Barry Van Name 2017-05-04 00:25:30
WHEN we see, hear, and read about robotics and other high tech devices being designed and produced by students in high schools across the country, we don’t often stop to consider the learning steps needed to achieve these impressive creations. Paul Kynerd, Cambridge Engineering Instructor at Miami Lakes Educational Center in Miami, FL, knows, lives, and imparts the steps to his 100 or so students through the grade-by-grade CAD/ CAM program developed by Mastercam University. Mastercam U is a unique educational service available to users of Mastercam software. It offers certificates of proficiency to qualifying students in the program as they advance toward graduation. The program begins for students in the 9th grade at Miami Lakes, with Principles of Machining. Here, they learn metallurgy and the physics of materials. “As they learn simple tool paths and easy projects,” says Kynerd, “it gives them a basic foundation for everything that will be coming at them in grades 10 and 11. It’s a progressive program because you can’t throw someone into a complex venue like CNC machining without going through the entry-level steps. Otherwise, it would be like throwing a baby into the water and saying ‘okay, now swim.’ Mastercam U has been through all the beta testing, and we were part of that, and the program assures a smooth transition from one step to the next.” During this first year of Mastercam U, students begin to develop their skill sets and gain a perspective of what automated manufacturing is all about. “They are given the basics,” says Kynerd, “regarding materials, chip load, tool speeds, what tools are made of and how they relate to the materials being cut, creating different types of tool paths and then manufacturing a product as a hands-on activity.” The students do not each build a complete product because that would be too time-consuming, considering all that must be covered in the curriculum. “If you take 15 students in a class and think of a jigsaw puzzle that requires 15 pieces to complete the whole,” says Kynerd, “that’s pretty much what we do at this point. Each student must program the tool paths for one piece and recognize how they all come together in one ‘product.’ “After all, that’s what they will be doing when they go into a manufacturing industry. A Boeing aircraft, for instance, will be manufactured from many individual parts that must fit together perfectly. Every component in a wheel assembly must be designed, programmed, and machined exactly to spec or that plane will be in trouble when it comes in for a landing. The curriculum teaches this, and I reinforce it.” These 9th graders are taught quite a range of operations, from setting up the offsets on the CNC mills, setting up the fixtures and mounting parts to be machined, and then machining their programmed parts out of wax, wood, and plastic. Softer, less expensive materials are selected for this grade since there are quite a few trial-and-error steps and the materials are more forgiving than the aluminum and titanium work pieces used in the upper grades. At the start of the 10th grade curriculum, leading to a Mastercam Associates Certification, students are oriented to the latest version of software, which is currently Mastercam 2017. The curriculum focuses on the use and application of Mastercam CAM software. Reading and understanding part prints is something Kynerd stresses at this point. “The videos that are part of the Mastercam U program help spoon-feed print reading to the students as they develop this skill set,” says Kynerd. “We also emphasize geometry in tool path programming and understanding various concepts, such as rotation. That would be like taking a part, such as a contoured segment of a ‘mag’ wheel for an automobile, and rotating it around the rest of the wheel to easily repeat the program for all the other wheel segments. Once they relate the part print to the actual part, it’s like a light bulb going on.” More difficult part clamping and fixture set-up is tackled as the 10th grade progresses. “If I have them producing a two-sided kidney-shaped piece for example, they’re taught how to orient the piece after the first side is machined in order to correctly machine the opposite side and have it match the print. We also teach them commercial set-ups, where they will clamp three work pieces to the CNC mill’s table and machine three identical parts, just like they will do in a mass-production operation in a plant or job shop.” Applied advanced math is stressed in the Mastercam U curriculum. “They’re into Cartesian coordinates constantly,” says Kynerd. “When the students are using vises and fixtures, they turn on the 3D feature because the orientation of the part keeps changing. “They also use the World Coordinate System (WCS) with this curriculum. They’re rotating the part in Mastercam so that the face they’re working on, whether it’s the top, back, left, right, or bottom, is always facing upwards. They have to go through the learning cycle of having to set the piece’s orientation relative to the tool plane they need to do the machining. “To explain this simply, say there are three holes drilled in the bottom of a block and they go up 1/2". On a traditional three-axis machine, you’re always drilling from the top. So you basically have to map the bottom of the part to the top and the WCS is the vehicle you use in Mastercam to do that.” At the culmination of the coursework for the year, the students take an exam calling for a passing grade of at least 80% in order to receive their Associates Certificate. In the 11th grade, projects become much more difficult and the Mastercam U curriculum calls for more complex tool path programming and work piece machining. Having been introduced to Mastercam’s high speed machining capabilities in the 10th grade, they now use Mastercam 2017 software to achieve Maximum Stock Engagement for a variety of 3D High Speed Finishing tool paths. “What we’re teaching at this point is full-tool immersion,” says Kynerd. “For example, if a milling tool has a flute length of 1", we’ll stick it into the part 7/8" and cut in a parabola motion at high finishing speeds so long as we’re doing it on a rigid machine tool. On a lighter weight machine, we won’t bury the tool as deep, but can ramp the feed rate way up. “In aluminum, I might be taking 20/1,000 per cut, but running high spindle speeds at a feed rate of 300" per minute. I actually do that on a milling machine here and when that program is running, it’s quite something to watch. The students are getting a good handle on Mastercam’s high speed machining with extreme accuracy. That’s teaching productivity and that’s what it’s all about in the real world.” Toward the end of the 11th grade, Kynerd’s students are eligible to take the exam for Mastercam’s Professional Certificate. “It’s a two-part test,” says Kynerd. “The first part is geometry based. They must create geometry from a working drawing that is a complete match to the print in an hour and a half. After the result has been verified, the student must take the same part that they have completed and in 2-1/2 hours they will complete the programming of the tool paths and create set-up sheets for all six sides of the part. The part has been cut as an STL file and the tolerances are verified. “Passing this test is extremely important to our students. Having a Mastercam Professional Certificate is like gold for those entering industry or looking to advance their education in a college or university.” In the 12th grade, Kynerd’s students use what they’ve learned in the previous three grades for their Senior Project. This year, they are designing and building Battlebots, the robots of destruction that are popular across the country and have earned many 1st place awards for Miami Lakes’ teams over the years. “Right now, we have six teams of three kids each,” says Kynerd. “In another class I’ve been teaching SolidWorks Industrial Design and Systems, along with electrical work, soldering, and so on. By having the students work together in competitive teams, they stretch their capabilities along with their imaginations. Designing a virtual part is one thing, but now they see the importance of matching one part to another so the screw holes, for instance, are where they should be for assembly.” The students create the first version of their Battlebot design in plastic, programming the tool paths in Mastercam and transferring the files to one of the school’s 3D printers. The second version has the main robot body machined on a CNC mill out of ultra high-density molecular polyethylene, supplied courtesy of a local vendor. The third version is machined on a CNC mill out of aluminum stock and continues the design and manufacture to include a working weapon system, with the total weight of the robot held to within a 3 lb. limit. The teams must have a successfully working Battlebot in order to get an “A” for their project. “These kids are getting a head start on actual product manufacturing with CNC software and CNC machine tools that they will have to do eventually, whether it’s in college or on the manufacturing floor,” says Kynerd. “They’re making designs for motors to fit as they should, designing and programming different speed controllers, creating a weapon system, all coming together in a battling robot they will take into an arena to perform.” About a third of Kynerd’s students are female and have had many successes as the school’s allfemale Team Jag Battlebots competitors. “In many cases,” says Kynerd, “our students are doing projects relative to a senior year in college right here in high school. The whole cycle our students experience with Mastercam U, in a nutshell, includes building fundamental skills, basic programming, high speed programming, and then applied high speed programming of a six-sided work piece, culminating in Mastercam Professional Certification. “Many of our students that have achieved this certification have gone on to some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country and now hold enviable engineering positions in design and manufacturing companies from coast to coast. I’m a firm believer that Mastercam U is unique in helping students realize their potential.” Barry Van Name is an editorial associate with Lynn Gorman Communications LLC, specializing in technology education and industry topics.
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