Multi-axis machining is so different from 3-axis machining at times that it can be daunting. Its challenges often prevent manufacturers from reaping its benefits. However, a North Carolina community college is teaching that the costs and fears can be overcome with training, simple modification to 3-axis machines, and simulation software.
Instructor Craig Bidwell of Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, NC, said simulation is extremely valuable because it prevents costly errors that cause collisions between machine, fixtures and work pieces.
"Simulation shows exactly how machine components move relative to fixtures, tooling, and each other," he explained. "Furthermore, it can eliminate a lot of prove out time. Multi-axis programs are so long that it's nearly impossible to prove them at the machine."
College stands alone
Industry often drives technology into vocational schools and community colleges, but the college, founded in 1967, often drives technology into manufacturing through students exposed to the latest processes. One of only three North Carolina colleges with 5-axis machining, and the only one with 5-axis simulation, its machining technology instructors recently held a two-day seminar using a project to speed dissemination of machining and simulation technology.
Nash's dedication to teaching conventional, NC, and CNC machining began in 1989 when Gary Blackburn, engineering department chair, implemented certificate and degree programs in machining technology. The school's success in developing student skills led to its accreditation by the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), the nation's only ANSI accredited developer of precision manufacturing skill standards and competency assessments.
The curriculum is taught by instructors George Shook and Brian Worley, and adjunct instructor Bidwell, a 5-axis expert. Combined, they have 50 years experience in tool design, tool and die making, and machining at Frigidaire, Allied Signal, ITT Technology, Tarheel Tooling, Honeywell Aerospace, Westinghouse, and General Electric.
With roots and a high-profile presence in industry, the college has invested in industrial equipment, as opposed to small model machines popular in many schools. The faculty has been active in the Association of Instructors in Machine Shops (AIMS) for about 20 years, participates in industry seminars, and relies on an advisory committee of 12 representatives from large and small local...