Education: Aerospace Manufacturing Course

Teaching 5-axis CNC and CAM at Oregon Institute of Technology

Recently Dr. Culler and students at the Oregon Institute of Technology published a paper entitled “An Engineering Pedagogy for Developing Practical Knowledge and Hands-On Skills Related to 5-Axis Milling and Computer Aided Aerospace Parts Manufacturing Using Current Technology.” The course is designed for mechanical and manufacturing engineering students with the aim of specifically teaching 5-axis CNC milling and CAM techniques useful in the aerospace industry. The course utilizes the Pocket NC V2-10 for the hands on portion and Fusion 360 for the CAM software.

 v210 machine

Figure 1: V2-10 machine in enclosure, image courtesy of Pocket NC

Motivation for Course

Dr. Culler cites that there is a growing need for “mechanical, manufacturing, and aerospace engineering graduates to have experience and a working knowledge of all aspects of component design, process planning, CNC programming, and process improvement so that companies realize a competitive edge from their investments.” He indicates that the bottleneck is not necessarily machinists or machines but rather engineers with the knowledge of how to design and consider parts upstream from when the parts are actually cut. 

Course Overview

The students already had prior experience with 3 axis CNC and CAM, this 3 week course served as an extension into 5-axis CNC and CAM. The course was broken into several modules that included:

  • Fundamentals of 5-axis machining: theory, background, coordinate systems and possible 5-axis machine configurations
  • 5-axis machining for aerospace: material considerations, tool path optimization and machining considerations found routinely in aerospace components.
  • The first part tutorial for the Pocket NC - programming a simple cube with features in Fusion 360 and running it on the Pocket NC.
  • Designing and programming a variation of an impeller, a part common in aerospace.

work coordinate system setup

Figure 2: Setting up work coordinate system in Fusion 360 for first tutorial. Image courtesy of Kronenberger, et al.

Advantages and Outcomes

The advantage of incorporating the Pocket NC machine in this course was that it is a relatively inexpensive machine compared to other 5-axis milling machine options, includes options for simulation so students can run tool paths and anticipate crashes virtually before they happen physically, and if crashes do happen they are relatively low risk (you may break a tool, but there is typically no lasting impact to the machine). The article indicates that “it was critical that students be able to practice using a 5-axis system to gain true understanding within a practical real-world context of attempting to manufacture a complex part (representative of aerospace component machining) using 5-axis.”

impeller simulation

Figure 3: Simulating impeller part in second project. Image courtesy of Kronenberger, et al.

One of our goals at Pocket NC is to equip students with hands-on experience and time on 5-axis CNC milling machines as we and others have recognized a trend in needing more 5-axis experience in industries such as aerospace, among others. We were glad to see just this being implemented into a course at Oregon Tech. Whether these students go on to run 5-axis machines or design parts that need 5-axis machining, they will now have experience in the considerations of 5-axis machining to take on these tasks in their future careers.

More detailed information about the course can be found in the ASEE publication accessed here and more information on Oregon Tech can be found here.