Mechanical Engineer Shares Mastercam Story

Orion Radtke first used Mastercam as a student at California State University at Long Beach (CSULB), where he participated as a senior member of the school’s FSAE team (Society of Automotive Engineers – Formula 1). He has since graduated and begun a rewarding career as a mechanical test engineer.

Orion took the time to send an email to our Educational team, expressing gratitude for our sponsorship of his SAE program. He was also kind enough to answer some questions about his experience and how it helped with his career, providing some great insight into the relationship between design and manufacturing, technology and education, and much more.

What was your major? Where did you go to school?
I majored in mechanical engineering and graduated from California State University, Long Beach.

When did you first take an interest in engineering?
Probably as a kid playing with Legos®, although I did not know what engineering was. I always liked cars as well, so it seemed like the best path to work on cars.

Did you have technical education in high school?
I had no technical training in high school, but my dad taught me a little about working on cars. I had no idea what a mill was until my first year in college.

What was your earliest experience with CAD/CAM or Mastercam specifically?
I was taught CAD my first semester of freshman year and then used it a lot in FSAE. During the second half of my freshman year, I shadowed someone who was using Mastercam. He didn’t really know what he was doing at first, so we both had to use Google to figure out how to use the program and run our mill. We had a lot of difficulty making our first part.

Orion, fifth to the right, and his CSULB SAE team

Describe your experience with CSULB SAE.
CSULB SAE allowed me to apply some of the principles I had learned in class to FSAE. It also helped me go out and learn skills not taught in school that I could apply to help build the car. It really made some classes much more interesting, because I could apply what I learned to make the car better.

How did learning Mastercam help you in your education?

Mastercam and machining in general helped teach me about designing to manufacture. Since I was making the parts, I had to design parts I could make. As I learned more about machining and specifically CAM, I was able to design more complex parts. I’d say that was key.

Many engineers learn how to design in the classroom and never have their early designs manufactured. They miss the subtle and not so subtle features that have to be considered when the part has to be manufactured. We only spent about two weeks on CAM in one college class, so knowing CAM didn’t help much in terms of actual school, but it is obviously very useful in industry.

Also, my senior design project was really nice, because I was able to machine much more complex parts than the other students.

2-axis centrifugal mixing machine; senior project designed using SOLIDWORKS

2-axis centrifugal mixing machine; senior project machined using Mastercam

How has knowing Mastercam helped in your career?
On my first day of work, one thing I knew how to do was program in Mastercam and run the mill they had. I wasn’t familiar with the CAD program or the environment I was working within, but it was nice to know I had one skill that carried directly over from school, and I was able to use it immediately. This really helped me hit the ground running, and I was able to demonstrate my value to our group immediately.

I am currently working as a mechanical test engineer. To this day I am still using Mastercam to machine parts. I think it was part of the reason I got hired, and it’s one of the unique skills I bring to my area of the company. People love when they can hand me a model, and I can give them the part in a matter of hours, where it can take weeks to do a drawing and get it contracted out.

So, has knowing Mastercam helped with your job prospects?
Yes, I interviewed at a company who used Mastercam and had an unused CNC mill. This gave me, as an engineer with Mastercam experience, a huge foot up over everyone else interviewing for the position. Also, in my line of business, having the ability to make parts in house saves a ton of time and money. It is a fairly unique skill at my company as currently our in-house machinists don’t know CAM so many complex parts get sent to outside machine shops.

What are some things about Mastercam that you really like?
I love all the updates and high-speed stuff that’s been added. It’s great to be able to go from Dynamic Mill to Contour in the same toolpath. Another thing I like is that Mastercam can be stand alone or supplement other CAD programs. If the company standard CAD software at work is several years old, I am still able to keep the most up-to-date CAM using Mastercam.

Do you have any advice for students preparing for a job in your field?
If you want to be a designer, you have to have some experience with manufacturing. Also, an engineer with CNC experience can be very useful for many engineering firms, especially in the R&D process, where speed is the most important thing.

Why was it important to you to reach out and share your story?
Knowing Mastercam has made a large impact on my early career, and I think it could give a lot of other engineers and machinists a real step up over their peers in terms of job outlook. It’s also great that Mastercam has a program that gets the software into the hands of students interested in learning it at no cost.

Lastly, I’d like to say again that I really do love the software, and it has definitely made an impact on my life. While I cannot give all the credit to Mastercam, machining and CNC specifically has made me a much better engineer.

If you are a student, teacher, or industry professional with a great project or experience using Mastercam, we’d love to hear from you! Please email, and we’ll help you share your story.