VINCENNES, IN — Vincennes University, a flagship Haas Technology Education Center (HTEC) in Vincennes, IN, and Flying S Inc. in Palestine, IL offer an example of education working in lockstep with a real-world industry partner.

U.S. manufacturing has been trying to pull the nose up on the work force development crisis for the past several years. Many open job recommendations have gone unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates; while at the same time, manufacturing technology and work flow processes have continued to evolve, in essence creating a moving target to be fulfilled. An example of this is metrology, which includes quality inspection, reporting, reverse engineering, assembly guidance, and tool building.

“Metrology has always been an intricate part of the manufacturing process, but in today’s digital world, it plays an ever-increasing role,” says Ernie Husted, president and CEO of Verisurf Software. “Everything that defines a part exists in a single digital archive, including how to manufacture and inspect the part.” 

This process is referred to as Model-Based Definition (MBD), where the CAD model is relied upon as the design nominal against which all parts are measured and inspected. This keeps the all-important digital thread intact, but also raises challenges, which are met by CAD-based measurement and inspection solutions like Verisurf. The measurement software must be able to append the CAD model in order to maintain the digital thread. In practice, this is often necessary.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Complex or organic surface profiles that must be validated or created for manufacturability through scanning, reverse engineering, and modeling
  • Missing Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) data that must be added during the manufacturing engineering process
  • Design and fabrication of assembly or check fixtures, based on a reverse model of the manufactured part
  • Inspection and quality reporting of the physical part against the nominal CAD model, the virtual ‘golden’ part

“A single CAD-based measurement solution using a variety of digital input devices is all that is necessary to support MBD and maintain the digital thread, but operator training is critical,” Husted says.

For quality inspection, the lab used to be the bottleneck, especially for large parts and short production runs. Idling machines, fixturing, and moving parts through the shop, combined with backlogs in the lab, all contribute to reduced production throughput. 

With the adoption of in-process inspection, many shops now handle most of their inspection and reporting right from the shop floor. This provides significant gains in productivity and presents an opportunity for machine operators. If properly trained and certified, machine operators can conduct quality inspection and reporting routines within their work cell. Machine operators who are cross-trained in metrology provide increased value to their company, which in turn provides greater earning potential for themselves.

The quality lab continues to play an important role, especially for large production jobs requiring 100 percent inspection, but many shops are also employing dedicated quality inspectors assigned to in-process inspection on the shop floor. Dynamics that exist in today’s manufacturing environment support the notion that machine operators trained in metrology, and specifically inspection, present better opportunities for the company and the employee.

About Vincennes University

Vincennes University is an Indiana State College and HTEC Flagship school. Under the direction of Doug Bowman, HTEC Director of Education, who has taught machining and industrial design for almost 35 years, Vincennes students won the coveted Mastercam Innovator of the Future Award  five years running. 

As a flagship school, Vincennes is one of five teacher training centers that serve the 2200 HTEC network schools that deliver machining programs nationwide. In addition to their associate degree programs, the school offers a variety of technology programs designed to retrain, advance, or otherwise prepare individuals for a career in manufacturing. 

Programs offered include:

  • CNC Training
  • Metrology Training
  • Industrial Maintenance Training

“Metrology is involved in everything we teach at Vincennes;" it’s a must when machining parts," Bowman says, "Depending on the wants and needs of the students and employers, we can offer flexible courses, which helps manufacturers build from existing employees versus. robbing personnel from other shops. Ideally, we seek to train incumbent workers or those that have a letter of intent to be hired when training is completed,”

Two different types of metrology training programs are offered at the Vincennes, Lebanon, IN facility; a variety of short term training courses and an intensive 15-week metrology course that delivers over 600 hours of classroom and hands-on training, leading to an ASQ Certified Quality Inspector (CQI) certification.  

Training programs at Vincennes typically cater to:

  • Workforce Development – providing returning veterans and mid-career change adults with accelerated certificate programs and extended 15-week programs
  • Incumbent Worker Development – three to six-day training classes
  • Associate Degree Program – Precision Machining Technology Degree
  • Bachelor’s Degree Program – VU, and in cooperation with Purdue University

Syncing Up with Real-World Manufacturing

What makes the Vincennes HTEC different and a fit for industrial shops looking to expand their workforce is that Vincennes is equipped like a production shop, with 19 Haas machines on its main campus and 13 more on its Lebanon campus--along with Mastercam software, an array of fixed gantry CMMs, portable CMMs, and Verisurf Software. Vincennes is capable of addressing all aspects of manufacturing engineering, CNC machining, automated quality inspection and reporting, Renishaw Ballbar testing, and industrial maintenance.

“We are able to tweak our program curriculum if we know the job description of the student or the specific needs of the employer," says Wes Shelton, director of metrology at the Vincennes, Lebanon, IN facility. "This type of partnership best fills the needs of the student and the employer."

Such is the case with Flying S, a full-service manufacturing facility ready to deliver on just about any rapid prototype or manufacturing project you could dream. Flying S fabricates a variety of aerospace parts, from aircraft wings made of carbon fiber to intricate molds and complex machined parts. To ensure quality and efficiency they are equipped to complete an entire project: from engineering to machining to carbon fiber layup to assembly to testing to painted product, all in their facility.

Vincennes University and Flying S both approached the need for workforce development independently, but came together somewhat serendipitously to form a synchronized and highly effective relationship: one that drives curriculum and process development, in addition to turning out skilled workers. 

Flying S is located in a rural part of the Midwest and specializes in all things aerospace. The genesis of the company was owner Dave Shaw’s passion for flying. The company began in a garage with plenty of potential to grow, but with limited access to ready-trained workers.

In 2011, Shaw turned to Vincennes in hopes of recruiting qualified manufacturing graduates. He ended up with more than he bargained for.

 “Doug and his team at Vincennes took an active interest in our business, not only by referring new team members, but by providing focused training,” Shaw says. “We share what we need, along with any challenges we are facing, and they respond with specific training programs and process improvement suggestions.”

Flying S continues to grow, currently employing about 50 people--12 of whom are CNC machinists running 22 machines. The company recently added a lights out operation, and Vincennes helped develop and test the process in addition to training the operators.

The application was replicated in the Vincennes lab; and once modeled and proven, Flying S invested in the equipment and the people to bring it online in their shop. 

“This is a perfect example of how we have come to rely on Vincennes as an education partner," Shaw says. "This relationship with VU has enabled rapid growth and expansion of our machine shop capabilities."

Flying S is a shop on the cutting edge, partly because they are humble enough to ask for help when it comes to workforce and process development; the two go hand-in-hand. Consistency between process development and training results in increased productivity and quality, when in turn produces a growing business with satisfied customers. 

Every CNC machinist at Flying S has completed one or more programs at Vincennes University.

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