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Limerick Institute of Technology takes metalcutting training to the next level

19/04/2017

The President of Limerick Institute of Technology, Dr. Vincent Cunnane, with Jerry Warren and Shane O’Donnell from WNT

The President of Limerick Institute of Technology, Dr. Vincent Cunnane, with Pascal Daveney from Fanuc

Limerick Institute of Technology has close ties with the precision engineering sector, as a result it has constantly developed precision engineering programmes that meet the needs of existing and emerging industries operating in Ireland. Most recently it identified a shortage of graduates capable of maximising the use of modern CNC machines. The result is a flexible course to develop talent in Industry. As a long-time supporter of the education sector, WNT was happy to become involved by providing tooling and technical support.

The new programme at LIT operates on either a full- or part-time basis, with students able to attend on two consecutive days a week for two years. “This flexibility allows the precision engineering sector to grow in the knowledge that it will have students graduating as fully-fledged engineers, with industry experience and competent in the latest technology,” Ciaran O’Loughlin, Lecturer, LIT. “Students will be in great demand with employment opportunities across the medical, aerospace, oil and gas, and general engineering sectors.” The LIT course provides advanced CNC machining skills, materials science, metrology and six sigma, along with the advanced engineering technology and process planning, and the maths and science required to become an engineer.

It is expected that over 70 students will make use of the facility this year with first year students learning how to programme using ISO G Coding and Manual Guide i control, second year students move on to using SolidCAM and third year students develop their knowledge of high speed machining using advanced machining strategies using Macro B programming to reflect the needs of the medical device sectors. In each case the students use a variety of WNT workholding and tooling along with learning new machining strategies to optimise cutting tool use.

The support provided by WNT (UK) for this programme amounts to much more than just ‘tooling up a machining centre’, through its Applications Sales Engineer Shane O’Donnell and Technical Sales Engineer Jerry Warren, it also provides support to the LIT’s industry partners. They achieve this through demonstrations of advanced machining strategies, high speed machining and video recording of the processes for wider audiences. Ciaran O’Loughlin explains: “One example of this collaboration was a demonstration of high speed dry machining of steel during a meeting of the Precision Turned Parts Manufacturing Association (PTMA), which we host on a regular basis. These are all experienced machinists and they were most impressed by the demonstration and have followed up with it since.”

The application support from Jerry and Shane is ongoing and they will ensure that the tooling at LIT is used to its maximum potential. Typically, this will involve explanations of cutting tool geometry, cutting data, as well as highlighting the benefits of modern workholding. The aim being to enable these students to run CNC machines with confidence. “It is pleasing to note that Shane is one of our graduates from our mechanical engineering programme when he worked for local company Takumi Precision Engineering,” says Ciaran O’Loughlin.

The total investment made by Limerick Institute of Technology over the past three years is over €600,000 in precision engineering related technology. The first tranche of this went towards Metrology and SPC equipment as the programme was rolled out, followed by the arrival of a CMM, Vison measurement system, and other equipment that allowed LIT to train and educate technicians and engineers to industry standards. The CNC machine tools in place are a Fanuc Robodrill α-D21SiA5 (which has been given to the LIT on consignment for a two year period with a review after this period is complete), a Spinner U620 and a Mazak twin spindle lathe with driven tooling and Y axis capability. Initially the WNT tooling package, which is valued around €30,000, will be used exclusively on the Fanuc Robodrill α-D21SiA5. The comprehensive package includes a WNT Zero Point baseplate, WNT ZSG Centric and ESG Mini Vice systems along with a selection of cutting tools from solid carbide end mills for steel and light alloys, ball nose cutters, indexable insert milling systems, drills, taps and toolholders, both standard ER collet and WNT’s high performance Centro P system.

“The facility at LIT is impressive and it is a pleasure to be so heavily involved with it,” says WNT’s Applications Sales Engineer Shane O’Donnell. “WNT places great emphasis on training the future generation of engineers and the enthusiasm at LIT is reassuring. Working alongside Ciaran and the Fanuc Robodrill we are able to demonstrate the benefits of modern cutting tools and, with the machine fitted with video equipment we can spread that message even further afield via YouTube.” The Fanuc RoboDdrill is ideal for this type of demonstration as it is a high speed model with a 24000 revs/min/4.7kW spindle with feedrates up to 30 m/min and is controlled by the latest Fanuc 31i-B5 controller.

LIT is also promoting itself to the wider education community, with over 500 second level schools seeing the WNT tooling in action during an Engineering Week, where students were shown high-speed milling using trochoidal milling strategies, programmed through SolidCAM. “The impression left on these students was immense. Most had never seen a CNC machine previously, and certainly had never seen metal removed at such a rate. We also have evenings for Engineering teachers and impress upon them the importance of the work they do in promoting the future of engineering. The Engineering Technology Teachers Association (ETTA) has a long history with LIT and connecting with them helps to keep teachers up to date with technology.”

With industry in mind LIT has developed a close working relationship with the Precision Turned Parts Manufacturing Association (PTMA), a focus group for manufacturing engineering in Ireland, of which WNT is a member. “The need to connect with third level education in Ireland became very apparent to the PTMA due to the shortage of skilled technical staff available. The drive to develop and expand technology such as barfed Wickman and Davenport machines to modern CNC meant that industry required new skills and we worked with PTMA to develop industry driven Precision Engineering programmes. Within a nine-month period LIT had created the courses that industry needed,” says Ciaran O’Loughlin. This partnership continues with LIT hosting the quarterly meetings of PTMA with, most recently, Adrian Fitts WNT’s Business Development Manager, presenting a talk on new machining strategies for industry and Shane O’Donnell then demonstrating these with high speed machining of steel and aluminium.

As a result of this industry engagement LIT is now working with the PTMA and the UK’s GTMA in hosting Manufacturing Solutions Ireland 2017, an exhibition that brings together the best in modern engineering technology. The event, which takes place on the 24th May 2017 features 90 trade stands, one of which will be WNT. Full details can be found at www.manufacturingsolutions.ie.

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