“Our crown jewel piece of equipment is our CNC machine,” says Neil Heuer, co-owner of Grand Woodworking, Naples, FL. “This machine lets us make parts that are too cumbersome to be produced by hand.” The Holz-Her CNC router at Grand also provides a cost-effective way to make them.
For rapidly growing Grand Woodworking, the CNC was part of the 2010 launch plan, and the new staff had experience operating them.
How do firms who are moving into CNC for the first time learn begin to learn?
As with most other equipment, woodworkers begin with the manufacturer for education on CNCs.
Training is so essential, CNC maker Multicam opened a 14,000 square foot North Texas Technology Center near its Dallas headquarters.
“Extensive free training is included with the purchase of every Onsrud CNC system,” says CR Onsrud. The Troutman, NC manufacturer operates a high tech learning center for wood, metal and aerospace industry customer training. “The learning curve is not steep,” says Onsrud, noting its CNCs work with the CAD/CAM program its customers choose.
Stiles Machinery’s extensive education program offers machine specific training on CNCs in course paths geared to programmers, operators, or in maintenance. Some classes are taught at Stiles Education Center in Grand Rapids, MI; others through interactive computer training modules intended for use at the woodworking company.
Course MC705, for example, enhances basic programming skills on Stiles WoodWOP software, walking users through importation of AutoCAD DXF files into WoodWOP, creation of variable and component tables, creating parametric contours, and programming machining aggregates.
Teaching Stem Skills
Some woodshops will begin with a small CNC devices from firms like ShopBot, Oliver or Laguna, to learn how CNC operates. ShopBot says its relatively lower-cost machines are often adopted by schools putting greater emphasis on so-called STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in classes.
The centerpiece of the woodworking vocational trade program at the Ridgeland (SC) Correctional Facility is a recently acquired Laguna Tools I.Q. CNC Machine, currently used by 30 trainees.
At Madison (WI) College, woodworking program director Patrick Molzahn teaches a broad view of CNCs, as well as operations, so students have a perspective on how the equipment is operated and optimized.
“I train my students for 28 hours over four days,” says Molzahn. Students learn history and terminology, software and planning, machine operation and safety, tooling, fixturing and calibration.
At Chicago’s West Town Woodworkers Training instructor Doug Rappe leads students through math essential to understanding things like 3-dimensional coordinates employed by the machines. The first step in working with computer numeric controlled woodworking machines means learning how to think like the equipment does, then stepping backwards to plan out its moves.
“By the time we get to the CNC, they have a solid basis,” Rappe says. Students run oversized parts on a sliding table saw, cut them down on the CNC router, and compare parts to original drawings, “so we can show them how the software relates to the finished products.”
CNC can refer to any machining center that is computer numeric controlled. A video below shows an OMEC cutting dovetails.
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