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Implementing Computer Numerical Controls Affordably at a Four Year University

[+] Author Affiliations
Wesley S. Hunko, Lewis N. Payton

Auburn University, Auburn, AL

Paper No. IMECE2016-66152, pp. V005T06A047; 5 pages
  • ASME 2016 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 5: Education and Globalization
  • Phoenix, Arizona, USA, November 11–17, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5057-2
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


Additive manufacturing, fundamentally, is computerized numerical controls using a specialized printer head as the “tool”. Any new curriculum implementing “additive manufacturing” stands upon the fundamental and advanced work done before in computer numerical controls. Although there certainly is a need for end user laboratories based upon purchased printers, the challenge in designing curriculums that support developing the next generation of additive manufacturing must also include computer numerical controls. The best designers must be able to picture the entire system when developing new systems. During the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the “hands-on” engineering laboratories typical of the post-World War II engineering campus gave way to computerized laboratories and simulation. Traditional engineering assets (lathes, mills, drill presses, etc.) were retired as they aged without replacement in favor of computer laboratories full of PC’s and software. As the 20th century ended, there was a realization that computer simulation is no substitute for “cutting metal” or “making things”. Designers need to understand process in order to communicate with technologists from trade schools and industry. Even a simple engineering drawing can often simply not be created due to process limitations (e.g., a perfectly drawn internal 90-degree angle in a CAD drawing does not occur in nature OR a machine shop). As the four year universities shut down their hands on programs, the two year programs implemented complex computer numerical controls curriculums to train operators for industry. The incredibly expensive equipment needed to do this is funded by state governments trying to attract industry to the state. The four year universities, responsible for creating the next generation of manufacturing machines, do not have access to THIS generations machines. The National Science Foundation and state governments don’t see the need for upper level engineering students to have ready access to machines that cost up to a million dollars each. The universities fortunate to have CNC machines usually keep them locked away from the students for safety of the machines and the students. Technicians make things for the students on the limited number or machines available. There is no understanding of the machines and very little understanding of the processes the machines are doing. An earlier paper by the authors described a way to implement an affordable undergraduate “manual” innovation laboratory. This article describes an affordable way for upper level universities to implement an effective machine design atmosphere for subtractive and additive manufacturing. The students modify existing machines from that earlier laboratory into multi-axis CNC machines. Students have successfully built five axis mills, lathes with live tooling and now a unique metal printing machine. The goal is not to create operators, but to enable designers of the next generation of machines. At the very least, students are immediately useful as design engineers when hired by companies making the most advanced (and expensive) additive/subtractive machines. The emphasis is not on expensive super machines but on very capable simple machines as emphasized in the Toyota Production System. One specific, inexpensive example will be provided for other institutions to utilize. The result has been an affordable laboratory that supports undergraduate students, graduate research students, and the university as a whole while teaching the design and control of computer numerical machines.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME
Topics: Computers



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