The ACE pilot training program on Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines has been so successful in East Tennessee in 2021 that it is now emerging as a national network of regional centers for innovation and workforce development in the field of machine tools.
Organized jointly by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC), a total of eight week-long boot camps, which began in March and will continue through July, will train up to 80 participants in the latest machine- tools for metals and composites. Participants come from across the United States and have diverse backgrounds, ranging from high school, community and university college students to professional machinists and manufacturing engineers.
“Machine tools are at the very heart of advanced manufacturing capabilities,” says Joannie Harmon, director of workforce development for the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), which manages the ACE training initiative. “There is an urgent and growing need in the American machining and machine tool industry for skilled people – operators, engineers, designers and more – in the 30,000 machining operations across America. “
In May, 11 ACE attendees gained hands-on experience in the PSCC machine lab fabricating four components for a swing-piston air motor. “All ACE in-person training follows the same curriculum,” says Andy Polnicki, the director of the Megalab at the PSCC. “While this week’s camp served professionals already in manufacturing jobs and looking to expand their skills, other PSCC camps will be aimed at high school students and will focus more on job opportunities and career paths. .”
After running ACE bootcamps for a year, Polnicki found it helpful to group similar ages and experiences for each PSCC camp. Students and professionals cover the same content but are often impacted differently. “Young people are amazed that they can create things they imagine, on equipment they’ve never heard of before. Machine operators are amazed at how easy it is to learn the software, load program and create something. They realize the next step isn’t such a stretch.”
The ACE bootcamp at UTK this week, hosted by Dr. Tony Schmitz, a professor of mechanical engineering who also developed the ACE program. Since the launch of ACE in December 2020, ACE Online has exceeded 2,400 participants from all 50 states and 79 have completed in-person training. “I’m so happy with the acceptance of the content by the community,” says Schmitz, “but we’re just getting started. My next goal is 10,000 online participants. My goal is nothing less than to eliminate the lack of American talent and labor within the CNC machining ecosystem.”
To achieve this goal, IACMI is leveraging its workforce development expertise to expand ACE in a hub-and-spoke model across the country. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) in Greensboro, North Carolina is the first hub beyond the initial test bed in East Tennessee. In addition to leading other bootcamps, Schmitz and his team of CNC instructors provide personalized “train the trainer” guidance to ensure continuity across all machine tool training centers as ACE grows.
America’s Cutting Edge (ACE) is a national initiative to restore the importance of the American machine tool industry. The 6-hour online course and 30-hour in-person training require no prior experience and are offered free of charge. ACE is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Office of Industrial Policy’s Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) Program. ACE brings together the scientific expertise of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), advanced training tools and techniques developed at University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and the Workforce Development Branch of IACMI – The Composites Institute. Machining and machine tools are the foundation of America’s manufacturing capacity and global competitiveness.
About the IACMI –
The Institute of Composites
IACMI – The Institute of Composites is a community of more than 130 members from industry, universities, national laboratories, and federal, state, and local government agencies that work together to accelerate design, manufacturing, engineering innovation, and workforce solutions. advances to enable a cleaner, more sustainable and safer environment. , and a more competitive US economy. IACMI is managed by the Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation (CCS), a non-profit organization created by The University of Tennessee Research Foundation. A Manufacturing UNITED STATES institute, the IACMI is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office, as well as key government and industry partners. Visit www.iacmi.org.
SOURCE IACMI – The Institute of Composites