This year I wanted to challenge myself and my students by undertaking possibly the most ambitious project I have ever taught and they have ever done.
In previous years the final Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) project had been handshaking between the robot arm and the CNC mill. Last year we got bogged down in building the little Lynx robots, which took three weeks out of our curriculum, and so we didn’t get to any final culminating project. The CIM final project in the curriculum has changed and is now a factory system on a small scale.
Having small classes this year, and having the equipment of a large robotic arm (which is no longer required by PLTW but was when I started teaching six years ago), I figured we might as well do our factory system on a large scale!
So I set the task for my students of recreating a factory inside the classroom–tying together all the topics they have learned about in CIM into one project that integrates computers into every aspect of the manufacturing process, from start to finish, in a multi-machine factory setting. They had to pick and design a product that we were capable of manufacturing in my lab, go through the CAD-CAM-CNC process to model and machine the product, then set up a closed-loop feedback system (i.e. handshaking) between the robotic arm and the CNC mill so the entire factory system could operate seamlessly with the robot placing the raw material into the mill and retrieving it after the mill was finished. We were on our way to mass production!
Unfortunately, we bit off a little more than we could chew / we took a step longer than our legs. In large part due to student absences, neither class was able to complete all the objectives outlined above. However, they still did some pretty cool stuff.
One class picked a key chain as their product, shown here with a machine toolpath around it. They planned later to inscribe ‘Patterson High School’ on the key chain.
The other class planned to manufacture an iPhone cover:
Due to the deadline fast approaching, along with some ill-timed software glitches, the second group decided that they would not be able to create the toolpath for the phone cover, but they did want to finish setting up and programming the rest of the factory system. So they recycled one of their earlier CNC milling programs that would just carve out initials, and got the robot and mill to handshake successfully, manufacturing a block with initials instead of the phone cover. Check out their video at the link below:
Though we didn’t make it all the way there, I am very proud of what my students accomplished, and happy that we tried this ambitious project!