Magazine article Techniques

More Than Spinning Their Wheels

Magazine article Techniques

More Than Spinning Their Wheels

Article excerpt


Last fall, when Mastercam, the leading manufacturer of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, announced the winners of its IOF (Innovators of the Future) contest, first, second and third prizes went to students in the advanced manufacturing program of Vincennes University's Machine Trades Technology Department.

The contest called for students to design a unique hot rod wheel and make it to quarter scale using CNC (computer numerical control) manufacturing equipment. Submissions were judged by Boyd Coddington, host of the Discovery Channel's American Hot Rod TV program. In addition to receiving $1,000 in prize money and a trip to California, contest winner Zac Frame will get to see his winning design scaled up and manufactured in Coddington's Los Angeles shop as a new addition to the hot rodder's wheel line.

Although this is all very exciting, there is still better news for the Vincennes University (VU) students. Each of this year's nine advanced manufacturing program graduates (all contest participants) has received three or more job offers from high-tech manufacturing shops. Many of these were from some of the most prestigious names in automotive, aerospace and medical device manufacturing. They not only have job offers on the table, but also the opportunity to choose among attractive options.

Advanced Manufacturing Advantage

"I certainly wouldn't call it unfair, but I think my advanced manufacturing students made such a strong showing in the IOF contest because they have the opportunity to be enrolled in a third-year program focused on advanced CAD/CAM and CNC," says Associate Professor Doug Bowman, lead instructor for the advanced manufacturing program. "Prior to enrolling, each student must complete an intensive two-year associate degree program in either tool and die or injection mold tooling.

"In the two-year program, students construct complex projects that include progressive dies and injection molds with side action. By the time I get them, they have all of this, plus three CNC classes already under their belts. This solid background is what makes the difference. I think some other schools should think about offering a third-year program in advanced manufacturing for those students who really want to make a career of advanced CAD/CAM and CNC. Industry today has a great need for this type of graduate."

Bowman integrated the contest into the curriculum, and he plans to do it every year. In fact, he is very excited and confident about this year's entry, which he describes as a very complex part that he was preparing to submit to the competition in a few weeks.

Under Bowman's direction, students utilized the CNC programming lab in the technology center to design and program their wheels with Mastercam for last year's contest. They machined the wheels in the CNC lab-a Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC). The center is equipped with 13 state-of-the-art Haas machining and turning centers acquired with a substantial grant from their manufacturer and one from the Lilly TechWorks Partnership Fund. Students spend about half their time on a Mastercam seat, programming the CNC equipment, and half in what Bowman calls "the dream lab" running their programs.

The university has 30 Mastercam seats. About 22 of these are in the CNC programming lab, and the others can be accessed from any node on the campus network-the library, for instance.

Training for the Real World

By the time the students graduate from the advanced manufacturing program, they will have logged in 800 additional hours of two-, three-, four- and five-axis programming using Mastercam X and manufacturing with the Haas CNC machines. Many of the projects are designed to make use of the latest in high-speed machining (HSM) and multi-axis machining in collaboration with companies specializing in die making, mold making, aerospace, medical devices and motorsports. …

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