Diverse learners gain different things from free machining class

Free Introduction to CNC (computer numerical control) Machining camps offered by the Marshall Advanced Manufacturing Center (MAMC) attract people from diverse backgrounds, with far ranging goals. There are manual machinists who want to learn to use the latest technology. Individuals who just want to satisfy their curiosity about manufacturing. People considering careers as machinists. Even hobbyists who want to hone their novice skills.

And then there are people like Jenny Gonze of Huntington, who are looking for ways to improve existing manufacturing processes.

Gonze is a mold maker and engraver at Blenko Glass in Milton, one of the oldest and most revered hand-blow glass producers in the country. While searching for a way to make Blenko’s ornamental sun catchers more efficiently, Gonze stumbled upon information about the free Introduction to CNC Machining Bootcamps that MAMC offers in Huntington and South Charleston.

“My boss sent me to the boot camp,” she explained. “He said ‘here’s a free opportunity. Go try it.’”

Earlier this year, Gonze enrolled in the ACE Net course at MAMC’s new Advanced Manufacturing Training Center in South Charleston.

“I’ve been toting around my sun catcher molds asking ‘how can we do this with modern equipment?’” I want to make the sun catchers on a machine. Now we do them by hand. I think we need to move our sun catcher manufacturing to the future.”

During the week-long course, Gonze learned computer-aided design and how to program and operate the computer-controlled machines along with others, including Raymond Scites of Big Ugly. The retired bank president joked that he “is old, dilapidated and didn’t have anything else to do,” before explaining that he had enrolled in MAMC’s Machinist Technology/CNC Program briefly several years ago before life’s demands forced him to withdraw shortly after.

“I build muzzleloaders. And I shoot competitively,” Scites said. He crafts some of the firearm parts on a small manual mill and lathe at his Lincoln County home. “There are pieces and parts that I like to build myself rather than buy. I just enjoy the process of making things.”

“To be able to translate what I’ve learned here into my small manual machines is helpful,” Scites said. “I’m learning a lot of little things and I’ve enjoyed it. For example, better set up processes than I use on my manual equipment.”

Gonze said she did not really have any appreciable knowledge of machining before the ACE Net camp. “I’ve learned a lot, actually, in a week’s time,” she said.  “My mind is definitely expanding. I came here to get a foot in the water, to understand the equipment and its possibilities.”

This new insight includes making her molds on automated equipment. “I definitely think it’s possible.”

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MAMC partners with the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation to deliver the free camps as part of America’s Cutting Edge (ACE), a U.S. Department of Defense-funded national initiative to restore the prominence of the U.S. machine tools sector through transformative thinking, technological innovation and workforce development.

The camps include a self-paced online introduction to CNC machining that must be completed prior to participating in the in-person sessions in either Huntington or South Charleston. Details and registration are available at www.mfg.marshall.edu/bootcamps. The next free in-person boot camp is scheduled Jan. 8-12 at MAMC Huntington. No experience is necessary to participate.

Nov. 30, 2023

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