CNC Machinists are Essential to Aerospace and Defense Metal Parts Manufacturing

CNC machinists are critical to manufacturing metal parts for the aerospace and defense industries and make up the backbone of Primus’ defense oriented machine shop.

A common misconception is that manufacturing in the United States is disappearing due to outsourcing to low-cost countries (LCC). However, there are actually over 12 million filled manufacturing jobs, and a growing list of open industrial positions. Manufacturing is the sixth largest employer in the US economy, and fabricated metal is one of the top three sub-sectors of manufacturing in our country [1]. Due to the COVID-related “great resignation” and previous focus on white collar careers, a skilled labor shortage exists throughout the US. As the aerospace manufacturing sector gains momentum post-pandemic, the demand for CNC machinists in Colorado will continue to grow. Primus Aerospace provides an exciting and meaningful work environment and has a team of experienced machinists with a wealth practical machining experience. These machinists are the backbone of our company.

Primus Aerospace has two primary locations: an aerospace production machine shop in Lakewood, Colorado and Primus’s Paradigm Division located in Golden, Colorado. The Golden location is an aerospace-specific prototyping machine shop that focuses on low volume, high precision parts for space applications. The Lakewood facility primarily focuses on efficient production of high-volume parts for the Aerospace and Defense industry. Each of these locations require highly skilled individuals to make Aerospace manufacturing possible

CNC Machinist Interviews:

The remainder of this article includes interviews with five of Primus’s talented machinists , providing insight about how they got their start as machinists and the career paths they’ve taken.

David T. (Paradigm CNC Programmer) – David is a senior CNC machinist and programmer at Primus Aerospace’s Paradigm Division. He has worked at Primus for over 11 years and is currently one of the senior machinists at the Golden location. He started his career as a machinist when he was 20 years old at a casting machine shop in Michigan. At that shop, he machined large housings for heavy equipment and machine finished cast iron components. He then moved to Colorado, where he started working for Paradigm which later became Primus Aerospace. At Paradigm, he had the opportunity to learn through the practical manufacturing of a variety of aerospace parts. He started as a CNC machine operator working second shift production, but soon learned enough to perform CNC programming as well. Today, David works independently to create prototype and production parts for satellites and manned space craft. This involves both programming and running the 5-axis CNC machines to produce parts as well as working hand in hand with mechanical engineering and quality assurance colleagues.

Zach M. (Paradigm CNC Programmer) – Zach performs CNC machine operation, programming, and set-up at Primus’s Golden location. He has been with Primus Aerospace for 6 months and has been an asset to our team. He started his machinist career when he was 17 years old at a tool and die shop. Here, he turned and milled set up and production parts while also designing several prototypes. He studied design at Keene State College in New Hampshire and was a TA for both the CNC programming and manual machining classes. He capitalized on this experience and interned at a plastic injection molding company, worked as a set-up machinist, and performed design work before arriving at Primus Aerospace.

Andrew D (CNC Programmer and Process Engineer) – Andrew works as a senior CNC programmer, machinist, and Process Engineer for Primus Aerospace’s Paradigm Division. He has worked at the company for two years but has 19 years of experience in machining. Andrew started at Warren Tech when he was 16 and landed his first job as a CNC operator with Primus (after completing his technical training). He eventually completed a pre-engineering degree at Red Rocks Community College and went on to manage a local machine shop while owning / operating a snowboard company. After 10 years, he became a process and design engineer at another machine shop before re-joining Primus Aerospace.

Kelby C. (CNC Operator) – Kelby works as a CNC machinist at Primus’s Lakewood location. He has been working for Primus for four years. Kelby started as a deburr (finishing) technician in February 2018 and was promoted to CNC operator in 2019. Prior to manufacturing, he was a farm hand and learned all his practical machining skills on the job at Primus Aerospace. Kelby is a critical part of our production line that supports defense products.

Michael N. (CNC Setup Operator) – Michael has been working for Primus for 10 months but has 20 years of manufacturing experience. He started off at Pueblo Community College in their Machining Technology program to learn the basics of machining. Since then, he’s had the opportunity to work for several manufacturing and engineering companies. Michael sets up and runs critical 5-axis parts for a defense munitions program and is transitioning to become a CNC programmer. Part of this transition includes taking Mastercam classes (paid for by Primus) and working directly with our engineering and programming teams.

Colorado machinist culture

The CNC machinists and CNC operators at the Lakewood facility focus primarily on efficiency while producing aerospace grade parts. While working, Kelby likes to keep his bench highly organized. When operating a CNC, he lays out all his equipment in the order in which he is going to use it and confirms every operation he does at least once. He also always makes sure to check all paperwork he is referencing and makes sure the equipment he is using is calibrated. Michael N., on the other hand, takes a more open approach. He relies on his 20 years of experience to do whatever is needed in a precise and efficient manner.

At the Golden location, the focus is mainly on precision one-off parts, as this facility typically deals with more complex parts that are to be produced at lower quantities. When David T. is making a part, he takes the time to look at the part drawing and makes a plan on how to meet the tightest tolerances specified on the sheet. He also plans on how to relieve material and establish datum features early and in one fixture, if possible. Zach M. spends significant time with the part drawing and material details. He takes the tolerancing into account when deciding tooling, feeds, speeds, and fixturing. He also creates most of the machining program before cutting any metal and is open to adjusting his program as he progresses through production. Andrew D., on the other hand, uses his machinist experience and the that of the team around him to create a generalized production plan that is unique to each part.

Here at Primus Aerospace, we are always looking to add talented individuals to our team. At our company, even the most experienced CNC machinist will be able to grow their skillset and learn from those around them. Aside from a terrific career opportunity, our parts contribute directly to our national security and are helping put humans back into space. In the words of David T., “The work we do at Primus contributes to changing the course of history. It feels good knowing that something I am contributing to is going to change the way humanity sees the world in the future.” Kelby enjoys his work for a different reason. For him, he likes the people the most. He has fostered great friendships with his coworkers, and in his eyes, everyone treats him like family. As a younger guy, he has the chance to work on interesting aerospace projects and learn new skills along the way. All our employees also get to call Colorado home and get the chance to explore the outdoors on their time off. Being a CNC machinist, operator, or programmer is clearly a challenging profession, but the team culture and cutting-edge production of Primus Aerospace makes the challenge more than worth it.


  1. Facts about Manufacturing Jobs in the United States – Lincoln Tech

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