hiring a programming
- Most all contract programmers work at
an hourly rate. Different contractors will have different business models
and policies concerning the minimum project duration. One possible advantage
to hourly work is flexibility. If you only need a few hours per week, no
need for a longer term commitment.
- Some contractors may quote an entire
project. This is more typical for large projects, or long term temporaries.
- Some contractors and temp agencies
require a certain duration for their personnel to be on-assignment.
- Is the work being done on-site?
In this case, the contractor may be working with your machinists,
programmers, and other personnel throughout the prove-out process. Working
this way could be an overall quicker process as communication will be
expedited (if not immediate). This may be the only way to get the job done
to your expectations in the time required. Be prepared for the cost of the
contractor to be at your facility for the duration.
- Is the programming to be done
off-site? Some programming work can be effectively performed away from your
plant. And this can help keep some costs down. But you will need to
prove-out the programs. Communications with the contractor can encounter
delays. In such cases (depending on the machine(s) being programmed) it may
be good to have another job set up to run while waiting for program updates.
- Be clear what you need and when you
need it. If it's a longer term project, set distinct goals and have project
reports at regular intervals.
- G-code files only. Just pure toolpath
to run in your machine, hopefully from a clean post processor. In this case,
you may not care what CAM system was used, so long as the code makes good
- Source and posted code. This way,
if/when you might need to use or reference the source file, you'll have it.
Obviously, you and the contractor will need to have the same CAM system. Be
sure you are running compatible versions. And determine who is supplying the
- Source code only. Maybe you have a CAM
system that works well for you, but you just need some help getting CAD
files loaded up and some general toolpath started. This too can work well,
depending on the situation and your requirements.
- Conversational (ie. proprietary)
programs can provide a very convenient format for the specific machine.
These can also expedite prove-out, as minor and major changes can be made on
the machine. But these programming formats often have limitations when the
part features are more complex.
- Documentation. We believe that any CNC
program requires some level of supportive documentation.
notes for each operation. Include identification of the respective part
- Set-up sheet.
Describe program origin and part orientation.
- Tool list
drawings. These can start with a few simple sketches or CAM screen captures,
and become as elaborate as independent drawings for each feature.
- Always get
adequate documentation as needed for your environment.
Getting started, what will your contractor likely need.
- Process. Do you have a current, reliable process
that works well for you for the type of part of interest? Any details can
help get your programming done quicker, and will have less prove-out edits.
- Tools. What tools do you have available or prefer to use?
Or, are you willing to purchase some new tooling as the programmer may
recommend? Some general tools to start is best. No point in completely
re-tooling a machine, especially is many tools are common to numerous parts.
- Fixture. What orientation is the part held, feature
clearances, part rigidity, etc.
- Part details. Features to be machined. Are there any
- Supply prints with geometric
- Supply CAD files as necessary to
support the CAM software used.
Last update : August 11, 2010