G&M Code vs. Conversational Programming  

When you get down to the nitty gritty, there are MANY ways to program a CNC machine. Deciding which one is the best for you depends on a wide variety of factors. The following options are available.  

  1. CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software programming (such as Mastercam) 
  2. G&M Code programming  
  3. Conversational programming  
  4. Macro programming  

 So, what are all of these?  

CAM Software Programming 

 Having CAM software such as Mastercam is very helpful. Oftentimes, you can use 3D models and blueprints to not only create the program but also simulate and verify the program. CNC programmers access CAM software through a computer (either at the machine or in an engineering/programming office). 

G&M Code Programming 

List of G&M Codes for machining

G&M Code programming is done on the machine. Rather than working on a computer or laptop, CNC programming occurs within the controller screen. 

G&M Code programming uses a series of codes, either G-codes or M-codes.  

  • G-code stands for Geometric Code.  
  • These codes direct a CNC machine to perform the operations needed to create geometries and profiles in the material.  
  • An example of a G-code is G84 which directs the machine toward a tapping cycle.  
  • M-code stands for Machine Code or Miscellaneous Code. 
  • These codes direct the functions of the actual machine rather than the geometry or feature requirements.  
  • An example of an M-code is M05 which directs the machine to stop the spindle.  

Conversational Programming 

Conversational programming is a type of programming that uses prompts. The prompts are questions asked of the programmer or machinist. These prompts gather answers regarding part geometry, type of material or metal, as well as the tooling needed to complete the desired features. In summary, someone performing conversational programming is answering questions which allows the machine to create a program from which the machine will operate.  

G&M Code Programming vs. Conversational Programming 

So, what’s the difference between the two? A fitting example is the process of giving someone directions to an agreed upon location.  

  • In G&M code programming, directions are given in a step-by-step nature. If someone needs to get to the local grocery store, as a direction teller you will share all the lefts and rights that need to be taken, the stores that you’ll pass by, the miles to travel, etc.  
  • In conversational programming, directions are less specific. In this example, as a direction teller you will tell someone the cross streets at which the grocery store is located (I.e., Main Street and First Avenue). However, the traveler will determine the best route needed to get to Main Street and First Avenue. 

Macro Programming 

metal drill bit make holes in aluminium radiator on industrial drilling machine. Metal work industry.

Macro programming is done when there are repetitive operations on a part but different variables for each operation. In this type of programming, the main operation (or repetitive operation) is programmed via CAM, G&M, or Conversational programming. Macro programming creates a “sub program” to alter that main program.  

  • An example would be a part that needs multiple holes drilled but the holes are of different depths. Typically, feed rates change according to depth. Therefore, you program the machine to “drill a hole” as your main operation but the macro programming within that program details the depth and the feed rate for each individual hole. 

You now have a tight grasp on what differentiates these types of programming. It’s easy to see why they were all created. Each programming style lends itself to greater job efficiency depending on the task at hand. Perhaps you’ve been searching for a better way to program the task of hole drilling in a project you have. You now know that Macro may be the way to go. 

If you find that you have a propensity for any of these programming styles, and need employment, don’t hesitate to reach out to our hiring team via this website! We’d love to have you join our team of talented technicians. 

If you are a CNC Programmer or would like to become a CNC Programmer, you’ve likely heard of or read about Mastercam. Mastercam is just one many computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software packages available for use when CNC programming, but Mastercam is the most common. Whether it’s the best programming software is a topic for another time, for CNC Programmers. I won’t get into that here, but the prevalence of Mastercam in manufacturing cannot be denied. As of 2020, there were 274,096 installed seats of Mastercam in manufacturing, with the closest competitor at just under 150,000 installed seats. Mastercam has shaped the past and will continue to shape the future of manufacturing but how did it get here and why?  

One Tool for Every Machine 

  • With Mastercam, you can program a wide variety of machines including CNC mills, lathes, routers mill turns and multi-axis machinery, and wire EDM. The ability to program so many machines with one universal software is of great benefit for manufacturers across multiple industries.CNC Mastercam Machine-operator-programming

Leading CAM Package in Education  

  • Not only is Mastercam the leader in manufacturing, but they are also the leading CAM software in Machine Tool Technology programs throughout technical and trade school in the US. As of 2020, there are 142,969 seats installed for educational purposes with the next competitor at just under 75,000 seats.  

A Long History  

  • Mastercam was founded in 1983 and is one of the very first PC-based cam software in manufacturing. Mastercam started as a 2D cam tool and over time, has evolved into a 3D CAD/CAM package. With 39 years in the industry, it’s hard to deny the reason for Mastercam’s dominance in CNC programming.  

Interested in learning Mastercam? Check out local trade or technical schools for available opportunities or learn from the comfort of your own home with incredibly helpful online courses from Titans of CNC Academy, a free CAD/CAM and CNC Machine Training program by Titan Gilroy.  

It’s a common misconception in manufacturing that production numbers and output are of the utmost importance. However, that’s all wrong. First and foremost, safety is the number one factor in manufacturing. Right behind safety comes quality (PMG’s Project Manager Stephen D. talks about these priorities) and critical to quality are CMMs.   

What are CMMs 

CMM stands for Coordinate Measuring Machine. In short, CMMs are machines that measure physical dimensions and geometric characteristics of manufactured components. These same dimensions, features, and characteristics can be measured manually with precision hand tools and instruments. Unfortunately, manual inspections leave room for error (human error), so CMMs were created. CMM Machine Wensel LH87

At the most basic level, a CMM consists of a table on which the part is set for inspection processes and a probe that performs the inspection with a computer program that guides and controls the inspection probes.  

CMM Programming 

When explained, CMMs seem very simple. However, there is much more to it including the way in which the CMM is programmed. Some parts have very few characteristics needing inspection while others have hundreds. Regardless of the number of characteristics to be inspected, a CMM cannot perform the inspection tasks unless it’s been programmed to do so. Similar to PLC programming or CNC programming, CMM programming is a sequential set of instructions directing the machine in all of its operations. A CMM program is written through software designed specific for CMMs and will seem like a foreign language unless you are a CMM Programmer.  

CMM Programmers 

CMM Programmers write the long list of code and sequential instruction needed for a CMM machine to operate. CMM Programmers ensure that each and every feature, characteristic, and dimension of the part is measured by the probe on the CMM and in the way that keeps the inspection process as efficient as possible. Not only does a CMM programmer determine the path of instruction, but a CMM programmer will also ensure that the program clearly outlines the dimensions and tolerances required of the part. These two details (dimensions/tolerances and inspection path) must align once the machine is running. If these two factors are not aligned, the part does not pass inspection. Does this still sound easy? It’s not. This process has gotten increasingly more difficult over the years, due to the much more complex and geometric forms of machined components. CMM Programmer in background automatic coordinate measurement machine (CMM) during inspection automotive or motorcycle industrial part in quality control manufacturing process

Interested in Being a CMM Programmer?

A great place to start is school where you can earn degrees or certificates in Quality and Manufacturing Technologies. You will need to gain work experience (as a Quality Inspector or CMM Operator) once you receive the degree or certificate of course but it’s still a great place to start. If you’ve already got work experience in manufacturing (in the field of quality or elsewhere), make it clear that you’re interested in operating CMMs and/or programming CMMs. Often times, CMM Programmers become CMM Programmers through on-the-job training.  

Are You a CMM Programmer or CMM Operator?  

Join the PMG team for the opportunity to travel and explore new places, learn new techniques, create flexibility in your schedule, and work with some of the greatest manufacturers in the US. Apply Here! 

Nearly everything around you is made in a manufacturing facility. These facilities combine the power of human hands and machinery to produce the consumer goods you want. With consumer demand comes the need for not only reliability, but also repeatability. As a result, manufacturers look to automate production processes as much as possible and with automation comes PLCs.

What are PLCs?

PLC stands for Programmable Logic Controller. In short, PLCs are computers connected to machinery to automate and monitor the machinery and its operations. To do this, PLCs scan input devices from the machinery, process what that input means, and send reactionary (programmed) functions to output devices. This process creates the desired operation in the machinery. Input devices include sensors, switches, thermometers, etc. while output devices can include valves, pumps, fans, and alarms, among others.

For a simple example, think of a light switch and a light bulb. When the switch is flipped (input), a PLC would realize that a light needs to turn on. The PLC sends a programmed action to the lightbulb (output) and the lightbulb turns on.

PLC to Lamp on wall

Another simple example (specific to manufacturing) would include a temperature sensor (input device) reading that the machine is operating at levels that are too hot. The PLC then analyzes that input and determines that a fan (output device) needs to turn. The PLC program pushes out a programmed command to the fan which then turns on and cools the temperature to an acceptable level.

In addition to scanning the inputs, programs, and outputs, the PLC also performs what’s called housekeeping. This step is where the PLC consistently monitors itself and internal diagnostics among other items.

The PLC scan process is continuous and cyclical in nature. It’s a never-ending loop.

PLC Scan Process

The PLC Scan Process

PLC Programming

When explained, PLCs seem simple. It’s an “if this, then that” equation. However, it’s complicated work to determine all of the potential “if this, then that” occurrences in a machine, especially in high-tech or complex machinery. Writing this “if this, then that” PLC program takes careful thought, an in-depth understanding of the machinery (which can include all mechanical, electrical, pneumatic, and/or hydraulic systems and components), an in-depth understanding of the desired machine operations and knowledge of every input and desired output. Once these details are attained, the program is ultimately a long list of “if this input, then that output,” but a complicated list.

Picture of a programmable logic controller in working state.

How is this done? By a PLC Programmer or a Controls Engineer.

PLC Programmers

Not only do PLC Programmers write the long list of code for machine operations according to inputs and outputs, but they’ll also create and design schematics, install (or assist) in the installation of the PLC (remember, it’s essentially a computer connected to the machine), and also test the PLC and the program that’s written to ensure it’s operational.

Interested in being a PLC Programmer? A great place to start is at school. Employers prefer master’s degrees in electrical engineering, computer science or other similar programs. However, relevant experience would include a bachelor’s degree in either of those studies with hands-on PLC experience, as well. If you’re already working in manufacturing, make it clear that you’re interested in PLC programming or want to be a PLC Programmer. Often times, PLC Programmers become PLC Programmers through on-the-job training.

Are you a PLC Programmer? Join the PMG team for the opportunity to travel and explore new places, learn new techniques, create flexibility in your schedule, and work with some of the greatest manufacturers in the US. Apply Here!

About The Author

PMG’s Monthly Manufacturing Calendar Highlight

PMG supports the American manufacturing industry, directly and indirectly, in any way we can. That’s part of why we take advocacy for manufacturing, the skilled trades, and technical education so seriously. It’s also why we think you should too! But we know that life is busier, and noisier, than ever these days. We want to make it easy for you to advocate and grow by sharing something coming up on the calendar each month. With that in mind, we’d like to remind you that CTE Month® starts February 1, 2022!

What is CTE Month?

Career and Technical Education (CTE) directly prepares students (youth AND adult) for high-wage, high-demand careers. CTE Month is a campaign that occurs every February to raise awareness regarding the importance of career and technical education. This effort also celebrates the value of CTE, as well as the achievements and accomplishments of CTE programs across the USA. You may recall a Superbowl commercial for Oklahoma Career Tech that does just that!

How can you celebrate CTE Month?

There are many ways you can participate throughout the month of February.

  • If you’re an instructor or product of a good CTE program, consider hosting a school visit and inviting community members to learn about it firsthand.
  • Do you work for a business that benefits from the skilled trades? You don’t have to wait for a one pager like this from a local shop teacher. Instead, coordinate a local job fair or work with programs to help highlight alumni who you’ve successfully hired.
  • Are you a beneficiary of CTE yourself? Then tell your story. For too long, other people have been telling it for you and the Skills Gap is real because people are getting your story wrong. Engage your local policymakers and industry leaders personally and speak your truth!
  • If that all still sounds like too much work, there’s an option for you too! Whether you’re involved directly through a business or educational institution, or not, you can advocate for CTE without saying a word. Just download the CTE Month Zoom Background (works with your virtual meeting platform of choice) and make sure you turn on your camera the next time you log on!

What’s next?

We hope this motivates you to get involved with advocating for manufacturing. If it does, we also hope it helps you find out just how easy that can be. Why? Because October, and MFG Day, will be here before you know it!

Got other events you think we should know about? Send them to our Writing Team and we’ll be happy to highlight them in the months to come!

Josh Erickson

Josh Erickson

Public Relations & Engagement Specialist

Manufacturing Trends in 2021

PMG works in the heart of manufacturing. We work with those doing the manufacturing (clients) and those who make the manufacturing happen (employees). Because of that, we have a perspective that allows us to see all of what’s happening in manufacturing across the United States. In 2021 a lot happened, especially after coming out of 2020.Here’s some manufacturing trends that we saw:

Supply Chain Issues

There was a global shortage of materials for manufacturing thanks to 2020. The United States was hurt the most by international supply chain networks. Bottlenecks in the supply chain led many (consumer and manufacturer alike) to reconsider American made production, and it’s importance.

On another note, if you’re curious about the supply chain, check out our article titled The History of the Supply Chain.

A Surge in Plastics and Packaging Manufacturing

Thanks to restaurants closing down, and higher levels of sanitary requirements, the manufacturing of plastics and packaging surged. Everyone needed their food to-go once restaurants opened back up and we all needed to get creative about how we stored items (thanks to rethinking sanitation & hygiene habits).

Process Manufacturing

While discrete manufacturing was shut down and/or struggling with the supply chain, process manufacturing couldn’t stop. Process manufacturing includes the food and beverage industry, some plastic manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, soap, and personal hygiene (or consumer goods) items. In fact, many manufacturers of consumer goods altered their product lines to create critical (and hard to find) items like hand sanitizer and disinfectants.

Parts Manufacturing

Car parts and electronic components were hard to find in 2021. Mostly thanks to COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020 and the reliance on offshoring common in American manufacturing. That reliance, coupled with supply chain issues, really caused a stir. We are still seeing scarcity for these parts as we near the end of 2021.

Equipment/Machine Manufacturing

Without a full workforce in manufacturing facilities, companies needed to get creative and find workarounds. Machine and equipment manufacturing skyrocketed. Without employees performing hands-on tasks in production, manufacturers realized there was an opportunity (sometimes, a forced opportunity) for automation and robotics. As a result, orders for more automated (and customized) machinery were made than ever before.

Heavy Equipment/Off-road/Agricultural Vehicles

This industry is an interesting one in 2021. As new equipment orders were delayed due to supply chain issues, owners of this type of equipment leaned on repairs or alterations to keep old equipment moving. That, coupled with the very seasonal nature of the industry (and thus, critical timelines), ensured there was high demand across the US for skilled workers to help these types of manufacturers succeed (and do so on schedule).

Distribution Centers (DCs)

DCs became all the rage. Companies quickly learned the criticality of strategically placed distribution centers (or strategic alliances with third party DC partners). Getting product to the consumer, and getting it to them quickly, was important. As a result, there were many needs for Order Selectors, Order Pickers, Material Handlers, and Forklift Operators at DCs across the United States.

Attracting & Retaining Employees

This was a huge trend in 2021 in ALL industries, not just manufacturing. Companies had to get creative while also stretching their budgets. Pay rates went up and sign-on bonuses (as well as referral bonuses) were everywhere. In fact, some companies were offering sign-on bonuses upwards of $100,000! Additionally, more companies were leading their teams with empathy and a little tough love. More companies are recognizing the world is a crazy place and employees need a little more flexibility and understanding.

What manufacturing trends did you see in 2021?

Kim Mooney

Kim Mooney

Technical Manager & Coach