The Optional Stop newsletter
Home | More Issues | Contact Us
From our website:
On-Line Classes
CD-Rom Courses
CNC Books
CNC Jobs
CNC Schools
CNC Tips
Educator's Page
Tech Talk Forum

June 18, 2009

Dear Subscribers,

Welcome to the Summer, 2009 issue of The Optional Stop newsletter.

Since our last issue, I have had the pleasure of teaching a public seminar at the Sandvik Coromant Productivity Center in Schaumburg, Illinois. It was a two-day Introduction to CNC class attracting eleven attendees from around the country.

During and after this session, I struck up a very good relationship with the people in the productivity center – and I’m pleased to announce that we’ve come to an agreement related to conducting more CNC seminars in this amazing facility. The first, “Getting More From Your CNC Machines” is two-day seminar that will be held on July 7th and 8th, 2009. You can read more about it in the Product Corner segment of this issue.

We’ve focused this newsletter on training issues. Most segments, including the Product Corner, Instructor Note, the Manager’s Insight, and the Safety Note deal with training-related topics.

Mike Lynch

Product Corner: Up-coming Seminar and quick study guides
Instructor Note: Helping potential students request permission to come to your classes
Manager's Insight:  The limitations of on-the-job- and self-training
G Code Primer: Do you know the meanings and uses of all of your M codes?
Macro Maven: Making machines compatible with M codes
Parameter Preference: Creating user defined M codes
Safety First: Well-trained people are safe people

Product Corner: Upcoming seminar and quick study guides

We’re proud to announce these two new items.

2-day Seminar: Getting More from Your CNC Machines!

Who should attend?

  • CNC programmers

  • CNC setup people

  • NC operators

  • Managers and fore-persons

  • Manufacturing engineers

  • Trainers

  • Quality control people

  • Anyone interested in improving the productivity of your CNC machines!

This 2-day seminar is broken into four sections – all jam-packed with ideas to make your CNC machines more productive.

1: Go beyond the basics – learn tricks and shortcuts you don’t learn in basic CNC classes.

2: Reduce the time between production runs – learn the principles and techniques of setup reduction.

3: Reduce the time needed to complete production runs – learn the principles and techniques of cycle time reduction.

4: Get introduced to parametric programming – learn its applications and see countless examples of how it can help you.

You can find much more information about this seminar on-line, including a comprehensive outline and a brochure.

If you register on or before June 26, 2009, you’ll pay only $315.00. After that, the price goes up to $350.00. We offer an additional discount if you register two or more people ($280.00 per person on or before June 26).

Two new quick study guides for CNC!

We’ve just introduced two new products to help people learn about CNC:

Priced at just $79.00 each, these quick-study guides provide a highly visual way to learn CNC. Each includes a 30-day license for NCPlot, which is used for examples and exercises throughout the guide.


Top of page

Instructor Note: Helping potential students request permission to come to your classes

Past Instructor Note articles have addressed the difficulties many technical schools are having when it comes to attracting students to their manufacturing classes. Indeed, some manufacturing programs have been eliminated due to falling attendee numbers. We’ve provided suggestions for getting and maintaining a closer relationship to local manufacturers and working with local high schools in an attempt to drum-up interest in your manufacturing programs.

In this article, we’re providing yet another suggestion: targeting people that are currently working for manufacturing companies – and providing them with a way to ask their bosses for permission (and funding) to come to your classes. Manufacturing companies are filled with people who could use more training. Considering the fact that most companies are hiring people with little, if any, manufacturing experience, you should have little trouble finding a local company that needs help with training issues.

I credit this idea to Robert Page of the Sandvik Coromant Productivity Center in Schaumburg, Illinois – who provides this letter to people working for manufacturing companies in order to help them request the ability to attend a Sandvik Coromant training session:

Dear <boss name>,

I’m writing to request permission to attend the Metal Cutting Technologies class. It is offered by Sandvik Coromant on <Start date> through <End date> in Schaumburg, Illinois. This is a premier training session that will give me the opportunity to experience new innovations and the latest solutions to metal cutting challenges.  Through a balance of theory based training and hands-on machine demonstrations, this session will provide me with ways to improve the efficiency and productivity of our company.

This Metal Cutting Technologies training class will enable me to learn and explore, as well as network with industry experts – while discussing our own applications and the tough challenges our company faces today. This will heighten my skills, improve my productivity, and equip me with cost saving solutions required for our company if we are to gain a competitive performance advantage in today’s challenging market.

We don’t have time and money to waste attending and traveling to multiple trade shows and conferences around the country to learn new ways to improve our productivity. With this one self-contained course I’ll learn about the newest metal-cutting products and application techniques available today. Here are some of the benefits you can expect if I attend this 3-1/2 day class:

• Increase machine throughput
• Minimize downtime due to cutting tool issues
• Improve tool life
• Lower production costs
• Enhanced programming techniques to take better advantage of cutting tools

Best of all, attendance to the Sandvik Coromant Metal Cutting Technologies class is FREE. Therefore, we only need to find our way to the location. After that, all breakfasts and lunches will be provided, along with two dinners and a shuttle service for the length of the class.

Thank you in advance for considering this opportunity for me to attend the Metal Cutting Technologies course at the Sandvik Coromant Productivity Center. Please let me know if you need additional information on logistics, agenda, and cost. I look forward to hearing a positive response to my request.



Requester’s name

This letter, of course, is not appropriate for use by technical schools. There are several obvious differences from this letter to what your potential students must emphasize to their managers in order to come to your classes. But it should provide you with a few (wonderful) ideas. You’ll be needing to stress those things about your class/es that managers of manufacturing companies will find attractive – things they want their employees to know. Your list of bullet points could include:

• Improved setup time
• Improved cycle time
• Minimized mistakes
• Better productivity
• More efficiently formatted programs
• Increased knowledge of manufacturing processes

Again, think of things you would want perspective managers to know about your program and put them in the voice of a motivated employee. With a little thought, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

While I’ve not yet tried this method in promoting my own company’s training materials, I’m about to. Here is a letter I’ve come up with to help attendees get permission to come to our upcoming “Getting More from Your CNC Machines” 2-day seminar:

Dear <boss name>,

I’m writing to request permission to attend the “Getting More From Your CNC Machines” 2-day seminar. Conducted by CNC Concepts, Inc. and taught by industry-expert Mike Lynch, it will be held on July 7th and 8th at the Sandvik Coromant Productivity Center in Schaumburg, Illinois. You may know of Mr. Lynch from his monthly column CNC Tech-Talk in Modern Machine Shop Magazine or from one of the many CNC textbooks he’s authored. He’s been around the industry for a long time and has an excellent reputation for training people in the field of CNC technology.

The seminar I’m hoping to attend is divided into four sections, and each is of primary interest to our company’s needs. First we’ll be studying a series of advanced techniques with basic CNC functions. I’ll surely learn several tricks and shortcuts that will help me do my job better.

Second, we’ll be studying the principles and specific techniques required for setup reduction. I’ll learn what it takes to reduce the time that a machine is down between production runs.

Third, Mr. Lynch will present the principles and techniques required for reducing the time it takes to complete a production run. I’ll be learning what is required to shorten cycle times – not just during the CNC cycle – but for everything that happens during a production run.

And fourth, I’ll be exposed to parametric programming – and will see many real-world applications for this very powerful programming feature.

We’ll surely be able to pay for this seminar with the savings I’ll achieve by applying just one or two of the techniques shown in this seminar.

A 320 page course manual, as well as a manual including many parametric programming examples, is provided to give me a permanent reference for the class. And, I’ll be offered free phone or email assistance should I need help applying any of the techniques I learn.

I think this seminar is an outstanding value, considering how concentrated it is with time and cost savings ideas – ideas that, once implemented, will have a direct and positive impact on our bottom line. If we register on or before June 26th, 2009, the seminar cost is only $315.00 – after that, it’s $350.00. And there is an additional discount should we decide to send more than one person ($280.00 each if we register by June 26th).

Thank you in advance for considering this opportunity for me to attend the this seminar. Please let me know if you need additional information about the sessions. I look forward to hearing a positive response to my request.



Requester’s name

Again, this letter won’t be right for you – but it should show how (relatively) easy it is to modify the original to suit your needs. Let me know how you do!

Thanks to Robert Page for allowing us to use his letter.  And by the way, you are interested in attending the excellent class he mentions (or others at the productivity center), please contact him to request a brochure and schedule (847-348-5606).


Top of page

Manager's Insight: The limitations of on-the-job- and self-training

Productivity is directly related to the proficiency of your workforce. The more productivity you expect from your people, the higher the proficiency they must possess. Proficient programmers develop efficiently processed, well formatted, and easy to use programs. Proficient setup people minimize the time a machine is down between production runs. And proficient operators minimize the time it takes to complete a production run while, of course, machining acceptable workpieces. If you want to improve productivity in a given area, often the most effective way to do so is to improve the proficiency of the people involved.

How do you increase the proficiency of your people?

While some people do succeed when left completely on their own, they rarely develop methods that match the solutions you expect or desire. Generally speaking, self-taught people can and do get the job done, but they may not do so in the most efficient manner – and again – not in the manner you expect. And when you allow self-taught people to teach others – well – the situation simply snowballs.

Another potential problem with allowing workers to teach themselves has to do with pride-of-authorship. When a person eventually figures out a workable solution to a complex problem, they may feel that they’ve come up with the best (or only) way to handle the problem. And it’s hard to argue with success – if something isn’t broken most people won’t try to fix it. But just because something isn’t broken doesn’t mean it’s working in the best or most efficient way. It can be very difficult, if not impossible, to convince the self-taught person that there is a different, better, way to handle the problem – a way you wish them to use.

Instead of allowing people to figure things out on there own, it’s much better to teach them, from the beginning, how you want them to work. In this manner you can lead them to successful habits.

How effective is on-the-job training?

On-the-job training can be very effective – if it is truly training. But in many companies I visit, managers think that on-the-job training simply involves putting a trainee with an experienced person – and that somehow that experienced person will be successful in relating how things are done. While the experienced person may be very good at what they do, they may not be very good at (or have the desire for) teaching a newcomer. Most experienced shop people I know would rather be doing their tasks, not explaining to others how they do them. This is especially true if the experienced person is at all concerned with job security. If they perceive (even incorrectly) that they will eventually be replaced with a lesser experienced person, they’re not going to make very good teachers.

My first question to managers who claim to have a good on-the-job training program is “How much teacher-training have you provided your experienced people to confirm that they’re truly able to teach?” When they answer with “None.”, I’m pretty skeptical about how successful the on-the-job training program truly is.

The best on-the-job training programs – like any training program – depend highly upon the aptitudes of the people involved. If the trainee has an aptitude for learning CNC, they’ll make even a poor instructor look good. Conversely, if a trainer has no aptitude for teaching, they’ll make even a very good candidate look bad. Successful training requires a good balance. Only with good instructors and able trainees can you ensure consistent success.

Going where no-one has gone before

Your people are always limited by what the believe to be possible. And again, if you leave them to their own devices to figure things out for themselves, it’s likely that they don’t have a clue about what’s truly possible – and won’t even begin to approach their full potential for developing the most effective (and productive) methods.

Most people need more help to become fully proficient. And the resources are out there. There are countless trade journals, books, schools, and other training resources available to help – but if you’re leaving people on their own, it’s unlikely they’ll find them – let alone take advantage of them. Only the most motivated people, for example, will pay the cost for the available resources out of their own pockets. As the manager, it will be up to you to direct them to the related resources – and to provide them with the revenue needed to take advantage of them.

Going beyond the basics

Mastering basic tasks may not be enough to ensure a competitive working environment. Progressive companies must ensure that people aren’t just getting by – but that they are leaning what it takes to be as productive as possible.

Sometimes these topics are not addressed in basic CNC classes. In basic classes, the instructor may be concerned with only bringing people to a level that they can begin working with the equipment. To go further, you must search for materials that go beyond the basics. Topics like setup reduction, cycle time reduction, parametric programming, and advanced CNC methods will increase a CNC person’s overall knowledge of what it takes to get the most from your CNC machine tools. And again, the resources are out there. It will be up to you to find them – and once found – to ensure that the appropriate people use them.



Top of page

G Code Primer: Do you know the meanings and uses of all of your M codes?

As you know, M codes are miscellaneous functions – which can also be thought of as machine functions. They tend to command programmable on/off switches, like spindle on/off and coolant on/off. As you probably also know, they are determined and developed by machine tool builders – not the control manufacturer. So two identical Fanuc controls used on two (even similar) machines provided by two different machine tool builders will likely have a different lists of M codes.

Some M codes are pretty universal. M03, M04, and M05, for example, are used by almost all machine tool builders to turn the spindle on and off (M03: fwd, M04: rev, and M05: off). The same goes for flood coolant. M08 turns it on and M09 turns it off. The same goes for program stop (M00), optional stop (M01), and end of program (M30 or M02).

Some M codes vary from builder to builder even for pretty common features. One turning center manufacturer, for example, may us M41 and M42 to specify low and high spindle ranges while another uses M23 and M25.

For unique – or more obscure – features, no two machine tool builders seem to agree on which M code numbers should be used. If you have a high pressure coolant system, for example, you’ll have to reference you machine tool builder’s programming manual to find out which M code activates it (and turns it off). And if you have more than one machine with this feature, you’ll likely find that different M code numbers are involved.

Since M codes are not universal (again, they’re far from it), you must actively study your machine tool builders’ programming manual/s in order to find the full list for each machine your company owns. Some may be pretty self-explanatory once you see their descriptions, but for any you don’t understand, of course, you shouldn’t stop digging until you fully understand them.

There are some situations when not knowing the M codes for your machine may lead to real problems. Consider, for example, a machining center that has a rotary axis. The machine tool builder has provided two M codes related to the rotary axis – one to clamp it in position (to allow powerful machining operations) and another to unclamp it.

If you don’t know the clamp/unclamp M codes, you’ll be overly taxing the rotary axis (causing undue wear and tear) whenever you index it into a position and perform powerful machining operations.



Top of page

Macro Maven: Making machines compatible with M codes

As pointed out in the G code primer of this issue, machine tool builders vary when it comes to M code numbering. If you have similar machines with different M codes, it can be frustrating to maintain two different sets of programs – one for each machine – just because of these M code differences.

The technique we offer will not require any changes to your current programs. Consider, for example, two similar turning centers. One requires M23 and M25 to specify low and high spindle range while the other requires M41 and M42. With our recommended method, you’ll simply pick the method that you like the most (say M41 and M42). From now on, simply write all programs using these M codes.

For each machine, you’ll add in two short and simple custom macro programs (this technique does require custom macro B to be equipped on the machine). For the machine using M23 and M25, here are the two programs:

  • O9001

  • M23

  • M99


  • O9002

  • M25

  • M99

For the machine that uses M41 and M42, here are the two programs:

  • O9001

  • M41

  • M99


  • O9002

  • M42

  • M99

The trick to making this work is to change two parameters (shown in the Parameter Preference article included in this issue of The Optional Stop) in such a way that – for the machine that uses M23 and M25 – when the machine reads an M41, it will execute program O9001. When it reads and M42, it will execute program O9002.

In similar fashion, for the machine that uses M41 and M42, you’ll change the parameters so that when the machine reads an M23, it executes program O9001. When it reads M25, it executes program O9002.

From this point on, existing programs can be loaded into either machine and will select the appropriate spindle ranges.



Top of page

Parameter Preference: Creating user defined M codes

Custom macro B allows you to create your own G and M codes. That is, when a G or M code having the number you create is commanded, the machine will execute a special program – commonly a custom macro program (though it doesn’t have to include any custom macro commands).

In the G Code Primer article of this issue, we provided a technique that makes machines having different M codes for similar functions more compatible. We said the trick to making it work is finding and setting two of the user-created M code parameters.

For a 16 series control (16M or 16T), for example, the parameters happen to be 6071 and 6072. If parameter 6071 is set to a value of 41, for example, program O9001 will be executed whenever an M41 is read. If parameter 6072 is set to 42, program 09002 will be executed whenever an M42 is read. For our example involving spindle range selection, this would be how you’d set the parameters for the machine that uses M23 and M25 for low and high spindle range.

From this point on, when the machine reads an M41, it will execute program O9001, which as is shown in the example for this machine, contains an M23 – and of course, the desired spindle range will be selected.

As always, remember that parameter numbers vary from one control model to another – even among the Fanuc product line. This means you’ll have to find the related parameters. The easiest way to do so is to look in the Fanuc Operator’s Manual in the description of custom macro B – and in the section related to user-defined M codes.

M01Top of page

Safety First: Well-trained people are safe people

CNC machines can be dangerous enough to run when the people working with them are well trained. But when people having limited knowledge of a machine are assigned to work with it… Well the results can be disastrous.

Consider just a few of the countless mistakes that can lead to disaster:


• Mistakes in process
• Mistakes in positioning motions
• Mistakes with cutting conditions
• Mistakes with spindle direction
• Mistakes with M codes


• Mistakes with the workholding setup
• Mistakes with program zero assignment
• Mistakes with cutting tool assembly
• Mistakes with offset measurement and entry
• Mistakes with cutting tool placement in the machine
• Mistakes during program verification
• Calling up the wrong program

Running production:

• Mistakes with workpiece loading
• Mistakes when making offset sizing adjustments
• Mistakes measuring workpieces
• Forgetting to debur workpieces
• Mistakes with dull tool replacement
• Mistakes re-running tools

If you think about it for any length of time, you’ll surely be able to come up with many more potential mistakes that could have terrible safety-related consequences. And again, well trained people have enough problems minimizing these mistakes – or finding them before they have disastrous results.

Poorly trained people are very likely to make them – and not find them.
I’m amazed by how many companies assign newcomers (having little or no prior training) with duties that could result in personal injury. I have seen, for example, people person transferred from light assembly (where they are in little or no danger) to an area where they’ll be running CNC machines. So – one day they’re assembling components and the next they’re running a CNC machine.

Often they don’t even recognize the safety-related implications of the transfer.
As managers, we must do our utmost to ensure that we responsibly assign duties to the appropriate people. If people don’t currently possess the skills needed to safely perform their duties, it is your responsibility to bring them to a level at which they can. Frankly speaking, anything less is irresponsible.



Top of page

Sofware ad
Machining center training materials
Parametric programming ad

The Optional Stop newsletter is published quarterly by CNC Concepts, Inc. and is distributed free of charge to people subscribing to our (email) distribution list and to those downloading it from our website ( Information is aimed at CNC users and instructors teaching live CNC classes. All techniques given in this newsletter are intended to help CNC people. However, CNC Concepts, Inc. can accept no responsibility for the use or misuse of the techniques given.

To subscribe: Simply email us ( and let us know you'd like to be added to our distribution list.

To unsubscribe: Respond to this email, typing REMOVE in the subject. Please accept our apologies if we have disturbed you.