A slight departure from the normal discussion of class activities this week, as Engineering teacher Mr. Lewkowitz discusses his recent trip to Tormach in Waunakee, Wisconsin. Tormach makes CNC mills and lathes, and our shop has two of their machines, the PCNC 770, and PCNC 1100. Mr. Lewkowitz took a week long workshop at Tormach to learn more about these machines, from basic maintenance to using CAM.
My flight was scheduled to leave at 3pm on Monday, giving me plenty of time to get settled before the workshop began on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, mother nature did no cooperate, and my flight was cancelled. I was able to rebook my flight for early Tuesday morning, meaning I would miss a few hours of the workshop.
Tormach is located just outside of Madison, Wisconsin in the small town of Waunakee. It is located in an industrial business park. There was a lot of snow on the ground, and it actually snowed most of the time I was there. It was also cold, with wind chills making the temperature feel like -11 degrees.
The afternoon session was about Path Pilot, Tormach’s software for operating their tools. Path Pilot can also be run virtually on a computer to test out programs without actually being at the machine. You can use the virtual program at http://www.virtual.pathpilot.com.
While Tormach does not offer support for 3D modeling – which allows users to implement just about any 3D modeling program into their workflow – they do offer CAM support for SprutCAM. SprutCAM is a CAM engine, which basically takes your 3D model and tells the computer what operations to run in order to cut your stock to make the 3D part you want. CAM can be confusing, but it is an important aspect of CNC machining, and needs to be understood in order to run the machines.
Our afternoon session included a maintenance discussion. These machines are very sturdy, but not indestructible. They do require regular maintenance, and if conducted on time, will make these machines last quite a long time.
Today was spent with much more hands on activities with the machines. We began with learning how to properly install a vice on a machine – called ‘indicating a vice’ – and then began to cut specific parts on the machine. Each of us would be milling our own swinging indicator, which has several parts that need to be milled. In making these pieces, we learned how to setup stock in the vices, how to use PathPilot to run the machines, and what different types of cutting tools are available and required for specific types of machining.
Our last day in the workshop we finished milling several of our pieces, and learned some new holding techniques, as well as using the 4th axis to etch logos into our work. The 4 days passed by very quickly, but a lot of information was learned which will be shared with the students and make the shop even more professional than before.
Below I offered picture evidence for the students to prove that I was, in fact, in Wisconsin.