ShopWare and TMA Collaborate to Set Students Up for Success

ShopWare, Inc. in Elgin, Illinois, has consistently been one of the top five Mastercam Resellers in the U.S. and was named number one Reseller in 2010. Founded in 1992, ShopWare sells and supports the world’s leading CAD/CAM in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and, with the 2017 purchase of CAD/CAM Technologies, Indiana and Western Kentucky. The additional staff from CAD/CAM Technologies has contributed to a superior level of support and training services for their customers.

The Technology & Manufacturing Association (TMA) in Schaumburg, Illinois, was founded in 1925 as the Tool and Die Institute to fulfill the needs of metalworkers in the Chicago area. Today, training and development are among the valuable benefits TMA offers to its members. The organization offers a variety of manufacturing skills, instruction in tool-and-die making, mold making, and CNC machining as well as leadership development seminars and safety training workshops.

Seven years ago, Jack Krikorian, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, modernized the course curriculum when he joined TMA. He was instrumental in establishing CNC instruction for its members. With the purchase of two CNC machines, Krikorian introduced Mastercam into the advanced training offerings.

TMA’s CNC education programs are instructor-led with hands-on training in setting up, operating, and programming a CNC mill and CNC lathe machines. The next level of training involves advanced G-code techniques. Students select proper tooling; write, run, and verify G-code programs, and inspect to print specifications.

“I’m a big believer that you need to know G-code really well to be a good CAM programmer. I know better than to say that you have to program manually; I just like my students to know the G-code so that they can troubleshoot at the control,” said Krikorian. “I feel that having that strong base makes a better programmer, a better machinist.” TMA’s computer lab includes many seats of Mastercam for students and one for the instructor. While teaching, Krikorian shares his screen, projecting his work onto a large screen so students can watch what he’s doing.

Students are exposed to 3D toolpaths that use Dynamic Motion technology. Dynamic Motion, or Dynamic Milling, uses proprietary algorithms programmed into the software to keep the tool constantly engaged with the material, allowing it to cut intricate geometries at higher speeds. The results include increased tool life, decreased cycle times, and a speedier programming process. Krikorian often looks to the team at ShopWare to help with the students’ training. Offering classroom, onsite, and self-paced training in the software, TMA and ShopWare work together to set students up for success.

“I get them through the software basics so they understand and can see what’s available. They learn about all the different toolpaths, when to use them and which ones are going to work with the machines,” said Krikorian. “ShopWare can kind of take them from me and bring them to the next level. I’m working with ShopWare to raise up my own knowledge a little bit higher, too. I can get around it pretty well, and I can teach it. But those guys are really the professionals.”

TMA trains students on the machines that are used in their jobs where they are employed. “We’re cutting metal. We cut aluminum and stainless. We’re not cutting plastic,” said Krikorian. “We’re trying to be as realistic as possible and trying to match what students are doing back at their companies.”

Mastercam aligns well with Krikorian’s vision for the future of TMA training. When he’s not teaching, Krikorian said he is working on a new curriculum to keep pace with continual change in the industry.

“Computer-aided manufacturing is where everything’s going. I don’t want to be left behind. I’ve read articles that say the workforce is training on 40-year-old machines or technology that is from 40 years ago. I want TMA be at the forefront,” said Krikorian. “That’s why we always use the latest version of Mastercam software because of the latest toolpaths and new innovations that are coming forward with CAM.”

He credits the relationship with ShopWare for the success of the software training. “They’re wonderful. Without a partnership with ShopWare, there’s no way we would be able to do what we’re doing; they’ve helped so much,” said Krikorian. “I actually trained there, too. I watched what they did and with their help, I built my own curriculum off what I learned and from the feedback I receive from the students. That’s what I love about teaching—you don’t just teach—you learn a lot of things, too.”

Krikorian said his goal is to integrate 3D printing into the curriculum because TMA already has the machinery. Krikorian also hopes to eventually do even more with Mastercam, including introducing more stand-alone classes and higher-level CAM software training.