Soliciting Opinions: Equipment to support Academic education mission
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    Default Soliciting Opinions: Equipment to support Academic education mission

    Greetings PM'ers

    I am helping specify lab equipment for a University shop facility. This facility supports the academic mission of teaching MechE, MfgE, MechEngrTech, & MfgEngrTech courses in Manufacturing Processes. We currently have a few each of Haas CNC mills & lathes of various flavors & vintages. Three manual knee mills & a couple of manual lathes. We struggle to teach freshman-level Manufacturing Processes courses effectively with the current equipment & quantities. We have an opportunity to change / upgrade / replace / expand as needed to support the "Academic Mission."

    I learned how to turn cranks back in the 70's with a big shop full of War Surplus worn-out machine tools. I'm not much of a machinist, but I know how not to embarrass myself (well...not too much, anyway) in the presence of a qualified tool maker. Rightly or wrongly, I believe the Academic Mission at the University is summarized by We are not training machinists. We are educating future TECH/ENGR grads what machinists DO. If the student wants to be a machinist, then they can learn it here but there are better local venues for more intense training.

    Our debate is about what best supports the Mission.

    • Re-stock the lab with more smaller manual tools (maybe something like those SMITHY 3-in-1 combo-type units?) to focus on metal working fundamentals.
    • De-emphasize manual tools and focus more on CNC?


    In either case, we retain some CNC to provide exposure to CNC in later semesters and to support Local Community Entrepreneurs & Industry.


    Would very much welcome opinions.

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    So you don't have enough machine tools to keep a class engaged?
    No way should anyone ever want a 3in1. get real lathes and mills.

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    I am a ME and graduated 7 years ago from a school which has almost entirely removed exposure to machining and any access to machines. I hope you are successful in expanding support for this aspect because it is the biggest flaw in how engineering is taught these days I think and sweeping floors in a machine shop was more valuable than many of my classes were.

    I would suggest primarily manual machines to focus on fundamentals but not SMITHY since that is just an exercise in frustration. The students will all like the CNC machines because it is flashy and fun but time spent learning with them will be split between actual metalworking and learning to program / run a particular control instead of seeing in real time what happens when they design a difficult to make part. Again, the point is to show what processes do and try to get a feel for what is easy and cost effective to make. If the student wants geometry that really requires CNC or tolerances that require other processes besides standard manual machines they should realize that and consciously make the decision.

    I highly recommend if possible including different processes besides just turning and milling. Everything you can afford: waterjet, EDM, grinding, investment casting, laser sintering, etc... Knowledge of what processes exist and what they can do / what they cost is probably going to be one of the most important things the students learn and just knowing that some of these capabilities exist can be a real game changer in design.

    Please PM me if you would like more opinions from someone who would have been your student. I am very interested in the topic and would like to do anything possible to foster inclusion of real practical learning in engineering programs.

    Ivan

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    Quote Originally Posted by tygerdawg View Post
    ...We struggle to teach freshman-level Manufacturing Processes courses effectively with the current equipment & quantities. We have an opportunity to change / upgrade / replace / expand as needed to support the "Academic Mission."
    I guess I'm not certain what the problem is with effective teaching in conjunction with the assortment of equipment you mention. If the issue is what to do with budget money that has been allocated (probably a miracle in this day and age), you might consider adding EDM capability, as that process is somewhat unique in manufacturing, and highly useful. Perhaps a high-end 3D printing machine could also be useful. I would not dispense with manual machines unless absolutely forced to; they can provide a fundamental exposure to just how difficult it CAN be to "make stuff".

    It sounds like you have a good mix of manual and CNC gear, and it may be a chance to upgrade some of your older CNC equipment to newer models, as well as possible adding new capability (see above). As DSergison notes, those 3-in-1 machines are just a waste of money, especially in a shop setting where you will have a wide variety of inexperienced users who will not necessarily give machines the TLC they require for long life, and will not recognize that the crappy result is a function of not only their own approach, but the variability of the machine's performance. Get real equipment, and reduce the variables in the teaching process.

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    +1 for pushing the admin towards hands on.

    I got my BSME a few years ago from the university of utah, and I will concur, one of the biggest deficiencies I saw was a lack of understanding by the students about how things are made, and the connection between design and build.

    The school keep pushing the esoteric engineering side of things, but engineering is where science meets business, you can't just have a piece of paper that describes a machine, you actually have to pay people to build it.
    Manufacturing should not come into play much when you are educating a physicist, chemist or other fundamental science curriculum, at least until they decide to specialize in experiment design/construction, but engineering is intimately connected to how things will be made.
    If you don't allow students to learn by trial and error in manufacturing, all you get is the engineering horror stories, both on the floor actually making things, and also with the costs that are associated when someone doesn't understand the difference in difficulty in hitting a 0.005" window vs 0.0005" window, or the value of running a design idea by the guy who would potentially make it, for some insight into making it better/faster/cheaper.

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    When I was in college, I guess it was the same problem to some extent.. Limited qty's of equipment.

    The way they dealt with it. We'd have our 2 or whatever lectures per week in a big lecture hall, and
    then there might be 10 or so different lab groups, 6-20 kids per group, 2 labs a week.. The labs were
    mostly run by grad students, and they ran pretty much all day, every day.

    Got a lot of hands on that way... How many robotic welders can a university shop have?

    The intro to manufacturing course... It was set up in stations.. The machines were already set up and
    fixtured, and you'd go from station to station.. And the project was such that order of operations really
    didn't matter much.

    I guess what I'm saying is that you may be able to shuffle your logistics to better utilize the equipment
    you have now.... Then add equipment that is needed.. Seems right now you are shooting in the dark without
    a plan.

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    Firstly, 3-in-1 machines are for hobbyists, not schools or manufacturers. If you're interested in an explanation as to why I believe that, let me know.

    Can you clarify what types of challenges you are having with the current equipment? Is it mostly a quantity problem that prevents your students from getting adequate time at the machines?

    You'll never be able to supply everything that is available in out in industry, but a good mix of equipment is important. Lathes and mills, both manual and CNC are necessary. They are still the foundation of modern manufacturing.

    EDM's as well as surface and cylindrical grinders would be desirable as well. This list could get very long and we all have our biases depending on the industries that we serve.

    The bottom line though, is do the machines match the goals programs that intend to use them? All the equipment in the world won't make a difference if the educational programs are not designed to make use of them.

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    My take, as a BS Mechanical Engineering that graduated from a top school in the country, with a student machine shop for this exact purpose.

    About my school: Small private school, yet highly ranked (US News & World Reports #1 Undergrad engineering school in the nation for a few decades now). The shop was available to any student, just about any time throughout the day. There were paid student supervisors (this is where I really cut my teeth on machining, I served as a supervisor for a couple years), and there was a full-time faculty supervisor in the shop at all times. The shop consisted of 3 basic "levels" of which were all "semi-connected". The beginner stuff was a mix of green painted imports (4 10" lathes and 3 mills); the justification for import quality was that it was going to be utterly abused and not well respected because it was a bunch of green students that may have never even seen a lathe/mill; mistakes were going to be made. The intermediate shop was a mix of larger imports and real American iron, including a large ~20" X 120" lathe and several Bridgeports. The advanced area was an enclosed modern CNC mill, heat-treat capability, injection molding machine, vacuum molding etc.

    Students were welcome to use the shop for school or personal projects; the school encouraged creative thinking and individual learning. If you wanted to make a personal project, the school looked on it as the students "practicing" doing the exact thing they were going to school to do, it was good practice.

    In general students never did anything in the advanced area unless it was specific to a class or project that had justification primarily because it required a great deal of training and/or supervision. IE, at the time I was in school they didn't do a CNC machining course because the professor that did it was busy with other obligations. But myself and several other students approached him and asked if he would be willing to do it; he obliged, and we did Advanced Manufacturing Processes, which included just about everything in the advanced machining area. We (my project team) also used the CNC mill (just moving it manually) on a research project because we needed flood coolant.

    This recommendation will not be popular with some, and I'm going to try to keep this within the rules of the forum.

    IMHO, I would have some small, sacrificial import quality machines for students to cut their teeth on, then graduate them up to better quality, American/European machines. The small import machines will leave more room in your budget for tooling, extra machines, etc, and the more students you can get turning the cranks the better. I believe it's better to see a green import get a hole drilled in the table than a nice, minty Bridgeport etc, and the fact of the matter is, a hole WILL get drilled in the table by some young student that just didn't think things through before doing the work. Once the students have proven a level of competence to not screw things up or kill themselves then you can move on to bigger and better machines.

    Our school shop was basically 4 rooms (excluding too-crib, material storage, etc) that were all separated by double doors. You start out being allow ONLY in the 1st room, then the 2nd room, then the 3rd (intermediate), and finally, behind the locked doors of the 4th (that housed the advanced stuff).

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    Most of the kids that I've seen in the last few years don't know shit, but think they know everything. I might have been that way myself a long time ago.

    Just keep the machines you have, maybe replace. Then, come up with some projects to make in the shop. Stuff that is simple yet takes some skills to make. Machinist clamps, planer jacks, tap handles, die handles, Have the seniors do metrology on the sophomore and junior projects.

    Every project, either manual or CNC, should have dimensioned drawinings, parts list, costing, operation sheets, inspection plan, and on and on and on.

    It also wouldn't hurt to have a shop safety class with that. Some basic stuff like machine guarding, lock-out tag out, etc, etc.

    BTW, you never said anything about fab equipment. Some places still punch, bend, cut and weld sheet material don't they?
    JR

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    We should talk...I'm in exactly the same situation...I developed and taught a class in shop use for the first time at the school. Right now too much to do to give you a good reply...other than DO NOT get a 3 in one machine or any Grixxly junk. Get real machines. That said I like country boys idea of graduating to better/bigger machine, in fact we are talking about how to do just that. Teach them how to read drawing and how to MAKE drawings...and most importantly how to plan the process of making parts. Gotta run...its the last week of class and everyone is rushing to complete their senior projects!

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    Many thanks, folks. Wonderful replies, very insightful. I knew I would not be disappointed.

    For the record, we are well set up with manual & power hand tools, measuring, saws, grinders, welding, heat treat, plastics (IMMs, extruder, thermoformer), wire EDM, 3D printers, robots & PLCs. We even have a 5-axis waterjet. Quite the Engineer's playpen. What we lack is sufficient staff & lower-end student-appropriate manual equipment for those right off the farm. The struggle is to sequence the students through existing equipment effectively to give them enough contact time for learning with the limited manual equipment.

    Thanks again.

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    I think you answered your own questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by tygerdawg View Post
    What we lack is sufficient staff & lower-end student-appropriate manual equipment for those right off the farm.
    Manual equipment (Not a 3 in 1), and staff... Can you get more grad students? Can you offer up paid work studies for upper classman.. Could
    you possibly offer some upper classman independent studies, where part of their "duties" for having unlimited access to the shop is helping out
    during lab times???? Where their "free" shop time is "designing projects for intro manufacturing classes" wink:wink.

    The struggle is to sequence the students through existing equipment effectively to give them enough contact time for learning with the limited manual equipment.
    Break your groups down smaller. Creatively adding staff should allow you to do that... Hopefully you aren't fighting an uphill battle with
    a bunch of assholes, hopefully everybody in your department is on the same page, with the same goals... Hopefully administration allows you the
    freedom to do what you need to do to give the kids the best education you can give them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tygerdawg View Post
    Many thanks, folks. Wonderful replies, very insightful. I knew I would not be disappointed.

    For the record, we are well set up with manual & power hand tools, measuring, saws, grinders, welding, heat treat, plastics (IMMs, extruder, thermoformer), wire EDM, 3D printers, robots & PLCs. We even have a 5-axis waterjet. Quite the Engineer's playpen. What we lack is sufficient staff & lower-end student-appropriate manual equipment for those right off the farm. The struggle is to sequence the students through existing equipment effectively to give them enough contact time for learning with the limited manual equipment.

    Thanks again.
    I just realized you're also in Indiana, what school is this? We can communicate via PM if you want. Sounds like you're quite a bit better equipped (on the high end) than my school but still may be something to learn about how they actually handle students in the shop. Shoot me a PM if you don't mind and we can discuss specifics and if you want to talk to the faculty supervisor from the school I went to I can get you in touch (we still communicate regularly).

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    Id get all CNC machines. No one uses manual anymore except for stupid crap and repairing shit.

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    I'm a PhD PEng with years of "student shop" experience, now operating out of a biomedical research centre (with the most awesome shop in the world, we like to think), but still teaching occasionally and mentoring a lot of biomedical grad students. I've installed equipment in universities and actually co-spec'd the shop for the School of Engineering at UBC's Okanagan campus a few years ago. I'd also be happy to chat if you want. PM me and we can set up a call.

    There are a number of ways you can go with this. It's still important to learn the old ways so running classes through the classic mill and lathe, week long program is still valuable. My big thing is not having cheap lathes but just don't have big lathes. Good smaller lathes, even old south bend table lathes, can teach a lot. Since my time, DROs are obviously great but real carbide is also a huge advantage even if you want them to also try grinding a tool bit. My 12 year old just turned down a piece of 304 bar to make some toy or other which would have been totally beyond my powers in the student shop of 20 years ago. Beyond that it would be great to teach a bit of CNC and welding etc to senior interested undergrads and grad students. So that's where the Haases come in but it's all about the CAM of course. I'd say if you start with good quality Solidworks and manual machine using students, you could get them CNCing stuff with built in SW CAM in a week or two. Then there's the professional part of an academic shop where you have a few pro tool makers and the like to make the hard research apparatus and other time consuming stuff. That speaks to the three level system discussed above and if you can do it all in the same physical room, with some appropriate dividers, that could work really well from a supervisory point of view.

    I argue that the most valuable single big purchase is a water jet, as it's by far the fastest way into CNC using real materials. You can teach 11 year olds to use an Omax and they're hard to break. Combine it with a press brake and spot welding equipment (rivets and PEMS are good too) and that opens up a whole world of sheet metal work. With manual mills for second ops like drilling edge holes, you can make an awful lot of everything else. With engineering students the biggest lesson is actually how does learning to machine stuff affect how they design for makability. And learning to design to the specific tool they have. The ease of use of the water jet and accessibility to student users also frees up your pros from doing mundane things to only doing hard and time consuming CAM/CNC work, which is as it should be. The water jet won't replace laser, EDM and a router but if you're clever it can do an awful lot of what those machines can do all in one. I have some presentations on this but will have to link to them tomorrow as Dropbox is not set up on this computer I'm currently using.

    Interestingly in my experience the Physics department had the most free access to the machine shop and I think the reason is they didn't overthink the whole thing compared to engineering. In Physics (Engineering Physics in my undergrad case) it was all about building experimental apparatus and there wasn't this tendency to apply all sorts of manufacturing theory. So we learned the hard way that 6061-T6 breaks when you try to bend it and 5052 doesn't. But the unfettered access to tools allowed a few interested kids to really go nuts and get good at milling and turning to the point of being able to launch careers and companies on that knowledge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Welden View Post
    Id get all CNC machines. No one uses manual anymore except for stupid crap and repairing shit.
    I think the last thing this world needs right now is engineers that think you draw it and hit the green button, then a part appears..

    Even if you aren't turning out machinist's.. I believe a fundamental understanding of how that drawing becomes reality is important.

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    I've seen guys that only know CNC and they're fine. Plus it's not like it's hard to operate a manual mill lathe. If you can't figure it out, you're an idiot.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by tygerdawg View Post
    We struggle to teach freshman-level Manufacturing Processes courses effectively with the current equipment & quantities.

    I believe the Academic Mission at the University is summarized by We are not training machinists. We are educating future TECH/ENGR grads what machinists DO. If the student wants to be a machinist, then they can learn it here but there are better local venues for more intense training.
    The primary goal of not only your labs but also the engineering department should be to give the students practical experience with the complete design cycle - design, build, test, repeat. Realistically, Intro to Mfg should only be a safety/basic ops/how-not-to-kill-yourself class, students will learn vastly more individually taking other required trades electives and completing projects for their engineering classes. Its the best/only real way to learn engineering IMHO - design it, draft it, fabricate it, test it, and improve it on your own.

    Personally, I wouldn't try to have 20 mills and lathes. I'd focus on smaller classes, an introductory core curriculum focused on safety and basic operations, and an expanded curriculum that requires students to use the shop otherwise. After a half-semester basic ops class, at my alma mater students are pushed into the shop every opportunity. There is a lab tech or two floating between labs during the day and a student aid in each lab whenever its open. Students come/go from ~9am-9pm and are welcome to complete their projects individually or with the help of one of the techs or aids. They learn by doing...

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Welden View Post
    I've seen guys that only know CNC and they're fine. Plus it's not like it's hard to operate a manual mill lathe. If you can't figure it out, you're an idiot.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    That's all fine and dandy if the part is already drawn and the g-code is already written, at that point they're a glorified button-pusher. Machinists constantly complain about the stupid designs engineers come up with and yet here is a supposed machinist that is saying "we don't need or want engineers to have any practical knowledge of how to actually make parts."

    That's pretty asinine.

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    appreciate the comments
    OK, I got it: no hobby machines. Good advice well taken.
    Any suggestions for brand names of suitable good quality lathes & mills? It would save me time researching time to know what others know, or think they know.


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