I am a cabinetmaker with over 25 years experience, mostly in the very high end market. I live in Port Saint Lucie, Florida and have been unemployed since October. The only opportunities I'm seeing is for CNC operators. I have been using a visual CAD for 16 years and recognize I need to learn how to operate a CNC router. Is there a program that is considered the industry standard, as AutoCAD is to architecture? And where do I go to find out about training in my area?
From contributor D:
These are hard times - we have had many layoffs this year and I believe if I hadn't secured my position by learning CNC about six years ago, I'd be unemployed as well. My view is that most experienced woodworkers make the best programmers and not the other way around. There have been some college grads in this shop that were pretty worthless. I imagine if I were in your shoes I'd target the job first, then tailor skills for it. Like if you know of jobs available where experience with a particular brand of machine or software is needed, then I'd try to get demo software and take a class at a community college that specifically uses that machine or software. Plenty of experienced CNC guys have come in here and had just as long a learning curve with unfamiliar software as a good woodworker who is also computer savvy. Some even have it harder because old habits with another machine die hard. This is one of those jobs that you learn every day in, so the sooner you get into it, the better.
Some hardware manufacturers like Thermwood or Holz-Her supply a package with their machine. Others like MultiCam or Onsrud tend to direct you toward a separate package (an advantage, I think, but a debate for another thread).
The closest thing you are likely to find to an industry standard is AlphaCam or MasterCam. These are excellent platforms, hugely versatile, support nesting and point-to-point and are fairly widespread in the industry.
Everyone out there has an opinion on what software is best, but you don't need to get sucked into that discussion. If you want to find employment, experience with one of these two is likely to get you furthest. Alpha I know for sure offers training in Charlotte, and I have to believe MasterCam has a similar program.