Development of an Automated Manufacturing Course with Lab for Undergraduates

Deborah Munro, University of Portland

Frontiers in Education Conference, 2013, 496-501.

@ 2013 IEEE

Linked version is the final published version


Many engineering programs at universities across the country have dropped machine shop and manufacturing courses from their curriculum due to budget constraints, accreditation requirements, and concerns about student safety. At the University of Portland, we have resurrected and enhanced a hands-on advanced CAD and automated manufacturing course that introduces students to advanced solid modeling techniques in CAD, such as sweeps, lofts, and surfacing methods. In addition, students learn manual machining and vacuum forming in our machine shop, along with learning how to create tool paths for CNC machining their designed CAD parts out of wax on various three axis end mills, a 3D printer, and a 3D laser scanner. The end mills were all refurbished and/or repaired over a period of four years to get this course up and running. A commercial software package, MasterCAM, was used in conjunction with SolidWorks as the platform from which to learn about automated manufacturing. In addition, a MakerBot 3D printer was built from a kit to give students experience with future manufacturing techniques. The 3D laser scanner was student designed and built and creates CAD surface models of parts, useful for learning about reverse engineering. The machinable wax used for machining is recycled, melted down, and formed into blocks again for reuse. This saves considerable money. Our goal has been to enhance design quality in our curriculum through experiential learning. Prior to taking this course, all mechanical engineering students are required to take a solid modeling CAD course to learn the basics. However, our experience has been that students do not conceptually understand the importance of designing for manufacture. Although emphasized in all courses, without the hands-on experience, it is difficult for students to remember to apply fillet radii to the bottom of pockets, for example.When faced with having to fit a block with sharp corners into a machined pocket with its default small corner radii, however, learning is instantaneous. The early outcomes of this course show students have learned a great deal about design for manufacturing and manufacturing techniques from taking this course.