What Is a CMM Programmer?

Updated June 24, 2022

Coordinate measuring machine (CMM) programming is an important tool used by manufacturers to ensure appropriate product development and configuration. A CMM programmer is a professional who operates these machines and ensures the machine provides appropriate outputs. Being a CMM programmer is a great job choice for individuals who enjoy working with machines and contributing to organizations around the world. In this article, we explore what CMM programming is, what CMM programmers do, how to pursue a career as a CMM programmer and the skills needed to excel in this job.

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What is CMM programming?

A coordinate measuring machine (CMM) is a tool used to measure a three-dimensional object's surface area. CMM machines are most often used during the manufacturing inspection process to ensure that each product follows the original blueprint and all parts of the product are positioned correctly.

A CMM can also create drawings and plans of different parts of products so they can be recreated during the manufacturing process for accurate replication. There are several different types and styles of coordinate measuring machines, all of which have a similar function and that work on three different axes (X, Y and Z). The machine records measurements for all of the axes to sufficiently measure a product.

Without a CMM machine, manufacturers would be at risk of producing inaccurate or dysfunctional products, which could ultimately affect a company's bottom line.

What do CMM programmers do?

Like many machines, a coordinate measuring machine requires constant human oversight to ensure it functions properly and provides accurate output. A CMM programmer, or CMM operator, does just that—ensuring the machine is working properly and programming the machine to take accurate measurements. CMM programmers are also responsible for making sure the proper code lines are encoded into the machine, which means they play an integral role in the manufacturing process.

A CMM programmer also reads the blueprints and analyzes the measurements that the machine outputs. These individuals are part of the improvement process because they provide insight as to how to change the programming and calibration of a product. CMM programmers help companies decide whether to make changes to a product, how to use fewer resources or how to create a more functional product.

Related: Learn About Being a Machine Operator

Average salary of a CMM programmer

The average annual salary for CMM programmers in the United States is $44,640 per year . A number of factors influence a CMM programmer's salary, including their place of employment, how much experience they have, their education level, and where they live. For example, CMM programmers in Cleveland, Ohio, make an average of $64,397 per year, while CMM programmers living in Mentor, Ohio, make an estimated annual salary of $37,895 per year.

How to become a CMM programmer

There are several steps you'll need to take if you want to pursue a career as a CMM programmer. These steps include:

1. Graduate from high school

The first step in pursuing a career as a CMM programmer is to obtain a high school diploma or its equivalent.

2. Pursue a degree or certificate program

Once you've successfully gotten a high school diploma or GED certification, you should pursue a two- or four-year degree in manufacturing technology or a related field. You can also choose to participate in a certificate program in quality technology or a similar subject. Course topics that should be included in your program are production processes, blueprint reading and using dimensional measurement tools. A degree or certificate is typically the minimum requirement to become a CMM programmer.

3. Become proficient in PC-DMIS

PC-DMIS is a common program used in measurement software to coordinate measuring machines like a CMM. This program eliminates the requirement for data to be interpreted by several different program languages and reduces CMM programmers' workload when operating CMMs. There are many available training programs or educational courses you can take to become proficient in PC-DMIS, such as the PC-DMIS training program offered by Hexagon Metrology.

4. Get hands-on experience

Many employers who hire CMM programmers require candidates to have a few years of experience, typically anywhere from three to five years. You can begin to obtain experience through entry-level technical positions or other jobs that relate to machine programming. The more experience you have, the more you'll stand out among other applicants for a CMM programmer position.

5. Consider an advanced degree

While not always necessary, pursuing an advanced degree may help you qualify for upper-level jobs in CMM programming. Common advanced degrees that CMM programmers hold include master's degrees in quality assurance or metrology.

Related: The 5 Best Programming Languages to Learn

Required skills for CMM programmers

The following are the top skills needed by CMM programmers to be successful in their positions:

  • Problem-solving skills: CMM programmers must identify and assess problems that come up in product manufacturing. Strong problem-solving skills ensure a CMM programmer can accurately use a CMM to solve a manufacturing-related issue and improve overall output for a company.

  • Computer skills: CMM programmers must have extensive computer skills to be effective in their jobs. In addition to knowing how to operate a coordinate measuring machine, programmers should also be familiar with software development programs and macro programming technology.

  • Mathematical skills: These professionals regularly use math formulas to determine the accurate measurements for a product or item and input them into the CMM.

  • Communication skills: CMM programmers regularly work with other engineering or inspection team members to perform their job and must be able to effectively communicate their findings in a way that is easy to understand.

Related: Guide to Quality Assurance and Quality Control: Definition, Purpose and How QA is Implemented

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What is the job outlook for CMM programmers?

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have specific employment information for CMM programmers, it does estimate that machinists will see an increase in job demand by 3% from now until 2029. This is about as fast as average for other occupations in the United States.

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