Phase two of a unique training program aimed at developing the next-generation machine tool workforce got underway May 24 in Knoxville, Tenn. and continues this summer through six in-person boot camps being piloted jointly by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Pellissippi State Community College.
The boot camps are part of America’s Cutting Edge (ACE), a highly successful CNC machining training program developed by IACMI and UT Professor of Mechanical Engineering Tony Schmitz. ACE combines the workforce development leadership of IACMI, and the research and academic excellence of UT. The program is supported by the US Department of Defense Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program from the Office of Industrial Policy.
Designed to teach essential machining skills and address the nation’s growing manufacturing workforce gap, ACE kicked off in December 2020. The six-hour online curriculum walks users through the steps necessary to set up for machining a component, up to the point of engaging with the machine. It introduces new technology advancements being developed at Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL with partners like MSC Industry Supply to reduce expensive trial and error and increase productivity and efficiency of current machine tools. So far, more than 1,400 students from across the nation—including future manufacturing engineers, machine tool designers, entrepreneurs, machinists, and more—have taken the course.
The in-person test-bed course this summer will pick up with the on-machine setup. More than 60 participants will learn one step at a time and build on each previous day, ultimately producing the components necessary to create an oscillating air engine by machining and assembling four parts: base (aluminum), piston block (aluminum), valve block (printed polymer), and wheel (steel).