Engineering Students Get Practical CADD/CAM Training

Engineering students at New Mexico State University have a distinct advantage in their job search thanks to ANVIL-5000, an integrated CADD/CAM/CAE software program from Manufacturing and Consulting Services, Inc. (MCS) of Scottsdale, Ariz. Leon Cox, a professor of engineering technology and industrial design, is director of the Integrated Manufacturing Systems Lab (IMSL), the site of this high-tech training ground. Since ANVIL-5000 is compatible with PCs, workstations and multi-user mainframes, Cox is able to demonstrate the program's CADD module on the many different hardware systems available at the Las Cruces facility. "Until 1991, we had limited CADD equipment and software," recalls Cox. "Now even freshman courses offer CADD/CAM training on ANVIL-5000." Students learn to create full 3D wireframe drawings using the software's design drafting module. Icon-Rich Interface The same icon-rich user interface works with the package's other modules : Extended Geometry (EG) for surface modeling and mass properties analysis; ANVIL Intelligent Modeler (AIM), a relational/variational modeler that works with solid, surface and wireframe geometry; an OMNI-FEM module that creates finite- element models for analysis; three NC modules (for 2.5-, 3- and 5-axis milling); and a Sheet Metal application package. Students don't just learn to point and click their mouse at the Integrated Manufacturing Systems Lab-they use ANVIL-5000 to design and manufacture a component of their own. "The assignment is to create a typical job shop or aerospace-type part," explains Cox. "The problem is not one of design but one of getting a part made efficiently, so I want them to keep the design simple." Sometimes students test a preliminary design by employing some basic machinery right in the lab, using soap as their trial-and-error part material. This way, the students get a better feel for how a design created with CADD software will turn out as a finished part. They can then adjust their design accordingly before the manufacturing process. After a student's part passes Cox's inspection, it can be sent for manufacturing via a network connecting Cox's classroom to the university's own Manufacturing Teaching Factory (MTF). Reverse Engineering Midway through one course, students are introduced to a common manufacturing task known as "reverse engineering." Using a coordinate measuring machine, each student is given a model car that they must measure as the first step in reconstructing the surface geometry. Using ANVlL-5000's capability to read IGES files from the machine's output, students produce a completed design of the model car, showing all the surface points. They can exactly recreate the model as if they were designing the car from scratch. This has practical application, according to Cox, especially in industries where there may be no existing CADD drawings for an out-of-production part that must be remanufactured. Cox's students also make use of the ANVIL Intelligent Modeler (AIM), a "dimension-driven" modeling program. One of AIM's features allows designers to modify one part and then change the same part globally throughout a single design. Seeing how the various parts of a design are associated, and what effect one change has on all the rest, is an important learning concept in engineering. Incremental changes can be made to a design, then a finite-element analysis tests if, for example, a smaller or more lightweight part would still be structurally sound. If a part can be perfected that is thinner or lighter and still works properly, a manufacturer can immediately implement the less-expensive design. ANVIL-5000's capabilities let students successfully move from CADD to CAM within their first year of study. But education d'es not stop with the student body. The MTF, IMSL and CADD/CAM Lab-which comprise the university's Advanced Manufacturing Center-provide demonstrations and training for local manufacturers who either do not have or are just starting up their own CADD/CAM departments. This makes for a great reciprocal relationship. Local businesses get the benefit of sophisticated, state-of-the-art technical assistance, and students, under Cox's supervision, provide real-life solutions using the knowledge and skills they've gained. Their schoolwork becomes practical, not just theoretical.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.