The Future of Manufacturing Education

What is CAD/CAM Software?Computer Aided Design. In reference to software, it is the means of designing and creating geometry and models that can be used in the process of product manufacturing. Computer Aided Manufacturing. In reference to software, it is the means of processing a designed part model, creating machine toolpath for its various components and creating an NC program that is then sent to a CNC Machine tool to be made.The purpose of CAD-CAM is to automate CNC programming and allow innovators, designers and cnc businesses to manufacture products, bringing them to market faster and more profitably than ever before. It is the concept of producing goods faster and for less.Manufacturers of The FutureIn 2013 and beyond, thousands of students in North America alone are currently planning to enter careers in Manufacturing. From Advanced Mechanical Design, Fabrication, Aerospace Engineering and Aircraft Manufacturing to Industrial Engineering, Automotive and CNC Machining, these students will be the future of Manufacturing moving forward. They will be the innovators, the creators and architects that will design and make all of the products we use on a daily basis. As design and manufacturing technology advances, so does the look and usability of the products we buy and use. Costs are driven down and the speed in which products are brought to market increases. This means that we can buy products from dishwashers to cell phones cheaper while enjoying a broader selection to choose from.While software providers are constantly moving forward in the development of CAD/CAM software, adding new automation and making it more intuitive than the last software revisions, you will agree that there needs to be a swiftly moving system of keeping these students on par with the cutting edge of CNC automation. Thus ensuring their survival once they land in shops and manufacturing businesses around the world.Here are some of the real-world challenges that educators and schools face when including manufacturing CAD/CAM technology in their curriculums.Focused Manufacturing CurriculumsA common challenge for CAD/CAM in Education has to do with the type of applications or even industries being taught along with the curriculum segments revolving around software as it relates to that specific industry or application. In 2008 a panel of manufacturing and business professionals were interviewed by O & P.com, an online resource for Orthotics and Prosthetics companies. The interviews focused on CAD/CAM software in education and the results were surprising. These business professionals really felt that there was a serious lack of professional training available in the area of CAD design and CAM machining technology.Some of them had even gone so far as to provide seminars on the subject at schools and universities in an effort to get educators more involved in the subject so that there would be some support for the industry moving forward. It makes sense. Even now in 2013 there is no CAD/CAM software product that caters to the design and manufacturing of prosthetics as an example. The closest form of CAD/CAM for a specific application would be special dental prosthetic products that cater to the dental industry. But what about the rest? Software is used for CNC automation in just about every available type of application today without schools having to find custom-specific application type systems.The solution has to be available where CAD/CAM providers work directly with the educator, teacher or school to develop curriculums that deal with specific applications in order to tune down the product and be more application focused. While many CAD/CAM providers will help, education still suffers because of budgets and the high price of implementing software for such cases.Educational Budget CutsMany states are currently looking at budget cuts for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 that will drop higher education budgets below 2008/2009 levels. The dollar amount spent per student in 2013 is down by more than half in over 50% of the US. In fact, 26 states will spend less per student in fiscal year 2013 than the year before and 35 are still spending at levels lower than before the recession, after adjusting for inflation. The truth is, we are going nowhere fast when it comes to financially investing in the manufacturers of our future. The solution is for CAD/CAM providers to change the way they think when it comes to supplying education with cutting edge cnc machining software products. We have to be smarter and make technology software implementation easier for schools at all levels than ever before. Many providers offer educational discounts, yet the costs are still well out of range. Not only this but what about the student that graduates and enters the workforce? If the student was trained on a $15,000-$20,000 CNC Programming system, how are they going to take a seat with them to their new employer? CNC Software for milling, turning, routing, water jet, plasma or laser can cost a substantial amount of money. There must be a solution to make NC programming technology more accessible to graduating students.Keeping Curriculums FreshAnother challenge for educators focuses on existing curriculums having to be continuously updated and modified in order to keep them current with manufacturing technology as it is developed moving forward. Again, CAD/CAM providers must have programs in place which not only address educational implementation, but that allow educators to keep them updated on the fly. Ultimately, teachers need an abundant volume of resources available to them, preferably online and accessible by mobile devices. This includes tiered tutorials, corresponding and example CAD Part Files, videos, knowledge based support, help files, Machine Post Processors and all other product support and training resource that empowers the teacher. Educator support should also be a phone call away. Educators that have existing curriculums should be able to easily adapt what they have to include CAD/CAM. This way implementation is simple and saves a lot of time.The SolutionGoing into 2014 the manufacturing industry is experiencing more growth.  This means that the demand for CAD-CAM software will be higher.  As will the need for CNC programmers that understand and know how to machine with software.  This is exactly why a “Manufacturers of The Future” program is needed for education.  A program that supports schools, teachers and ultimately the students.  Thus, ensuring that these students will have the software they were educated on before they begin their new journey into the manufacturing workforce.Schools & TeachersA”Manufacturers of The Future” program is a solution for schools and teachers at all levels that prepares students for CNC manufacturing because it addresses the challenges that today’s schools and educators face when it comes to implementation, curriculums and plain old affordability when they are already working with tight budgets. A successful program for supporting education would include the following:
Makes individual and multi-station lab licenses very affordable
Access to 2, 3, 4 and 5 axis cad-cam cnc software
Provides no-cost Technical Support and Training Solutions to teachers
Regularly updates training material to add resources
Provides cnc machine post processors
Keeps educators informed and successful
From access to online knowledge based cad-cam support portals to multi-level software tutorials, training video products and specialized one-on-one training, educators need this level of support.StudentsWith a Manufacturers of The Future “Work Ready” campaign, students receive the support they need in low cost professional cad-cam software versions so that they are ready and are more valuable as they start working in manufacturing.
“Work Ready” allows graduating students their software at reduced costs
Available multimedia training solutions that they can take with them
Continued Education & Advanced Online Operator Certification
These three items are critical for success. Students can achieve more in their professions with them. As a student or teacher there are solutions that exist to help teach and educate manufacturing students. A Manufacturers of The Future and a Work Ready type program created and provided by CAD-CAM vendors that get together to provide a dynamic multi-level support system that accommodates all levels of CAD/CAM products will be phenamenal. This would be the most productive and helpful method possible.  Who will step up and answer the call?  These are exciting times for education and the future of manufacturing.

The Accidental Project Manager: A Threat or an Opportunity?

Good Day AllAre you an accidental project manager?We hope that no one get offended by this term since the use of this term in our view is not offensive at all, rather it reflects a common reality. However, in case anyone object to the term, we truly apologize in advance and humbly ask you to read on and you might find out that our intentions are good-hearted.DefinitionSo what is the accidental project manager? Is it someone who is clumsy and stumbles into too many accidents? Absolutely not!It is a term that somewhat common to use. It typically refers to a professional who is educated, experienced, and practicing in one function or domain, such as: engineering, programming, marketing, human resources, finance, general business, art, and healthcare, among many other fields. This professional, at one time or another, is tasked with managing a project related to their function or department, such as an engineering related project, learning and development project, a media project, or any other project. Now, the challenge is that more often than none, this professional might not have any experience or education or training in project management yet they are still asked to manage a project.In other words, the professional is accidentally, or by chance/coincidence, get to manage a project although that was not likely a preferred career choice. Managing the project can be on a part-time or full-time basis. Once the project is complete, the professional resume his or her normal functional duties and maybe never manage a project again.The OpportunityFor many professionals the above bring about a great opportunity. An opportunity to take on a new challenge, and acquire new and highly valuable skills; management skills. These skills are in demand in today’s economy and life and are transferable to many domains, including managing personal non-work initiatives.If the person does a good job in managing the first project, she/he might be given an opportunity to manage another, and another, and maybe shift totally into project management and become a career project manager. A career PM is someone who chose project management as a career choice and shifted from whatever career they were in before. The transition might not be easy but would be quite rewarding.The ThreatsThe threat to the professional and the organization is that the accidental PM might not be ready to manage a project and as a result they might not do well on the first project. If the project has a significant degree of complexity, then the project might even fail and we are likely to blame the project manager. Could this be the error of the accidental PM? Basically, the professional is given a new “challenge” as the boss might have said, yet this professional who is given the challenge might not have the characteristics that is necessary for a good career project manager. Further, this person might not have been given the necessary education or know how to manage the projects and would not be fair to blame her/him.Therefore, the threat in this case is double edge: on the personal aspects, the accidental project manager is likely to feel responsible for the failure and this situation might hurt them professionally and personally. In some cases the consequences could be severe and detrimental to the person’s career. The other aspect for this situation is the organizational aspect. Here we have a failed project with cost and schedule impact – at least. If the project is for a client, the damage could be significant.In short, all involved lose in this scenario.The SolutionOne solution is to have all project managers educated and trained in project management but we do not believe this is necessary for all type of projects. For major capital investment projects, and projects that are very important for an organization we need the necessary preparation before we should put a project manager in charge.However, many projects, especially those in our day-to-day life and business, can be managed effectively with accidental project managers with some preparation. But we should not throw the person into the ocean and expect them to reach the shores safely if they do not know how to swim. We need to teach them the necessary to survive, maybe in a large pool and not the ocean; for the ocean we need an expert swimmer.How can we do that? Have the professional works on projects to see what it is like. Provide some basic project management learning opportunities. Have the person work as an assistant project manager under the supervision of a more experienced professional. All of these actions will enhance the chance of success and minimize the chance of failure. This way, we would have effectively managed the risk of the accidental project manager and the professional gain new skills while the organization enjoys the benefits of a new service or product.For all professionals out in the world, welcome the opportunity to manage a project and it may change your life. If the organization gives you the task without getting you ready, prepare on your own – seek the new knowledge and best of all learn how to apply it. We wish you an enjoyable and exciting journey of learning and growth.By the way, the author started his career as an engineer and then moved to projects.

Nature Photography – Five Tips For Great Rainforest Photos

Rainforest photography, like all good nature photography, is more about your sensitivity to nature than about expensive equipment. Of course you need a decent camera, and you must know how to use it. But the quality of your photos does not depend on the price tag on your camera. As long as you have a tripod, and a camera that allows you to adjust the aperture and shutter speed, you are set to go.I make my living from nature photography, including a lot of rainforest photos, and I have never relied on the latest equipment for my work. Great rainforest photography is simply about finding an eye-catching subject, in good light, and having a creative eye for composition.Note: The following tips are for photos of rainforest scenes, not for close-up photos of leaves, fungus etc.Rainforest Photography Tip #1: Choose a subject. As they say in the classics, “It’s a jungle out there.” In the rainforest, you are confronted with foliage, branches, roots, rocks, vines…in your face and all around you. A really good rainforest photo requires structure, to make some visual sense of all that clutter. Look for something that is immediately eye-catching – a big tree that dominates the trees around it; a root system that leads the eye; a waterfall or stream; in short, something that you can build a composition around.Rainforest Photography Tip #2: Use the best natural light. The mistake almost everybody makes at first is to take their rainforest photos on a bright sunny day when they are in the mood for a walk. Wrong! In full sunlight, the rainforest becomes a patchwork of light and shade that is impossible to expose properly. What you need is a cloudy day, when the light is much more even. Misty weather adds even more atmosphere to the rainforest, and can add a mysterious character to your rainforest photo.Do not use a flash. The flash illuminates the scene with flat, white light, eliminating the gentle play of natural light and shade that gives the rainforest its character. Always use the natural light.Rainforest Photography Tip #3: Carry a tripod. Taking your rainforest photo under a heavy tree canopy, on a cloudy day (see rainforest photography tip #2), means the level of light will be very low. You may be shooting at shutter speeds as slow as one or two seconds. You will always need your tripod, and it is best to avoid windy days so that the scene is as still as possible.Rainforest Photography Tip #4: Use a wide-angle lens (or a zoom lens, zoomed back to its widest angle). The wide angle lens has several advantages for rainforest photography. Firstly, it exaggerates the sense of perspective in a photo, creating a sense of three dimensional depth. Viewers of your photo will feel like they are looking not just at a rainforest, but into it. Secondly, the wide-angle lens has a naturally wide depth of field. With so much detail all around you, it is important that you can keep both the foreground and the background in focus.Rainforest Photography Tip #5: Stay on the path. There are some practical reasons for staying on the path when bushwalking. You minimize the possibility of getting lost, injured, or fined by some over-officious park ranger. The people who run the national parks are not stupid. They know what you want to see, and design their trails accordingly. Sticking to the path will not rob you of any great photo opportunities.In terms of rainforest photography, you are able to create some distance between you and the foliage around you. It is much easier to photograph a tree when you don’t have the branch of another tree in your face. By staying on the path, you can get a clear view of your subject, without interference. You can even use the path as part of the composition in your rainforest photo. It is an excellent way of inviting the viewer to join you on your walk in the rainforest.So there you have my five rainforest photography tips. Notice they concentrate on light and creativity, not on fancy techniques or equipment. You can make great improvements in all your nature photography this way, regardless of what type of camera you have.