Innovative CNC Machining Training Combines Learn-at-Home and In-person Components

Composites, Workforce

More than 850 students and adults across America are taking advantage of a new, no-cost CNC machining training program launched, in part by IACMI-The Composites Institute, that combines online learning and in-person machine time aimed at developing the next generation machine tool workforce and high-tech machinists in the United States.

The physics-based training is part of America’s Cutting Edge (ACE), a national initiative for machine tool technology development and advancement. It is supported by the Department of Defense (DoD) Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment Program from the Office of Industrial Policy. DoD is using the scientific expertise of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the workforce development leadership of IACMI. IACMI is partnering with The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville to pilot the new machine tool training framework.


“ACE is intended to help the United States recover the technical and manufacturing leadership position and enable our ability to design and make the machine tools required to produce so many of the products that are used in modern society,” says Adele Ratcliff, director of the IBAS program.

ACE’s online component features a unique learn-at-home computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software training opportunity, including tutorials and CAM lessons leveraging CAM+, a stand-alone app that stimulates machining performance. This summer, a limited number of participants who complete the online training will join an in-person, hands-on immersive training session being piloted in Knoxville. ACE participants range from high school, two-year and four-year colleges to incumbent workers in the manufacturing industry.

“The two-part program will help identify and train the next generation machine tool workforce, including machinists, machine tool designers, entrepreneurs, manufacturing engineers, and others,” says Dr. Tony Schmitz, a UTK mechanical engineering professor and ORNL Joint Faculty who developed the online curriculum and the CAM+ app.

Schmitz has teamed up with IACMI Chief Technology Officer Dr. Uday Vaidya to support the ACE CNC machining training program for metals and composites through learning trials, assessments, and preparation for national scale-up. 

“Fiber composites have unique challenges for operations such as drilling and milling,” said Vaidya, who is also the UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composite Manufacturing.

“The cutting tools are different from traditional tools in terms of the tool materials, specifications, and lifetimes,” Vaidya said. “We are developing a systematic way to introduce participants to these machine tools and relationships for composite materials processing and machining.”