Grasping Manufacturing Engineering Technology Through Hands-on Learning
For more than 12 years, Dan Kandray has served as an associate professor of the Mechanical Engineering Department, College of Engineering and Polymer Science, at the University of Akron (UA). A professional engineer with 36 years of industry experience, he has had a front-row seat to the fast-paced evolution of manufacturing technology.
Educational Suite, Multiaxis
“When I first started teaching CAD 25 years ago, I had to teach people how to save a file in a folder,” he said. “That’s where we were at that time. Now, students and people in industry are seasoned computer users.”
Offered through UA’s Mechanical Engineering department, the Advanced Manufacturing Engineering Technology program helps students develop hands-on skills needed for the operation, programming, and implementation of advanced automated manufacturing technologies. After earning an associate degree, a student may continue on to the Automated Manufacturing Engineering Technology program to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Mastercam courses are required in the bachelor’s degree program.
“As I tell students, these classes are probably going to be the most fun classes that they take during their university careers—I never had any tell me otherwise,” he said. “The classes are not easy, but they are extremely rewarding.”
CNC Programming I and CNC Programming II focus exclusively on Mastercam. By the end of the advanced class, students learn 5-axis programming. To keep the curriculum manageable, Kandray focuses on standard toolpaths then finishing operations. In this advanced class, students machine parts with a variety of paths then analyze the differences in geometry.
A pre-requisite intro to CNC course serves as everyone’s first CNC course; students learn CNC programming by writing G-code by hand.
“When they get to Mastercam, they’re usually mad at me because I made them write all this code by hand and then they get to see the wonders of the software,” Kandray said. “They see how the technology can expedite and vastly improve the capability.”
As hands-on learning is a sure-fire way for students to gain and retain knowledge, class projects play a major role in UA’s manufacturing technology programs. This first exposure to Mastercam results in learning to use the user interface, creating geometry, and applying toolpaths to projects. The second class follows the same procedures. Students then learn how to create most surface finishing toolpaths. Kandray assigns specific toolpaths and each student machines a part. The parts are then compared to illustrate toolpath effectiveness. A 5-axis toolpath application comes next.
“When performing 5-axis machining with a group of students, you don’t have much margin for error or else you’ll crash the machine,” said Kandray. Verify and Backplot come in handy here.
For a final project, students apply what they learned over the course to create a 5-axis project. They develop code for all five sides and then perform full 5-axis contouring—usually simple 5-axis contouring because the department has one 5-axis machine and up to 12 students.
Manufacturing technology is alive and well at the University of Akron. So much so that creation of a new national research center for precision manufacturing center is underway. In addition, UA is making a push to offer more workforce development training with local industry in the areas of robotics, CNC machining, and CNC programing courses.
Introducing college students to CAD/CAM software.
Mastercam, the world’s most widely used CNC software
- The ease-of-use of Mastercam allows students to develop hands-on skills needed for the operation, programming, and implementation of advanced automated manufacturing technologies.
- Mastercam helps students learn the user interface, create geometry, and apply toolpaths to their projects.
“When they get to Mastercam, they’re usually mad at me because I made them write all this code by hand and then they get to see the wonders of the software. They see how the technology can expedite and vastly improve the capability.”— Dan Kandray, Associate Professor of the Mechanical Engineering Department, College of Engineering and Polymer Science at the University of Akron, Akron, OH