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Teamwork trains new machinists, programmers: a technical college program in an area hard hit by the loss of general manufacturing and semi-skilled jobs is successfully re-training those employees for highly skilled machining and programming tasks.

Moraine Park Technical College (West Bend, WI) provides a two-year technical diploma in its Machining Technician program, which includes a track in CNC programming and operations, among others. Moraine Park's (MPTC) two-year associate degree in tool & die design is reportedly the only one of its kind in the state of Wisconsin


With the rapid evolution of machine tool technology, keeping pace with the latest equipment, controls and especially software/communications platforms can be a daunting task. At the Applied Manufacturing Technology Center (AMTC) CNC programmer/operator lab, for example, the equipment includes a horizontal machining center with pallet changer and tool selection carousel, wire EDM, CNC CMM, six vertical machining centers, and four lathes. The tool & die lab contains four VMCs, two wire EDMs, two sinker EDMs, two benchtop CMM's, seven lathes, seven 6-18 grinders, three 12-24 wet grinders, 100-ton punch press with servo auto-feed, 90-ton plastic injection molding press, 20 2-D conversational manual milling machines, and two power feed drill presses.

An important aspect of all machine training today is the control technology onboard. On two of the VMCs in the CNC lab, each a Hardinge 600II with 8000 rpm spindles, there are Siemens SINUMERIK 810D CNC's, with the proprietary Siemens ShopMill software suite.


As Jim Hokenson, CNC instructor of the AMTC explains, "The Siemens CNC is an intelligent control with excellent flexibility. ShopMill is a very productive package, especially when doing shop floor programming. The graphic user interface is very helpful to novice programmers and operators. The 3D solid graphic verification is exemplary. The file management system is easily followed and understood. The fact that normal G-code can be intermixed with ShopMill code is a great feature. We've undergone three software upgrades and the transition has been seamless." As Hokenson noted, the software upgrades were requested of Siemens to keep the training up-to-date and AMTC provides feedback documentation in exchange.

Students here normally start out on 6061 aluminum, because it machines faster, as well as 1018 steel. After the basic concepts are mastered, the students move onto other steels such as O-1, D-2, S-7, 4140, 410SS, P-20, and H-13, plus composite plastics, brass, and hardened tool steels. Typically, the parts produced here resemble fittings, valves, valve bodies, stamping die punches, die blocks, mold die cores and cavities, plus various components for personal machinist's tools.

On the Hardinge VMCs, the Siemens controls are used for axis movement and spindle control. Communications on the AMTC's machine tools is primarily wireless Ethernet, though a fully-wired RS232 network is also present and is taught to students.

Set-Up Programming

Jim Hokenson described a typical set-up protocol on the CNC. "The Siemens control is very easy to navigate and, since the file manager is Windows[R]-based, the students have no trouble creating, saving, moving, and editing programs.

"Typically, the student uses an edge finder to locate their part zero. Once they set up the edge finder in the tool library, they can set the offset. The position screen is checked for configuration. Next, the tool offsets are established. The tool length measure mode is enabled, then the student will tell the machine to put the proper tool into the spindle via the S, T, M mode. The tool is then brought down to their 1.0000" touch-off block. The 1.0000" value is checked in the tool length measure page and then the length measure key is pressed. Tools and offsets are now set.

"The Z-axis is set to the home position, using the axis zero return button. The program is now ready to be written at the machine or loaded offline. If it's written at the machine, the student will create a program using ShopMill and verify it with the graphics software. If the program is to be loaded offline, the student will navigate to the program through the local net 1, 2 or 3 channels. The program is then transferred to the CNC memory and executed."

Siemens continues to supply the AMTC with training and upgrades, as part of its ongoing commitment to assist the vital education of machinists and programmers in the area. Siemens Machine Tool Business or Circle 203 for more information
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Title Annotation:CAD / CAM
Publication:Modern Applications News
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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