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Milling With Purpose

Response to Unique Course a Pleasant Surprise

Schmitz and Leah Jacobs

By David Goddard.

Advanced manufacturing has rapidly gone from a concept developed and practiced mainly in research centers to establishing itself as a major influence on industry.

Its impact is being felt across Tennessee, which exports more than $30 billion in manufactured goods per year according to state figures, and particularly in East Tennessee, with centers at UT, ORNL, and elsewhere helping push the knowledge and applications of this new method of production.

Employers are understandably eager to have their workforce stay in tune with the latest advancements, and a program being led by MABE Professor Tony Schmitz is helping them do just that.

“We set out with a goal of helping train workers in techniques and processes that are at the forefront of advanced manufacturing,” said Schmitz. “We wanted to make sure that everyone from machinists to engineers to designers could benefit from the course, and we were hopeful that we might see a good response and interest in participating.”

It is all a part of a larger initiative known as America’s Cutting Edge (ACE), a US Department of Defense-sponsored effort sponsored by the Office of Industrial Policy’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment Program.

IACMI-The Composites Institute, ORNL, and Pellissippi State Community College are the other major players in the local version of the ACE initiative, which is specifically focused on training with computer numerical control (CNC) machining and computer aided manufacturing (CAM).

UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composite Manufacturing Uday Vaidya, who is IACMI’s chief technology officer and also serves in MABE, is helping with the course as well, providing an additional opportunity for those taking part to gain materials knowledge from an additional expert in the field.

The response to the idea has exceeded even their wildest expectations, with more than 1,000 people from 41 states having signed up in less than 90 days after its initial launch.

One reason for the incredible interest is that the course is available to high school, community college, and university students, as well as people already making careers in various manufacturing-related activities, all drawn from across the US.

Another advantage of the course is that there is no cost to participate.

Critically, the first portion of the course is specifically tailored for online learning, making it the perfect offering during the ongoing pandemic.

“CNC and CAM play major roles in our course, with tutorials and instruction given that lead to the production of an example part over the course of several lessons,” said Schmitz. “The critical role of vibration in the selection of CAM operating parameters is a key aspect of the training, including an app that enables participants to simulate the performance of machining operations on their computer.”

This summer, a limited number of students will be able to complete in-person training with the various partners to complement the online instruction.

For his part, Vaidya will talk about some of the challenges that arise when machining is applied to fiber composites.

“It requires you to use different tools than you would in a situation that involved milling or drilling of traditional materials,” Vaidya said. “We want to make sure participants have a chance to see the relationship between various materials and the techniques you might use to process them.”

All of which should help the region, the state, and the country stay ahead of the curve when it comes to manufacturing.