New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Adapting a Freshman Manufacturing Course to Different Learning Styles
Traditionally, a mechanical engineering curriculum includes a freshman/sophomore course in the fundamentals manufacturing. Typically, this course will introduce elementary project management skills via a curriculum employing project-based learning. These elementary skills will include product design, resource planning, process planning and cost analysis, but the primary focus will be in producing a design that, in turn, can be manufactured using common machining processes. Our curriculum includes such a course and the course is titled Design for Manufacturing (DFM).
We introduced DFM two years ago. Initially, the first eight weeks of the semester included hands on training in various manufacturing processes: woodworking, welding, manual turning and manual machining. During the second half of the semester the students completed design projects. The grading of the student projects was based on the print quality, resource planning, process plan, cost analysis, and consideration of manufacturing processes.
Based on assessments conducted at the conclusion of the first semester, it was evident that the students had gained a fundamental understanding of manufacturing processes. Additionally, the majority of the students showed a high level of interest in learning how to operate the manufacturing equipment, particularly the machining equipment (lathes, mills, grinders, etc.). However, based on anecdotal student feedback, it was also evident that a minor but significant percentage of students were not interested in and somewhat intimidated by the hands-on operation of machining equipment. Since the goal of the class is the understanding of manufacturing processes and not the training of machinists, a curricular alternative was proposed.
3D printers were made available to the students for prototyping component parts (use of the printers was not required). We observed that the majority of those students who utilized the 3D print option were the same students who were not interested in operating machining (machine shop) equipment . It was decided, therefore, that 3D print applications would become the building block for the alternate DFM lab path series. Although the manufacturing concerns with 3D print are different from other manufacturing processes, the fact is every manufacturing method has unique concerns. 3D print offers students the opportunity to develop a cost analysis and process plans similar to the requirements of traditional manufacturing processes, including machining operations. As with traditional manufacturing processes, for the 3D print projects, we require a set of fully dimensioned drawings.
In addition to a 3D print project, the DFM alternate path includes computer numerical control (CNC) machining, 2D graphic design and 3D graphic design. We added these curricular elements to the alternative path since CNC is similar to 3D print in that a solid model is used to generate machine control to fabricate a part, albeit a prototype with the 3D printer. Also, CNC uses a machine (a mill or lathe in our case), tooling and methods similar to the manual machining lab in the original DFM series. The graphic design labs were included because they build on the solid modeling skills required for 3D print and CNC machining and also provide training valuable to practicing engineers – that of presenting complex ideas based on solid models to managers and lay people. Graphic design skills also improve an engineer’s ability to communicate and market design ideas via enhanced concept drawings.
We are currently conducting a student self-efficacy survey in both the original and alternative DFM paths. The hope is that allowing the student to choose a lab path more suited to their learning style will create a higher level of self-awareness of design for manufacturing while building self-confidence.
The results of the self-efficacy survey and the details of the two lab options will be reviewed in detail.
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