Harlow College says it has a hotbed of talent at its new Engineering Centre, and is training all its students on Edgecam software so they will have a practical advantage in the jobs market.
The College’s Advanced Manufacturing Centre opened earlier this year, and the £11m investment included five CNC machining centres and lathes along with the independent CAM software, Edgecam, to drive them. Principal Tutor Mark Howland says they looked at a number of systems, and Edgecam was the best one for meeting their overall needs.
“It was clear from the initial demonstration that it has both powerful milling and turning capabilities, and wasn’t going to be a headache moving on from CAD to CAM. There’s nothing in it that’s scary for the students.”
Simon Boyce, Harlow College’s Head of Marketing, says it’s essential their students become work-ready, so they can enter the workplace with the right skills. “We identified Edgecam as a software solution that is used extensively throughout industry for 3- and 5-axis milling, and for turning. When the students progress into work, they’ll be fully trained on it, and be able to hit the ground running.” And with CAD/CAM and computers playing an increasingly important role in engineering and manufacturing, more girls are now taking a growing interest in it as a career.
The new 2,000 square-metre centre focuses on key engineering areas including advanced manufacturing, operational maintenance, aerospace, and civil engineering, running a variety of B-Tech, Diploma, and NVQ level 2 and 3 courses.
The college has a number of technical partners, including Edgecam for the software and DMG MORI for machine tools. The workshop currently comprises a DMU 50 5-axis machining centre with Heidenhain control, NLX 1500 SY turning centre with Mitsubishi control, ecoMill 600 vertical machining centre with a Siemens control, and a 450 ecoTurn turning centre with Mitsubishi control and tool presetter…along with a sliding head Sprint which is due to come online later this year.
“Each of those uses a different post processor language, but with Edgecam we can upload machine-ready NC code seamlessly to them all.”
They have also retained the range of manual machines they had in their old workshop, to give the students initial experience before moving on to CNC.
With the College being located in the London to Cambridge corridor close to Stanstead Airport there are a number of specialist manufacturers which he says are crying out for skilled engineers.
As most companies now use CNC machine tools, Mark Howland says the time was right for the College to begin offering practical CAM modules in their courses. “Previously the students only had practical experience of manual machining, and we just looked in theory at how CAD linked to CAM. Now we can demonstrate Edgecam, and the students learn it hands-on.”
Edgecam’s Technical Partnership Manager, Wesley Tonks, says: “The centre provides Vero Software with the opportunity to develop the UK’s technical skills base. In collaboration with Sandvik Coromant and DMG Mori we can ensure these young engineers are equipped with the practical knowledge for industrial manufacturing challenges in the future.”
The new centre was opened by the Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, following full consultation with local employers, as to what they were looking for.
Mark Howland explains that as well as training apprentices, the centre is also operating on a commercial basis for companies to undertake Research and Development: “For a manufacture to take a machine offline for R & D purposes means it’s not producing a part or component, so it’s losing money. Because we have industry-standard machine tools, programmed by the Edgecam advanced software, we can charge companies to use them both for R & D, and even for short production runs. And our students can operate the machines for them, so they’re also gaining valuable practical experience of working on real products required by industry.”
And the college is also confident of a possible commercial spinoff from one of the students’ coursework design and manufacturing projects. “They’re designing skateboards, including off-road skateboards with larger wheels. We 3D print the prototype to prove the designs, and they then go through Edgecam to create the toolpaths for machining.” College Principal Karen Spencer is hopeful of creating a business carrying out design, manufacturing and sales, giving the students the entire industry experience.
Simon Boyce adds: “It’s an essential part of our strategy to ensure the students are completely work-ready when they leave the college. Having industry-standard machine tools programmed by Edgecam may give them a distinct advantage over students from other institutions who are applying for the same jobs.”
And the last word goes to Harlow College Principal and Chief Executive, Karen Spencer: “Our new centre here at Harlow College develops the skills of students to use the latest advanced technologies, giving them a competitive advantage to get the best careers.
“Vero Software and Edgecam are world leading – we therefore selected them as a technical partner to ensure our students get real cutting edge industry experience.”
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